John O

Profile of an AT Thru-Hiker

Spring 2000
When I was in my first year as a Boy Scout, we took a day hike on the Appalachian Trail. Our scoutmaster told us that people hike the entire Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin. We all chimed in that when we got older we would do the same. Well that was over 40 years ago and this year my plans are to hike this Appalachian Trail and then some.

Since my early introduction to hiking as a Boy Scout my desire to continue hiking has grown. Over the last three years, I been able to go backpacking at least one weekend a month year round. Living on the coast in New Jersey I'm within a two-hour drive to some very enjoyable hiking trails. During these past three years I've changed what I bring along on these hikes. I've learned to lighten up my pack weight. My desire to lessen my load wasn't done so I could hike more miles in a day. It was done to ease the burden on my body and allow me to better enjoy my time in the woods. Going from a 50-pound pack to a 20-pound pack wasn't as difficult as I had thought it would be. During this hike I'll pass along some suggestions that helped me to lighten up my pack weight.

This past summer I hiked 600 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Delaware Water Gap to Catawba, VA. That has been my longest hike to date and I was definitely bitten by the long-distance hiking bug real bad. During this AT hike I met a hiker with the trail name "Scotty." He was doing a continuous hike from Key West, Florida to Cap Gaspe, Quebec, Canada. "Vango," who was driving a camper, was supporting Scotty in his hike and meeting Scotty at road crossings.

The first day I met both of them I must have asked at least a hundred questions about their hike. I was so intrigued with what they were saying, so I changed direction and headed north with them to learn more about this Florida to Canada hike. I poured over maps and trail information they had brought along and asked many more questions. After a few days I decided this would be a hike in my future. I left them to continue their journey north to Canada. At last years ALDHA Gathering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, I heard Nimblewill Nomad give a presentation on his 1998 hike from Key West to Cap Gaspe. That October weekend my mind was made up—I was going to attempt a hike from Canada to Florida. Over the next several months I've communicated with Nimblewill Nomad, Scotty, Vango and members of the International Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail, Pinhoti Trail and Florida Trail gathering information to plan this adventure. So May 24, 2000, Nimblewill Nomad and I will be dropped off by my son at Cap Gaspe, Quebec Canada, and begin our journey southbound.

Here's hoping some of us meet along the way.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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