Hiking the Appalachian Trail
view of Mt. Katahdin at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail in MaineView of Mt. Katahdin from Daicy Pond Campground (Baxter State Park, Maine)  (see all pictures)

My favorite activity by far is hiking! Having grown up in the woods of eastern Connecticut, I was quite accustomed to playing in the forests and streams near by. It was such a natural part of my life that I completely took it for granted ... until I went off to college. It was only when I had to spend most of my time indoors studying that I realized how much I enjoyed hiking and being outside. So after receiving my B.S. in physics, I did the only thing natural: I hiked the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail map
Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail (also known as the "A.T.") runs from Springer Mtn, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Due to yearly route changes the mileage varies, but according to official statistics, the total distance in 1997 was 2,168.3 miles [3,489.5 km].

My original intention was to hike the entire trail in a single 4 month period! However, it seems as though my body had different plans. From March 16, 1997 until July 22, 1997 I managed to hike from Springer Mtn, Georgia into the southern part of Maine (crossing through 13 states for a total of 1,962.0 miles [3,157.5 km]). By that time, the wear and tear on my body was beginning to catch up to me. My self-imposed time limit was too restricting, and in the end I decided to quit my attempted thru-hike in order to attend graduate school. I did however return for two weeks in the summer of 1998 to finish up the remaining 206.3 miles [332.0 km].

The resultant memories from the trek shall forever be impressed upon my mind in ways that perhaps only other long-distance hikers can understand. The weeks of frigid, bone-drenching rain are now remembered with fondness. The swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitos are soon forgotten. The constant physical (and mental) stresses put upon the body are quickly diminished. In it's place are only the fond recollections of generous town people, magical places, and of course my fellow thru-hikers with whom I have forged strong bonds.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is perhaps the best thing I have ever done. I learned many important lessons on who I am and what is important in my life. I have learned that the luxuries in life are many; and none of them necessary. I now understand the importance of good friends as well as a good attitude. Perhaps most importantly, I have also learned that it is possible to live off of mac & cheese for 5-6 days a week!

The Appalachian Mountains are certainly not the tallest nor the longest in the world. They do however have a lengthy history to them, and so does the Appalachian Trail. In 1937 the entire trail was completed after 12 years of volunteer effort. To this day the trail is maintained by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (formerly Appalachian Trail Conference) which continues to rely upon volunteer support to keep the shelters and the footpath in excellent condition.

Further information about this trail can be found from many sources. Some of my personal favorite links are:

If you would like to learn more about my story, please send me an e-mail at: comments@gravitysmith.com.