The last few weeks have seen some interesting accomplishments on both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). On both trails we have seen unsupported and supported hikers smash records. Supported means the hiker had a team meet them along the trail to offer support and carried minimal weight. Unsupported means the hiker carried all their supplies and also received no assistance when resupplying in and out of towns (adding lots of extra miles to their overall record of the trail).
|Matt Kirk with Jenn Pharr Davis|
For instance on the Appalachian Trail, 2,185.9 miles in length, Matt Kirk set the unsupported AT record, finishing in under 58.5 days. His average miles per day was 37. He was joined on the summit by the current supported record-holder Jenn Pharr Davis.
The PCT’s trail of 2,665 miles saw two record-breaking hikers, one after the other. Heather “Anish” Anderson holds the unsupported record at 60 days while Josh Garret holds the overall supported record of 59.5 days. Each boasted over 40 miles per day hiking.
Incredible feats for sure, and by the young.
But I saw an interesting post today that I shared on my Facebook page:
“The Last is just the slowest Winner” – C. Hunter Boyd
Think about it.
Maybe you have been hiking the AT or PCT or other long distance trail for years. Doing it on free weekends. Maybe day hiking. Or taking a vacation week from work to chip away at these mountainous trails. I’ve had hikers tell me as a ridgerunner – “Well, I’m only section hiking the trail (instead of thru hiking)."
“Only” section hiking??
Hey, you’re out there! You’re one of the winners striving to reach their own personal goal. Striving for the prize which is, really, the journey itself.
We don’t have Olympic medals for hikers. Or official world records. So I much applaud these young hikers for having accomplished so much in their individual records. What incredible feats.
But I also applaud the eighty-year-old hiker I met on the trail in Shenandoah this summer, hiking the trail of his dream. The young fourteen-year-old who, after attending a ranger-led hike in Shenandoah last summer, is now out trying to be the youngest unsupported hiker to hike the Appalachian Trail. I applaud the mom or dad who can only go out on an occasional weekend to hike as they care for their families. Or who take their children and go hike a few miles. I applaud the student hiking as he is in college. The teens hiking with their youth groups. The older and wiser ones of retirement age who take on the challenge of a trail even though their bodies are tired and getting worn with age.
All are winners, whether first or last. Because they are out to accomplish their trail of dreams and do it with passion.