Andrew's Appalachian Adventure

Andrew Pape '11 at the end of his Appalachian Trail trek.
Andrew Pape '11 at the end of his Appalachian Trail trek.
Many adventurous spirits were stimulated on Oct. 8 as Andrew Pape ’11 showed photos and described his 2178.3 mile trek along the Appalachian Trail, also known as the AT. Pape began the trail in Georgia on Feb. 28 and completed it in Maine on July 23. Averaging 16 to 17 miles a day, Pape was among the ambitious 15-20 percent of people who set out to complete the trek and successfully finish it.

His slideshow included shots of magnificent mountain scenery, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, trail graffiti, smoke from a 30-acre forest fire off in the distance, examples of his lodgings, tree hugging, disgusting feet, various flowers and wildlife (including an albino squirrel), various tidbits of trail culture, and the people Pape met along his way.
Pape’s 30-pound backpack included a tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking pot, stove, fuel (10 ounces for about a week), shorts, two shirts, long johns, rain jacket, headlamp, journal, cell-phone and charger, and about 10 pounds of food for five days at a time. Along the trail, Pape mostly ate dehydrated food that his dad had mailed ahead to predetermined locations. He relied on fresher local food he bought in towns for lunch. Not all hikers complete the trail this way, but Pape explained that, “The advantage in mailing my food was that I already knew it was going to be there and what it was going to be.”

Pape described the AT as a highway of through hikers of all ages enjoying nature, men with massively long beards, and people of generous heart. The trail has its own culture. Some of the trail traditions in which Pape participated included the half-way half-gallon in which, when a hiker reaches the half-way point of the AT, he or she must eat a half gallon of ice-cream. Another tradition is the trail name. Every hiker is expected to pick up a trail name throughout his or her time on the AT. Pape’s trail name became Cabot after two people he met found it strange and excessive that he carried a two pound block of Cabot cheese around with him. Other people he met along the way were named “Sharptooth,” “Long Island Iced Tea,” and “WD40.”

Pape said that among his favorite parts of hiking the AT was the “Trail Magic” he encountered along the way. Trail magic is, “any act of kindness someone leaves along the trail for you,” he explained. Among the trail magic that Pape encountered were hikers sharing brownies or drinks with him, coolers full of food left behind by others, and boxes full of water and other important supplies in a region where water was scarce. There is one man along the trail who takes a picture of every through hiker who passes by and mails the picture to the hiker’s parents because, “parents always want that reassurance that their child is alive.”

Other people gave Pape rides into town, including the woman who took him to the hospital when he had Lyme disease and stayed with him throughout the paperwork and appointment. Still others opened up their homes to hikers, providing them with fresh showers, meals and a comfortable bed. People who give these generous acts of “trail magic” are known as “trail angels.”

Though trekking more than 2000 miles with nothing but life’s essentials and a world of wilderness before you might sound romantic, Pape did not complete the trail without his share of hardships. He became sick a few times and once had to be taken to the hospital because he had contracted Lyme disease. He also had to deal with knee problems and poison ivy (three times). Pape hiked through rain, snow, and plenty of fog. He explained that his worst challenge was mental rather than physical. “To have the will to keep hiking day after day for 2000 miles is a feat,” he explained. According to Pape, one out of every six hikers drops out of hiking the AT after the first six days of hiking. However, he said that anyone who is comfortable going backpacking for a weekend can physically do the AT and you simply, “hike yourself into shape once you’re there.”

When asked what the hardest part of coming back into “civilization “was, Pape said that, “the light was one of the hardest things. Things are so bright here. It was a big transition.” Getting away from a dawn to dusk sleep schedule was also difficult. In order to get used to some of the changes, Pape often slept in a tent outside his house. His next destination is the wide open ocean; he leaves campus thist week to do the Semester at Sea program for the rest of the semester. In terms of backpacking, he said he would like to return to the areas of the AT that he didn’t see very well the first time around and he might someday explore the Continental Divide Trail.

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