Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail
2,184.2 Miles Hiked
The end of the Journey
2,200 northbound thru hikers left GA this year. I was number 185 to finish.
I would like to dedicate my hike to my mother and father. My dad, who introduced me to the wilderness, taught me the meaning of hard work and to never give up. Also, my mom, who comforted me countless times during my trek and whose love and support kept me strong.
It was 108 days of blood, sweat, tears, rain, fog, rocks, mud, freeze dried dinners, electrical storms, mosquitoes, black flies, wet socks, hitch hiking, chafing, shelter mice, 30 degree temperatures, 100 degree temperatures and plenty of foot and joint pain. It was also 108 days of adventure, sunrises and sunsets, campfires surrounded by new friends, the sweet smells of a dense spruce forest, trail magic, gorgeous vistas, swimming in clear glacial lakes, eating everything I wanted and still losing weight, sleeping under the stars and knowing at every moment that I was doing something challenging, something incredible, something that would change my life.
It has been an incredible adventure. I lost 25 pounds. I saw 12 bears and 2 poisonous snakes. I had a mother bear confront me over her cub, had a mouse chew into my sleeping bag, hitch hiked on the back of a Harley Davidson, washed dishes for a place to sleep in huts and slept everywhere from the floors of churches and trail angel’s homes to park pavilions, countless AT shelters and of course, my tent. I walked around laundry mats in a towel and rain jacket while my clothes washed and sat on many a convenience store corner devouring pints of ice cream. I’ll be fine if I never see a granola bar ever again. I met some of the most interesting, amazingly inspirational people I’ve ever encountered on the trail and formed many strong friendships over the course of the trek. I learned a lot about myself, what I’m capable of and what I want out of life. I learned to appreciate the small things no matter how small and to always look at the glass half full. The trail helped me grow as an individual. I have become a better person because of it.
I passed every white blaze between Georgia and Maine. I never blue blazed, yellow blazed or slackpacked anything. For me that was the only way to approach the trail.
I experienced both the happiest moment of my life and the mentally lowest point of my life on trail. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished. Still, I will miss it dearly; the community, the sense of freedom and the lifestyle that surrounded me for those few months.
I want to thank all of those who helped me along the way, whether it was giving me a ride somewhere, sharing food or water, helping me repair a piece of gear or even taking me in for the night. Your generosity has opened my eyes to how good people can be. I also want to thank all friends and family back home who supported me and believed in me. Your encouragement helped me to stay strong.
If anyone is interested in thru hiking, planning an AT section hike, ultralight backpacking or looking for advice on cutting pack weight and would like to talk to me, you can get in touch with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 919-930-1456 or through searching for Ryan Houser on Facebook.
For more information on the AT and ways to donate or volunteer, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org for more info. The AT couldn’t be what it is today without the many trail clubs and individuals that volunteer their time and resources.
Just remember: It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles!