Long-Distance Hikers

Jennifer Pharr Davis is training for her bid to speed hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) in as few as 47 days this summer. You have to be young, fit and healthy to attempt any long-distance trail – don’t you?

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood was a mother to 11 children and grandmother to more than double that when she hiked the AT at the youthful age of 67. She was 69 when she did it again and had 76 years under her belt when she finished it a third time.

In November of 1991, Bill Irwin and his guide dog Orient finished the final few steps of the AT – making Bill the first blind person to complete this trek. Lee Barry became the oldest AT thru-hiker (someone who completes the distance in one trip rather than breaking it into sections and completing it over a number of seasons) in 2004. He was 81. 

The “Bucket List” is really nothing new, Larry Hillberg hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2002, walking solo from Mexico to Canada and celebrating his 60th birthday along the way. Why? To check off yet another item on his life list of things to do.

Joyce and Peter Cottrell were the first hikers to backpack  the entire, official route of the American Discovery Trail when they reached the Pacific in August of 2003. The pair took up hiking in their 40’s. Joyce was recovering from surgery after lung disease and needed to give up smoking. She turned to walking and never looked back.

Each one of these inspirational stories raises the question – if they did it, why can’t I?  Hmmm…

Are you up to shouldering the pack for a long-distance hike? (Photo: B.Kopp)


A Few Long-Distance Trails by Numbers

  1. Appalachian Trail – 2175 miles
  2. Pacific Crest Trail – 2650 miles  
  3. Continental Divide Trail – 3000 miles
  4. American Discovery Trail – 5000 miles


Need more inspiration? Check out this video by Kevin Gallagher – it takes you through the AT in four minutes!

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