JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Every year, thousands of hikers will look to take on the Appalachian Trail (AT). The trail spans just over 2,100 miles.
However, not everyone who begins the hike will complete it end-to-end. One local hiker recently completed his own thru-hike after spending almost 200 days on the trail.
Sean King, a hiker from Blountville, decided to complete the trek before he became unable to do so.
“And I always had it in the back of my mind that I would hike the trail,” King said. “And I turned 57 right before I got on the trail. And I reason I did it now is because I realized if I waited longer, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Leading up to his hike, King started gathering everything he needed for the trip. He said he started to realize there was no way to truly prepare for what he was about to take on.
“You can prepare all you want if you need to be in the best condition that you can be in,” King said. “But there’s no way to prepare yourself for that trail. It’s incredibly difficult.”
King began his hike on March 21 and finished on Oct. 5. King spent a total of 199 days on the trail, hiking anywhere from 15-17 miles a day. However, not every day was spent moving.
“I probably had 25 days that I didn’t hike it at all, they’re called ‘zero days’,” said King. “Because every day from day one till the last day, your feet hurt so bad that you can’t even sleep at night.”
King adds that while he had a plan for how many miles he would hike a day, the trail itself could change those plans at any time.
“You can try to plan a day, but depending on how difficult the trail is that day dictates how far you can go,” King said.
Because of the effort it took to complete the trail, King had to look at what he was carrying in his backpack and the weight it added up to.
“It comes right down to the clothing,” King said. “You need lightweight clothing. You don’t want to carry anything heavy.”
Looking back on his trip, King said the hike taught him exactly what it would take to complete any endeavor like this.
“Another main takeaway that I learned on the trail is the only person you can depend on is yourself,” King said. “You have to get yourself there. You can’t depend on anybody for anything. So, you know, to reach down deep inside and be able to, you know, acknowledge that challenge in concrete you know, it’s pretty satisfying.”
King said his advice for anyone considering taking on the trail is to focus on footwear and leg health.
“Get your feet in some kind of shape because your feet go through a lot of torture every day and they’re going to hurt,” King said. “You got to be ready for that. And really just try to make sure your shoes are well worn and they’re going to work for you every day.”