The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Chairman, Myron Avery, became the first “2,000-miler.” He accurately measured the length of the trail over sixteen years of hiking with a measuring wheel, completing the task in 1936. He is quoted as giving an interesting dedication speech when the terminus sign was finally placed on Katahdin – he simply said, “Nail it up.” Sixteen years might be one of the longest time-frames for a thru-hike by sections.
Photo from http://www.appalachiantrail.org
The First Thru-Hike
Earl Shaffer was the first person to officially walk the AT in one continuous hike – a feat that many people and even the Appalachian Trail Conservancy believed to be impossible. He began his hike at Mount Oglethorpe, Ga., on April 4, 1948. At that time there were no guidebooks for the trail, so Shaffer began his trek with only roadmaps and a compass. On this primal thru-hike, Shaffer averaged 16.5 miles a day and climbed Mount Katahdin 124 days after his first steps in Georgia. In 1965, Shaffer hiked the trail again — this time he started up in Maine and walked to Georgia, making him the first person to complete a thru-hike in both directions – as a NOBO and a SOBO hiker. And then in 1998, at the age of 79, Earl made it a true hat trick by hiking the entire AT for a third time.
The record is currently held by Lee Barry who finished his fifth AT hike in 2004 at the age of 81 Barry averaged 10 miles a day during his 220 days on the trail. He didn’t get sick. The only injury was a sprain to his right wrist, which he wrapped with duct tape. The “Easy One” was Barry’s apt trail name.
82-year-old Mike Caetano of Pensacola, Fla., completed the trail as well in 2004, hiking sections over two years. Caetano hiked under the trail name “Cimarron,” the name of a northeastern New Mexico city where his passion for hiking was first kindled. Caetano’s wife of 49 years, Marguerite, never doubted for a moment her young-at-heart husband’s resolve to complete the Trail.
Coming Soon: The fastest hikers, the youngest hiker, the first woman thru-hiker, the blind hiker, the above the knee-amputee hiker, and others.