I had the opportunity to hear Captain Blue (real name, Andy Niekamp) speak this evening (Wednesday, 11/6) at REI in Cincinnati. Since 1994 “Captain Blue” has hiked 7,800 miles on the Appalachian Trail. He has been awarded three “2,000 miler” certificates by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy which is conferred on hikers who have completed the entire AT. He has never thru-hiked the trail but has completed the path three times as a section hiker. There are only 30 people on the planet who have reported three or more complete hikes of the A.T. and I have had the privilege of meeting 2 of them in the past few weeks – my hero, Jennifer Pharr Davis (Odyssa) and now Captain Blue, Andy Niekamp. His average hike on the trail is 10-15 miles per day but he has walked up to 45 miles in one day. In the last few years he has averaged 500-600 miles per section and his longest hike was 840 miles in 1998.
Andy’s entertaining and visual talk walked us through the 14 states, provided some interesting insights into gear, wildlife, shelters, & privies, and shared some of his trail philosophy of hiking. I was so impressed with three statements that the Captain shared that I wrote them down.
The first memorable statement was this, “It takes more head than heels to hike the A.T.” Andy emphasized the mental aspects of the trail. He mentioned four reasons for hikers leaving the trail: physical injuries and fatigue; financial reasons (the hiker runs out of money to fund the adventure); the hiker runs out of time and needs to fulfill the responsibilities of life; and mental reasons, often the result of unfulfilled expectations.
The second statement highlighted the need to travel lightweight. Without food and water, his base pack weight was under 20 lbs. He quipped, “More on is Moron.” My goal is to hike as smart as I possibly can – I need to develop a check list and evaluate every item before it makes the cut to travel from Georgia to Maine.
Finally, Andy shared this question, “Does the person make the journey…or does the journey make the person?” After hiking 7,800 A.T. miles, he is convinced that the trail has shaped him and changed him from the inside out.
- Odyssa! (hikeitforward.wordpress.com)