I am still researching the complete answer to these questions, but let’s begin with the statistics from this century (from 2000-2014). In the past fifteen years, one hundred and thirty-two different individuals have hiked the trail two or more times. Out of those 132, fourteen have made the entire journey three times!
Two hikers have completed the trail four times. Jim Eagleton (trail name “Rambler”) from Pennsylvania made thru-hikes in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2011. L.A. “Jack” Tarlin (trail name “Baltimore Jack”) from New Hampshire (not Maryland like his trail name might suggest) accomplished the same milestone but he made hikes in four consecutive years: 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
Two hikers have thru-hiked the trail six complete times. Greg Key, “The Traveler,” registered thru-hikes in 2005, three in 2007, 2012, and 2013. When I saw that he registered three hikes in the same year, I thought there was a mistake and he had accidentally registered three times for the same hike. Then I found a discussion board online, whiteblaze.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-18493.html, claiming that Greg Key was the first person to hike the A.T four consecutive times. He started in 1988 went from Georgia to Maine, turned around and hiked back from Maine to Georgia, turned around again and trekked back from Georgia to Maine, then finished his four-legged thru-hike from Katahdin to Springer Mountain in Dec 1989. Greg called it the Quad Hike. If this claim in the 1980s is legitimate, then his recording of three hikes in 2007 is within the realm of possibility.
The other thru-hiker reporting six thru-hikes this century is Mark S. Suiters (Stumpknocker) from Florida. He registered thru-hikes in 2002, 2004, 2005(2), 2006, and 2008. Mark as well registered what has become known as a yo-yo (back to back thru-hikes) in 2005. I could not find the back-story of Mark but I did find two pictures of him on the Backcountry website taken in 2004. The photo posted here can be located at http://gallery.backcountry.net/album32?page=5
And two hikers have made the circuit seven times in the 15 year period! James W. Byrd, “Jaybird,” is one of these two adventurers. His seven thru-hikes occurred in the following years: 2005(2), 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. The hikes in 2005, 2006, 2007 indicate that he was living in Texas, but he registered as living in Georgia for the final three thru-hikes (maybe because he had not been home since 2005). I originally thought that maybe I had two different men with the same birth name that chose the same trail name. Then I found this interesting quote from “Trust Me,” another thru-hiker’s 2008 online journal,
“Once we finally did wake up, we went into the main house to meet 65, London, and Jay Bird, also known as Weapon of Mouse Destruction. All were former thru hikers except for Weapon of Mouse Destruction, who had hiked the trail a total of seven times, including a northbound trip, a southbound trip, a yo-yo (hiking the AT round – trip), and a winter thru hike. He got his name from his obsession with trapping and killing mice in the shelters after a mouse chewed through his Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. I have no idea what profession allows for so much time off, but you could tell that he wasn’t completely used to social interaction after so many days on the trail.”
The second hiker to have completed seven thru-hikes in the past fifteen years is Brian K. Jolley, “No Pain,” from Virginia. A 2007 newspaper article shares that Brian was born in Washington, D.C. but Jolley registered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as a resident of Virginia. The August 6, 2007 newspaper goes on to state,
“An Army veteran, No Pain has hiked the entire trail six times. Last year, he followed his Appalachian Trail hike with a 2,650 mile trek on the Pacific Coast trail. ‘I don’t know how I got into this,’ he said of hiking. ‘Maybe it’s 22 years of walking for Uncle Sam.’”
Have people hiked the trail more than once? Absolutely! Several have done it multiple times. I guess a better question to ask is “why?” or maybe “how do they find the time?” or “how can they afford it?” And I feel certain that the answers to all of these questions are as unique as the individual hiker.