Mission Accomplished: 5 Million Steps to Finish the Appalachian Trail

Salem native Garrett Seibert stands atop Maine's Mount Katahdin Aug. 3 after completing a five-month hike of the Appalachian Trail.

On a blustery, cloudy Saturday two weeks ago, with the temperature in the mid-40s, Salem native Garrett Seibert strapped on his backpack – the same pack he had been lugging nearly every day for the past five months – and began the final leg of a 2,184-mile journey.

As he climbed toward the 5,268-ft. summit of Maine’s Mount Katahdin, he thought about the long slog from Georgia’s Springer Mountain requiring some 5 million footsteps, the bone-numbing fatigue, the sore muscles, the rain, the mud, the mosquitoes, the countless pots of rice cooked over an alcohol stove he fashioned from a soda can.

But the higher Garrett ascended the more he thought about the days picking blueberries on the Bigelows of Maine, or gazing, seemingly forever, from the peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, or enjoying the “trail magic” hospitality of freshly cooked meals and treats from generous strangers down South.

By the time Garrett climbed atop a wooden sign marking both Katahdin’s summit and the northern terminus of the fabled Appalachian Trail, a smile as big as a mountain range stretched across his face, and he spread his arms in elation.

Mission accomplished: Garrett had finished hiking one of the world’s most celebrated footpaths, the Appalachian Trail.

All around him other hikers also were completing their journeys – some broke down in sobs, some shouted with joy – but Garrett mostly felt overwhelming relief and did not linger at the summit.

He simply turned around and began descending to the Katahdin Springs campground, where a car was waiting. Halfway down he met his parents, Michael and Kimberly Seibert, and sister, Kimberly, who had hiked up to greet him. The family hiked down together and then drove back to Connecticut – a memorable reunion.

“It was great,” Garrett said.

He has set out on the trail April 1 with Matt Baer of East Lyme, a former classmate at East Lyme High School, but Matt was forced to drop out a week later after injuring his Achilles tendon.

Garrett quickly found other companions and traveled at various times the rest of the way with other through-hikers with such trail names as Misery, Shady, Mustard Tiger, Stumbles, Beacon and Mr. Frodo.

Every year several thousand hikers from around the world set out on the AT – most of them traveling northbound – but only a few hundred manage to cover the entire distance. Since the trail was completed in 1937, more than 13,000 hikers have gone the whole way.

When he finished on Aug. 3, Garrett was the 92nd hiker this year to reach Katahdin, out of 761 who had signed up in Georgia by April 1.

Garrett averaged about 18 miles of hiking a day and took only 12 days off in five months. His longest day was 35.5 miles; the hardest but most rewarding were in New Hampshire where the trail crosses the Presidential Range, and in Maine’s Mahoosuc Notch, where a boulder-riddled section is known as the nastiest mile on the AT.

“It was the hardest, but also the ‘funnest,’” he said.

It also rained for more than a week in Vermont’s Green Mountains.

“Nothing but mud and roots,” he said. “Some of the trails were more like rivers.”

Garret, who graduated from East Lyme High in 2008 and earned a degree in ecotourism and outdoor recreation from New Hampshire's Plymouth State University recreation, plans to leave Salem in a few days and return to his job as an instructor at an adventure camp in California.

Next on the agenda: the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile path from the California-Mexico to the Washington-Canada borders – “but probably not for a few years.”

Garrett said he wants to savor his experience on the AT, pay some college loans and also save some money for PCT hike.

“Hopefully, within the next five years,” he said.

 

 

Garrett Seibert perches on McAfee Knob overlooking Virginia's Catawba Valley earlier this summer. McAfee Knob is considered one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.
Garrett Seibert perches on McAfee Knob overlooking Virginia's Catawba Valley earlier this summer. McAfee Knob is considered one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Brace Yourself For The New Year’s Day Run-Swim

When those uninitiated in the longstanding New Year’s Day tradition of running from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound and leaping into the icy water ask, "How can you stand it? Doesn’t it hurt?" we stoic veterans...

Two's Company, Three Hundred's A Crowd – On The Trail Or On A Sidewalk

While kayaking the 341-mile Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany a few years ago I spotted another paddler a mile or so away headed in my direction. Having encountered only one or two other kayaks nearly a week into what turned out to be an...

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful To Hibernate?

When I pried a rock up with a mattock the other day, rushing to finish a small retaining wall before the ground froze, I inadvertently disturbed a hibernating spotted salamander’s winter home.

Happy Days Are Here Again: Cheap Fuel And Gas-Guzzlers!

Isn’t life great?! Gas is so cheap now I can get rid of my puny, poky, fuel-efficient econobox and get behind the wheel of an auto with plenty of ponies under the hood that any American would be proud to drive, just like the good...

Siri To The Rescue!

"Siri, how much farther to the summit?"

A-hunting We Will Go

Blam! Blam! Blam!

Urban Excursions: Finding Adventure In The Big City

A brisk autumn breeze scattered crimson maple leaves that fluttered from trees lining a pond glittering in the morning sun as my friend Bob Graham and I loped along a narrow path the other morning.

My Friend The Log Splitter: Leaf Blowers Notwithstanding, Not All Machines Are Evil

After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...

Welcome To Steve's Lumberjack Camp

Good morning! I hope you all had a good night’s sleep, enjoyed the griddle cakes and are eager to work off those calories.

At Nayaug Canoe And Kayak Race, A Win Is A Win Is A Win — Sort Of

Race starts are notoriously adventurous — jackrabbits at the line itching to shove and elbow their way into the lead; clueless slowpokes poised for pileups; nerve-jangled competitors, fueled by surging adrenaline, chattering...

Rocks In My Head, Part 37,482

Descending New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in a blizzard some time ago, a friend and I briefly strayed from the ice-encrusted Lion Head Trail – not all that surprising considering wind-whipped snow reduced our visibility to...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

How to freeze your - - - off in four easy steps

I know you’ll find this rather shocking, but all those white things in the new picture of me aren’t really snowflakes – they’re feathers from an old pillow, which we thought would be a clever way to illustrate a...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.