Note from Jill: Simply hearing the name Bearcub makes my insides happy. Kelly and her husband (Guyline) are good friends of ours and I will forever be grateful to the trail for introducing them to us. It's rare to find other hikers in Chicago and even rarer to find friends who are balancing corporate jobs with a life of adventure. Kelly is doing a much better job of balancing it than I am, which inspires me each time I hear from her. In fact, she and Brian are living and traveling in Ecuador, loving life and keeping the adventure going right now. You can read through their thru-hike posts or follow along on their new travel posts at Brian and Kelly Hike the AT. Bearcub, I love ya girl. Now move your ass to NC, okay? ;-)
2. Where did you start your hike?
Springer Mtn., Georgia
3. Where did you finish your hike?
4. Did you start with a group or solo?
Started with my then boyfriend of around 10 months, Guyline (Brian). Fun random story is that we started on Springer Mountain with a hiker named Day Glo - he took our picture for us from the starting point. We hiked with him a few days and shared some navigational struggles before he quickly picked up speed and left us in the dust. We never saw him again until Monson, Maine, and ended up hiking with him quite a bit in the 100 mile wilderness, and then summitting Katahdin with him on the same day. He took our first and last picture on the AT - pretty cool!
5. What’s the best thing about hiking?
That's a really hard question, because there are so many things I love about hiking. But I think the best thing is that hiking helps me to cut through all of the noise I create for myself in the "real world" and start to perceive and appreciate the world around me. This Thoreau quote captures the feeling that I get when I'm backpacking:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
6. What’s the worst thing about hiking?
When your super sweaty hiking socks get soaking wet in the rain, and don't dry out, and then you have to put them on cold and soaking wet and smelling like mold first thing in the morning. Sorry, that was graphic.
7. Describe your best day on the trail.
My husband described one of my favorite days in his post, so I'll take a different angle. About 8 months after we finished our thru-hike, we went to CT for my sisters' graduation and returned to the AT for a quick two day trip. The section we hiked wasn't particularly stunning or special, but all of the magic of the trail came flooding back. We spent the evening over a campfire and boxed wine with a few section hikers and traded trail stories. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I think that's when I realized how much the AT means to me (when we finished our thru-hike, we were so ready to be done that it took awhile to sink in).
8. Describe your hardest day on the trail.
I've got some good ones to pick from :). When we were hiking into Daleville, we ran out of water about 9 miles from town, and all of the sources there were completely dried up. It was hot....maybe in the mid-90s, and the 9 miles into town was painful. Guyline, who is one of the most even-keeled people I know, had a moment where he just stopped in the middle of the trail and screamed obscenities.
9. Did you ever feel like quitting your hike?
Yes - specifically, I got giardia (a water-born bacterial infection) in Virginia and was super sick for about six or seven weeks. We took a few zeroes in Waynesboro, VA where our friends from Chicago met us, and I called my Mom and told her I was going to fly home and take a break if I wasn't dramatically better after our time off. Sure enough, that was rock bottom and I slowly started to get better - and that was the last time I thought about quitting.
10. How did you prepare for your hike?
We had never really hiked (other than day hikes) before the trail! We read books and blogs, but most importantly, we spent a lot of time with our friend The Griz, who had thru-hiked the trail a few years ago. He coached us, gave us shakedown, and helped set our expectations for the hike. If you have want to do a thru-hike and have access to someone who has, I highly recommend adopting them as a mentor! Also - people at outfitters like REI and Moosejaw were super helpful and many of them had done a long-distance hike before.
11. Do you stay in contact with your trail friends?
Despite the fact that life has taken us out of country, we try! Fellow thru-hikers have a bond that can't be tried by time and distance :).
12. Would you attempt another long distance hike?
Yes - I think so. It's just a matter of find the right time!
13. Would you thru-hike the AT again?
I just might! I would love to do it slower.
14. Do you have any advice for the next class of thru-hikers?
Give yourself a lot of time and go slow and steady. Find a mentor in someone who has already hiked the AT. Journal when you have the energy. And pack light :) - be willing to spend money on lightweight, quality gear before you start - it is worth it! Oh, and trail runners are way better than boots. And peanut butter is really good in ramen (though Guyline disagrees).