Note from Jill & Serial: Guyline and his wife, Bearcub, are dear, sweet friends of ours. We met them on the trail in 2012 and they were living in Chicago when we moved back there after our hike. They are adventurers at heart and we couldn't be more thankful to have them as friends. As far as couples go, they're pretty much the cutest. They were dating when they decided to thru-hike together (only couples who have hiked together will understand the true test that the trail is), got engaged shortly after their hike and were married this past year. Now they are living and traveling in Ecuador, loving life and keeping the adventure going. You can read through their thru-hike posts or follow along on their new travel posts at Brian and Kelly Hike the AT. We love and miss you guys!
1. What is your trail name and what year(s) did you hike?
Guyline - thru-hiked in 2012
2. Where did you start your hike?
Springer Mountain, Georgia
3. Where did you finish your hike?
Mount Katahdin, Maine
4. Did you start with a group or solo?
I started with my then girlfriend, now wife (proposed on our 1 year anniversary of starting the AT), Kelly...AKA Bearcub.
5. What’s the best thing about hiking?
There are many great things about hiking, but if I had to boil it down I would say living a simplistic life close to nature. The real world contains nagging problems that can go unresolved and continue to gnaw at you, but all problems on the trail can be solved with a meal, shower, or a set of dry clothes. And both the beauty and the hardships of the trail will help you to put all of those real world problems into prospective. Actually, maybe the best thing about hiking is the person that you become by the end of the journey.
6. What’s the worst thing about hiking?
The worst thing about hiking isn't the lack of delicious home-cooked food, regular showers, or a bed every night...it's the monotony. The AT is incredibly beautiful, but some days you just can't get psyched about a hike through the middle of the woods in Virginia with nothing to look at but the same trees you've been staring at for weeks. Hiking also gives you a lot of time to think about how you want to live your life - things you want to do differently, new hobbies you'd like to try, but the catch is you can't actually do any of it for another 6 months.
7. Describe your best day on the trail
There was a day in the 100 mile wilderness when we finally realized we were going to complete the whole trail by our deadline, and we finally were able to completely relax (a piece of advice - always let yourself completely relax, don't worry about whether or not you're going to finish). We stared into a waterfall for about an hour during our lunch break, went swimming in a pristine lake that evening, and watched the sunset over the same lake during dinner. I also found an awesome hat that I still wear every day. Side Note: If anybody lost a Blue Ridge Parkway hat in Maine in 2012, I'm sorry but at this point I'm not giving it back.
8. Describe your hardest day on the trail
There was a 24 hour stretch in Pennsylvania where we couldn't find any water for hours even after going down multiple steep side trails, it stormed on us, and the man whose hostel/hotel we were staying in passed away. I remember at one particularly low point during the day I just started laughing because I was so angry. But after that day, things just started to get better. I finally realized that no matter what went wrong, nothing was going to stop us. And even if it did, so what? At that point I finally stopped stressing so much. Meeting someone in the evening only to find out the next morning that they passed away in the night really puts your own selfish problems into prospective.
9. Did you ever feel like quitting your hike?
Yes. I think everybody probably does. Things happen. You get sick, you get hurt, you get bored or question why the hell you're even doing this. But just keep going, I promise it's worth it. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, what's a few months of adversity when there's so much glory at stake?
10. How did you prepare for your hike?
We didn't do all that much to prepare. We read a couple AT books, bought all of our gear, and tried to stay relatively healthy. In reality, the first few weeks of the hike were our physical training. It almost seemed like the only way to prepare for it was to get out there. I do regret, however, that I did not read Appalachian Trials before we started the hike. I read it recently and realized that it really would have helped prevent some of the emotional hardships of the trail. The hardest part of the trail is the emotional/mental/spiritual aspect.
11. Do you stay in contact with your trail friends?
I do! Unfortunately, I don't live near any of them anymore, but we still keep in touch and I know that we'll always spend time with each other whenever possible.
12. Would you attempt another long distance hike?
Some days I think never again, and some days I want to just grab our packs and go. I guess I have to say it's a possibility. To clarify, this answer refers to a hike as long as the AT. I would love to do a hike that was a few hundred miles for about a month or so. Regardless of your AT experience, if you completed even a few hundred miles of it...you're pretty much a hiker for life.
13. Would you thru-hike the AT again?
Possibly, but if I was going to invest all of that time, I'd probably try a different trail this time around.
14. Do you have any advice for the next class of thru-hikers?
Read Appalachian Trails before you start...have an open mind...know that there will be points where you will hate the AT and want to quit...don't worry too much about your daily miles and do NOT go so hard that you hurt yourself. Most importantly for me...do not stress about whether or not you're going to finish the whole thing. If you do or you don't, either way you waste your time worrying. The chance to be on the trail and live so close to nature is an amazing opportunity! Don't let anything get in the way of enjoying it.