This post is part of a Q&A series written by Appalachian Trail hikers. If you've hiked the AT or are planning to hike the AT, and would like submit a guest post, visit this page for more information. If you want to read more posts from this series, click here.
Note from Jill: I met Jake through out blogs and I'm so glad that I did. Even over email and blog posts I can tell that he is a kind and genuine person. Plus he's a vegan with a cute dog! We were destined to be blogger friends. Jake is preparing for his first AT thru-hike, but he's no stranger to backpacking. With his positive attitude and his dedication to charity, I have no doubt that he will finish the trail. And we're excited to follow along!
If you’d like to learn more about what Jake is doing doing to support People Serving People and Minnesota’s homeless families, I encourage you to visit the 2,000 Miles From Home blog and follow his progress on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Please join him in helping some very deserving families find their way home!
Right now I’m planning to hit the trail in mid-March 2014, although I don’t have a date picked out just yet. I should probably get on that!
2. Where are planning to start and finish your hike?
I’ll be a NOBO, one of many, so I’ll start at Springer Mountain, GA and finish at Mount Katahdin, ME. I’m PSYCHED about hiking through the Whites and the Hundred Mile Wilderness, and being from Minnesota I’m partial to the northland!
3. Do you already have a trail name or are you waiting to let the trail name you?
Believe it or not, I’m torn about this! I don’t want to name myself, and while I’m inclined to let the trail name me I’ve also considered allowing donors to bestow my trail name as a way of generating contributions for the charity I’m supporting, People Serving People. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but if it helps those in need I may be able to abide it!
4. Are you starting with a group/partner or solo?
I’ll be starting alone, but I’m really looking forward to meeting other aspiring thru-hikers and hopefully making some new friends.
5. Why did you choose the AT over another trail?
The AT is an American tradition. It’s ingrained in our culture—so many of us dream about escaping to the trail, living close to the land, and experiencing high adventure. I considered the PCT and CDT, and while I’m passionate about the west I feel the AT is better suited to what I’m trying to achieve through my fundraiser, 2,000 Miles From Home. The charity I’m supporting is dedicated to serving homeless and highly mobile families in the Twin Cities, and sadly the circumstances that led to their poverty and homelessness are as much a part of American life as the vision and perseverance that produced the AT. Ultimately I believe thru-hiking the AT will help focus attention on family poverty in Minnesota and enable some very deserving parents and kids to complete their journeys home from homelessness.
6. What are you most excited about?
The Whites! I love big mountains; I’ve climbed in the Rockies and the Cascades and recently completed my first ascent of Mount Rainier (on my second try), and I feel like the Whites are as close to that as I’ll get on the East Coast. But I’m also really looking forward to meeting other aspiring thru-hikers, taking each day as it comes, and doing my best to inhabit the moment.
7. What are you least excited about?
The food! I’m a vegan, and I’m gravely concerned about being able to stick to my plant-based chops. I spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lack of wholesome food was extremely challenging for me during those six-month tours. I just don’t know how well I’ll do eating the same thing day after day for 4-6 months! Thankfully there are folks like Serial and Jill out there to offer both moral support and expert advice!
8. Have you ever camped before?
Frequently. I can’t get enough of it! Although thru-hiking the AT just might scratch that itch for a while!
9. What's the longest distance you have previously hiked?
I did a 30-ish mile section hike of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota in 2007 and a 26-mile ascent of Pikes Peak in 2012, but those are really the longest hikes I’ve done.
10. What are you doing to prepare for your hike, mentally or physically?
I’ve done a great deal of reading about the AT, and I feel like I have a realistic expectation for how mentally challenging the trail will be. Zach Davis’ book Appalachian Trials was particularly helpful in that regard. Physically, I’m trying to strengthen my legs through weighted stair running, cycling, and conditioning hikes. I have…particular…knees and I’m doing whatever I can to decrease the risk of developing an overuse injury before gaining my trail legs.
11. How do your friends and family feel about your hike?
Everyone has been incredibly supportive. I’m leaving a stable job and a comfortable home to pursue this fundraiser, and while I sometimes question my sanity my friends and family have been uniformly encouraging. I’ve also been humbled and inspired by the outpouring of support for my project and the willingness of complete strangers to donate on behalf of families in need. My experience to date has only underscored the goodness, the generosity, and the compassion in our community and our nation.
12. How concerned are you about your gear list and pack weight?
I’m not terribly concerned. I already own most of the necessary gear, and I’m aiming to go light (no more than 25-30 pounds). I’m training with more weight than that, so I’m hopeful the load won’t be too burdensome when I hit the trail!
13. Do you have any questions for hikers who have completed a section or thru-hike?
Does anyone have any advice on the ideal pack size for an AT thru-hike? I’m debating bringing my Osprey Aether 85, but I’m worried it might be a bit too large. The pack weight is also a little high at roughly five pounds. The pack has been great for heavy loads in big mountains, but I’m not sure it’s the most efficient choice for a 2,180-mile hike. Help me, Obi Wan!
14. Anything else on your mind?
I welcome any and all guidance concerning how to preserve my vegan credentials while on the trail, how to hitchhike effectively, how to reduce the risk of foot and knee injuries, and how to minimize “eau de thru-hiker!”