Friday, October 8, 2010
Reed Lockwood – fourteen States and six pairs of running shoes later
On April 11, Reed Lockwood of Lowell Street started the Appalachian Trail as the 615th person to do so this year. On August 15 he finished as the 185th. The trail connecting Georgia and Maine crosses 14 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia).
Like the majority of hikers, Reed started in Georgia in the spring and followed the mild weather north. The length of the Appalachian Trail changes every year – originally 2,064 miles, it has gradually expanded to include over 2,179 miles of mountainous trails. Completing the four-month trek requires an unusual dedication to daily goals that can be tedious or liberating, depending on your attitude. Reed explained his personal take on the rigors of sleeping in the rain and why some people choose to spend their summers walking up and down mountains.
What did you learn from hiking the Trail?
“Hiking the Appalachian Trail is something everyone can learn from. It made me a lot more comfortable in strange places. It actually wasn’t as wildernessy as I expected. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I never imagined it would be like this. Even though I was expecting it to be hard, it was very difficult. Before I left I spent training time where I walked 20-something miles every day. Around here it’s all flat but when you get out in the mountains it’s a lot different.
“At the beginning of the trail there’s this set of stairs going up a waterfall [in Amicalola State Park, Dawsonville, Georgia] I thought I was going to die – I thought this was the worst mistake ever! The approach trail is harder than average for the beginning of the trail. In the middle states [Pennsylvania to Massachusetts] the mountains aren’t as challenging, then when you get up to the northeast it’s a whole new level of difficulty. There are easier parts but it always seems like the part you are hiking is the hardest part.
“The first week or so I had a lot of blisters – you’ve got to pop them – it feels so much better after you pop them. After a quarter of the way I didn’t have any blisters anymore. I was trying to do lightweight hiking. My pack was about 15 pounds base weight – with food and water it got up to 25 pounds. I used running shoes because you don’t need as much support with the lighter bag. A lot of hikers nowadays are using trail runners. I went through six pairs. The insole would go first, then the sole would break and wear apart.”
What were people like on the trail?
“People tend to clump up on the trail, [so] you [actually] spend a lot of time with people. You get to know people really fast out there, like if you hike with someone for a couple of days you know everything about them.
“There’s three groups of people who are out there. There are the young people in their early 20s who don’t have a good stable career path yet, [Reed is 23], and then there are older people who have retired, so they’ve got time. Then there’s this in-between crowd...who have lost their jobs or gotten a divorce or something like that.
“By and large everyone is really nice to each other. People will share food with you and stuff, like medical supplies. The average person in real life, if I went up and asked them about organic farming or building your own house or what kind of wild plants you can eat – most of the time I don’t meet people who share interests like that, but on the trail it seems like every other person you meet knows something about stuff like that. So it is an interesting cross-section of society.”
What was your daily discipline?
“I went 20 miles a day – I rarely went past 25 – that’s 14 hours. I did a couple of 50-mile-days where I would start in the morning, hike overnight, and the next morning get to town totally exhausted. The first half I was faster than average, but during the second half I started to slow down. You have a very clear goal every day. It’s interesting. On the one hand it is very routine and on the other hand it’s a new adventure every day. I’m just glad to get off the trail and get on with my life right now because you have this feeling on the trail that your life is kind of on hold – it’s nice to not have to think about life after the trail, but sometimes I would think I was just stalling going back to school and getting a real life job, getting a career, whatever.”
What were some of the hardships?
“I’m happy with the way things turned out, but I didn’t have a stove, [and] out there you look at food as fuel. I ate at least 1,000 granola bars – ten every morning. If I did it again I might bring a stove and take it slower. I ate a lot of packets of tuna fish, chips, pretzels, chex mix, chicken packets, granola bars. They say you should eat 6,000 or 10,000 calories a day but I couldn’t with the cold food, I couldn’t carry that much. I ate about 2,500 calories a day.
“I was lucky that I didn’t get any snow. I had this poncho you could make into a tarp when it rained, but I carried a little umbrella to keep me dry. I usually slept in the shelters. During the Virginia section it rained three or four days straight and I got soaked. My sleeping bag was soaked. I put on my only dry clothes and huddled in the corner of the shelter. Another hiker gave me some of his dry clothes so I didn’t freeze to death.
“Just at the end of the White Mountains the wind was going over me. I was almost at the shelter, soaked and a little hypothermic, so I took all my clothes off and got in my sleeping bag. It was a fee site, so the guy who watches it came around to collect money. I was feeling so awful I pretended I was asleep until he passed by.”
Were you ever scared?
“I saw four bears total, but a lot of people saw 15 or more. In New Jersey the bears aren’t afraid of people – I was coming back from getting water and there was a giant one in the middle of the trail. I yelled at it, it got out of the way and looked at me as I walked by. I did four 50-mile overnight hikes – the second one I did was the first one I did alone. I was on...edge the whole time. The deer would come out of nowhere with their bright green glowing eyes. That was probably one of the scariest parts.”
Why did you do it?
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do at some point. Just this [past] January or February I got the idea that I wanted to do it. It was an opportunity – I wouldn’t really have the chance to do it again until I was retired or something. It was a break from the routine. I was out of school and looking to go somewhere else. I was unhappy with the major I was in. I was in electrical engineering but I had wanted to do computer science. I was looking at switching schools. It just seemed like the rest of my life was going to be a cycle of working and sleeping. Ironically, that’s what the trail is, you walk and you sleep. But you’re on the edge, you live outside, you go somewhere new every day, and you meet interesting people. ∆
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito