Joe’s life-changing 2,200 mile hike along Appalachian Trail

35 thoughts on “Joe’s life-changing 2,200 mile hike along Appalachian Trail”

  1. Charting one’s own course…I like it. I’m currently finishing up a grad program and looking for a new job, so I’m spending a lot of time thinking about Big Decisions these days. It can be easy for me to freak out and just think, “Aaahhh, I just need a job! Right now! Any job!” but I’m trying to stay calm and think about what I actually *want* to do — i.e., to chart my own course. I’ll have to keep this phrasing in mind as I’m moving forward. 🙂

    1. Best of luck to you post graduation, Sarah! It’s true, find something that you’re truly passionate about, not something that society would have you do instead. 🙂

  2. What an inspirational story.

    What i like about him is the way he opens his mind up about doing what he thinks is correct and then just go do it. Things will look horribly different had he accepted a traditional job and stay with it for 5 to 10years before leaping.

  3. Oh man. We were in a similar situation… but because we were married and had a baby, we didn’t even consider hiking the App. Trail. (Also, I would die.) I’m always amazed by people that are willing to take such big risks. It always turns out for them! Way to kickstart an amazing life right out of college!

    1. I’m amazed by those people too. This thought never would have occurred to me when I graduated college, that’s for sure. Had I done something like this, who knows where I’d be right now.

    2. Thank you! I was truly inspired by the solo 70+ year old lady, people who quit their jobs, etc… that I met thru-hiking the trail. I felt like they were the amazing people. It showed me that anyone can do it. The AT has a great community of amazing people.

  4. That’s awesome! I just watched the movie “Into the Wild” the other day and find this stuff fascinating. I also walked about a whole 25 feet 🙂 of the Appalachian trail this summer when my girlfriend and I stopped at Blood Mountain one day during some travels to check out the scenery. That hike is TOUGH and I’m surprised the success rate is 25%! I would have expected lower.

    1. Yup, I’ve seen that movie as well as read the book – it’s actually the ONLY book that we had to read in high school that I actually enjoyed reading. I remember it distinctly! 🙂

    2. Blood Mtn is one of my favorites in the south. I’ve done that one many times! You have to be slightly crazy to take on something like this, so naturally if you are insane enough to start it, you’re going to finish it ;).

  5. That’s awesome. Hiking at least part of the Appalachian trail has always been on my bucket list ever since I read Bill Bryson’s book about hiking the trail a long time ago. Not sure I want to do the whole thing but just to be out there and feel the freedom as you say, would be really motivating to want to feel that way all the time. Keep up the great work and love the articles. They are an inspiration to all of us “retire early” enthusiasts.

    1. Bill Bryson’s book was what first gave me the ridiculous idea of attempting something as crazy as this. It was really entertaining! I actually never even considered hiking the trail in its entirety until I met a man that had just finished the trail going southbound and was wandering around the smokies because he couldn’t leave the trail. He was the nicest and most humble guy I’d ever met and he played a big role in me finally making the decision to just go. I wish I could meet this guy again and tell him how much he impacted my life :).

  6. The world is a great, big interesting place to chart your own course in. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do so when you have to go to a budget meeting. Here’s to all of us working to make the lifestyle change so we can all hike our Appalachian Trails!

    1. I like it, MrFireStation. Some pursue these endeavors super early in life, others after. Your post retirement hiking adventures will be here soon enough! 🙂

  7. Yessss, I love this story! I didn’t have the gall to do something like this right out of school, but the more years I spend working in a corporate office, the more I feel the wanderlust. Hiking parts of the PCT and Appalachian Trail are definitely on our list for the next few years.

    1. We plan on a lot of hiking too once we finally call it quits. We probably won’t be hiking the entire AT, but there will be many-a-trail hike in our future!

  8. I love this, Steve. The mention of coyote dung reminds me of when we day-hiked a portion of the trail in the Smoky Mountains and didn’t end where we parked our car. We were helped by a hiker with a map who’d been out on the trail for a week. Mr. G offered to give him a lift to where he was spending the evening, but the hiker insisted he smelled too foul to step foot in our car. Mr. G was like “Oh don’t be silly” and I’m in the background jumping up and down, making faces and miming choking myself to avoid being in an enclosed space with the man.

    I second Dan on the Bryson book.

    1. I was that foul-smelling hiker! During my hike I met so many “trail angels” that made my journey so much more enjoyable and memorable. (free beer, rides into town, a place to shower) It’s incredible how many amazing people are out there if you look at the world in a different way that the news and facebook make it look like.

  9. Haha! That’s exactly what I did when I figured out I had no idea why I was in college. I figured may as well pay for something I want to do and figure out what to do next, so I went hiking. After months of planning I took off from Maine and made it 1700 miles before I decided I had gotten out of it what I wanted went back to school.

    It was a life changing experience because it helped me refocus and figure out a direction for my life. While that changed some, it was a catalyst to get me where I am today. It’s amazing the confidence boost you get doing something like that, and for me that was my first solo adventure into anything. It showed me I didn’t have to follow the norms, or conventions, and it’s still applicable today.
    While we’re maybe not going down the ER path, we are full steam ahead to FI and our Lifestyle Change and bucking the normal conventions of “what life should look like”.

    1. Very cool, Mr. SSC. I think the best lesson that could possibly come out of an adventure like this is – aside from the confidence boost, conventional wisdom need not dictate your life. If it works for you, great. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something better.

      Over the years, I’ve found that there usually is… 🙂

    2. Awesome Mr. SSC! That’s the whole point. Many people get so caught up in completing the trail that they start hating their lives by the end of it. It seems like you got so much out of the AT. Congrats!

  10. At the beginning of this year, after reading Wild and then watching the movie, Mrs. Saturday said she’s decided that we’re going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail within 10 years. I could not have been happier to hear that!

    Over the last 5 years, we’ve sectioned hiked several sections of the AT and to do the whole thing would be a dream come true. It takes a lot of tweaking your gear, getting the weight down, and using coupons to get all that gear over the years, but the trail is such a beautiful place to be!

    Love the story about Joe! Sometimes it really is the simple things in life that can make you happiest.

    1. Woohoo! Good luck with that goal. It’s true, so many times it’s the simple things in life that bring us the most happiness. I bet a few months out on the trail will leave you a much refreshed person when you return to “real life”! 🙂

    2. Go for it! It’s not as hard as it seems. You figure it all out as you go. 80% of it is mental. Let me know if you ever have any hiking questions, I’d be happy to assist!

  11. Hey Steve! Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog. I love talking about the trail any chance I get as it is a very special place to me. As many commenters stated, an endeavor like this is not for everyone, but it’s important that we follow passions/goals/dreams and we shouldn’t let “earning a living” get in the way of it. FI is a an amazing pursuit, but we believe that we shouldn’t get so caught up in the outcome that we forget to enjoy ourselves along the way.

    My trail name was “smilin’ Joe” because I was exceptionally happy throughout my entire 2,200 mile journey. I try to lead a life the same way at home :). When I find myself having a particularly difficult day at work, I think of my hike and it always brings my spirits up, I’m very fortunate to have this to reflect on.

    If anyone has any questions, or wants to discuss hiking, early retirement, money, etc… please reach out to me, I’d love to nerd out about any of these topics! ;).

  12. Excellent article! You’ve captured what makes Joe an inspiration to others who dream about adventure, travel & living more simply. He & Katie live in a way that makes sacrifices look like fun. I can’t say I’ve traveled nearly as much as I would like but I know what it is to live simply and I love that because of the lack of distractions I was able to focus my attention on my family which has been my favorite adventure thus far.

  13. omg my hero! in a literal sense though. I only did a small section of about 40 miles over 8 days during spring break in college but it was the most free I’ve ever felt too. It’s on my “someday” list. Amazing story, I hope you get to capture that feeling and live it every day 🙂

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