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SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
Holland: LHS graduate hikes entire 2,181 miles of Appalachian Trail
spent several weeks as a com-
mercial salmon fisherman in
Alaska. Even his LHS year-
book photo was accompanied
by his ambition to "backpack
through Europe."
With college graduation ap-
proaching and a plan to enter
graduate school in the fall,
Holland knew he was facing a
lengthy break from academic
pursuits this spring. At about
the same time he was ponder-
ing this hiatus from text-
books, a book showed up on
his online suggested reading
list. "A Walk in the Woods: Re-
discovering America on the
Appalachian Trail" is a
comedic look at hiking the
trail, written by Bill Bryson
and published in the late
1990s. The story sparked cu-
riosity in Holland.
"I had never heard of the
Appalachian Trail," Holland
admitted, but he began col-
The Appalachian Trail is an arduous hike, spanning a
lecting as much information
diverse terrain from rolling farmland to mountain-
about the trail and about hik-
ous, rocky summits. The trail, which spans 2,181 miles,
ing it as he could.
begins in the Chattahouchee National Forest in Geor-
Among the things he
gia, where through-hikers register and have their
learned was that the Ap-
gear weighed at a ranger's station before departing.
palachian Trail offers an en-
The only other official registration sites are at Harp-
durance test like no other, al-
er's Ferry, W.Va., and at the trailhead on Mount
though as hiking experiences
Katahdin in Maine, where hikers receive recognition
a bit of a resurgence, more
for completing the hike.
people are taking on the chal-
lenge. From 1936 to 1969, just
59 Appalachian Trail through-
hikes -- traversing the entire
Appalachian Trail facts
length of the trail in one sea-
son -- were recorded. Num-
The trail was completed in 1937 and is considered a unit of the
bers began to rise in 1970, and
National Park System. It is managed by a public-private partnership
by 1980, more than 2,100 hik-
that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, state
ers had completed the chal-
agencies, the Appalachian trail Conservancy and 31 local trail clubs.
lenge. Through the end of the
The trail is approximately 2,180 miles long, depending on an-
nual changes.
2010 hiking season, the total
It passes through 14 states, beginning at Springer Mountain,
number of successful through-
William Holland and his fiancee, LeAnn Alstadt, stand on Franconia Ridge in the White
Ga., and running to Mount Katahdin, Maine.
hikes stood at 12,059.
Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. Alstadt joined Holland for about 800 miles
Between 2 million and 3 million people visit a portion of the
That might seem like a
of the 2,181-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail.
trail each year, with about 1,800 to 2,000 attempting to "through-
large number, but it repre-
sents only about one in four
The total elevation gain of an Appalachian Trail through-hike
Katahdin in Maine, where
or 20 mile days, so I slowed
to finish."
successful through-hikes
is equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times.
hikers receive recognition for
down and enjoyed the trail a
among the thousands who set
Foods high in calories and low in water weight, such as candy
completing the hike.
little more."
Hiking his own hike
bars and Ramen Noodles are popular with backpackers, who can
out on the journey.
Through-hikers can start at
Still, he fought the mental
burn up to 6,000 calories per day.
And that was just the kind
Stories about those who fell
either end of the trail, though
battle regularly during the fi-
The number of people hiking the entire Trail has risen dramat-
of test Holland figured he was
short served as motivation to
most choose to begin at the
nal week or two of the journey.
ically over the years. From 1936 to 1969, only 59 completions are
looking for.
continue his journey, Holland
southern terminus in Georgia.
"At about 1,800 miles in, a
recorded. In 1970, the numbers began to rise. Ten people complet-
"I felt a little bit like I want-
said, especially after his fiance
That's where Holland start-
lot of people were hitting a
ed the Trail in 1970, including Ed Garvey, whose thru-hike was well-
ed to remove myself from all
left to return to her teaching
publicized. The trend was further fueled by the release of Garvey's
ed on March 16. He already
wall," he said. "Towards the
the technology and do some-
job. At that point, he was just
popular book, Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime. The term
had much of the equipment
end, I was completely ready
thing more primal and physi-
118 miles from completing the
"2,000-miler" was coined in the late 1970s to help identify this
needed for the hike, including
for it to be done," Holland said.
growing group of hikers.
cal and complete this journey
trail, a trip he finished the
a lightweight tent, and pur-
"But if it got too bad, I always
By 1980, the total number of 2,000-milers had increased more
that a lot of people don't get to
next week.
chased the rest once he com-
tried to think in my mind,
than ten-fold. The total had doubled by 1990 and again by 2000.
take," he said.
And he pushed through,
mitted to the hike.
`There's a lot of people who
More hike completions were reported for the year 2000 alone than
Once he committed in his
eventually arriving at the
He also decided that he
would love to be here right
in the first 40 years combined. The 10,000th hike completion was
own mind to hiking the 2,181-
summit of Mount Katahdin
would venture into the small
recorded in 2008.
mile expanse, he spent some
and completing his ultimate
Source: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
towns along the trail to pur-
time convincing his parents it
chase food every four or five
was worthwhile. Though they
Dangerous places
"A motto on the trail is `Hike
days as he needed it. Some
had heard about the trail,
your own hike.' That means,
through-hikers arrange for
That mental grind hits at
Robert and Susan Holland
do what you want to do," Hol-
supply drop sites along the
about the same time as the
wondered about their son's
land said. "You don't have to
trail. But Holland, showing
more challenging physical
feel like you have to keep up
the slightest uncertainty in
tests begin, Holland explained
"They were like, `Well, this
with other people. You just do
his own abilities, decided not
-- a combination fraught with
is kind of weird,'" Holland said
what's right for you.
to spend the money for ship-
danger and disappointment
with a chuckle. "I laid out the
"You really develop an ap-
Wouldn't it be nice to
ping supplies, should he not
for those who have spent
pros and cons ... I had money
preciation for the simplicity
make the entire trip.
months on the trail.
saved, I didn't have any big
and kind of a little bit that,
"I wanted to do that, too, be-
The trail becomes rocky and
update your business'
even though all this is hard,
cause I knew that supported
rugged. The "most difficult
He also resorted to a bit of
all I have to do today is hike 15
some of the local businesses
mile" of the Appalachian Trail
social media sites
reverse psychology in order to
or 17 miles or whatever."
along the trail," Holland said.
is at Mahoosuc Notch in
convince them, using the sta-
When he reached the sum-
His initial pace was fairly
southern Maine, where a
all at once?
tistical improbability of suc-
mit at Katahdin, another
fast, in part because of the
rocky canyon requires hikers
cessfully completing the hike
group of through-hikers were
easier terrain on the south
to crawl over, around and even
Now you can! Ask your advertising
as a kind of ally.
already there, sharing a cele-
end of the trail, but also be-
through some of the rocky
representative today about the new service
"I kind of threw out that,
bratory bottle of champagne
cause of his enthusiasm and
`Well, if you look at the odds,
with wide smiles, Holland re-
known as "fanbuilder." It saves you time, makes
"You have to go through
I'll probably drop out in the
called. His was a more muted
your business more productive and is
Though he hiked alone for
some of the caves in these
first month anyway," Holland
-- but no less emotional -- cel-
almost two-thirds of the trail,
boulders, and it's so dark that
inexpensive. Call 320-587-5000 or
said. "They eventually said,
Holland said he never felt too
there's ice down there year
320-693-3266 to learn more.
`Well, go try it out."
"I put my hands on it," Hol-
alone. He figured he met al-
'round," Holland said. "It's
He didn't have to use quite
land said of the sign announc-
most 100 hikers along the
surreal, because there ice is
as much of a sales job on his fi-
ing the trailhead, "and then
way, and knew -- based on un-
kind of steaming. It normally
ancee, LeAnn Alstadt, who
just rested my head on it and
official sign-in points -- that
takes two to three hours to do
was excited about Holland's
let that emotion of the mo-
at most times there were 10 or
that one mile. Once you're
goal. In fact, even though
ment take over ... relief, ex-
12 hikers a day ahead of him
there, you don't know how far
school and other commit-
and another 10 or 12 a day be-
you are from the end. We got
ments kept her from hiking
to it at the end of the day and
the entire trail, she did com-
His pace slowed consider-
it was starting to get dark.
plete about 800 miles of the
ably in Pennsylvania when
That was a wild place."
journey with Holland after
his fiance joined him, some-
For the time-worn hiker --
joining him in Pennsylvania.
thing they both expected as
even those with plenty of ex-
she became acclimated to the
perience -- the Mahoosuc
Fighting mental battle
physical test. And, even
Notch and other areas also
though the pace slowed, Hol-
can be dangerous places.
The Appalachian Trail is an
land said his fiance's joining
"I honestly got very lucky,"
arduous hike, spanning a di-
the journey made all the dif-
Holland said. "I developed
verse terrain from rolling
ference for him as his enthusi-
maybe a hairline fracture in
farmland to mountainous,
asm for the journey became
my foot in Pennsylvania (and)
rocky summits. The trail's
suffocated by the monotony of
just kind of pushed through it.
2,181 miles are maintained by
the quest.
But a lot of people got off (the
about 30 volunteer clubs, who
"It gets to be a grind. It gets
trail) even in New Hampshire
clear brush and build ameni-
to be a full day's work," Hol-
from fractures. Falls took a lot
ties like the three-sided camp
land said. "A lot of people burn
of people off. It was heart-
structures that protect hikers
out. I was very lucky at the
breaking to hear about these
from the elements while they
end to have my fiancee come
people going 1,800 miles and 4
out. I couldn't push her for 17
1/2 months and not being able
The trail begins in the Chat-
tahouchee National Forest in
Georgia, where through-hik-
ers register and have their
Want a
gear weighed at a ranger's
station before departing.
There are numerous other un-
official check-in points along
Be a mentor. Call 699-1616
the route, where hikers can
sign in, "in case something
All activities are free of charge.
were to go wrong," Holland
Call Lori Teicher for more information at 699-1616
said. But the only other offi-
[email protected]
cial registration sites are at
Harper's Ferry, W.Va., and at
Litchfield Area Mentorship Program
the trailhead on Mount