A new year brings new personal goals. For some it’s losing weight. For others it’s reading more. For Mandy Scott, daughter of Cherryland lineman Phil Scott, it was hiking 2,189 miles along the Appalachian Trail.
In the spring of 2016, Mandy Scott needed to shake things up a bit. “I had been working the same job in a restaurant for a handful of years and had graduated from the University of Michigan a couple years previously. I needed to do something to avoid feeling complacent,” she reflects.
Thanks to some motivation from a friend and future hiking partner, Scott decided to take on the Appalachian Trail: the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.
Scott was familiar with the rigors of hiking and camping, but knew this trail was different. “In the summer of 2015, I backpacked 100 miles over a week in the Smoky Mountains. But I hadn’t done anything of this kind of scale.”
A trek of this magnitude required proper planning and equipment. “We were not lightweight hikers,” she joked. Between the necessities including food, clothing, socks and camping gear, as well as the items used to pass the time, like books, watercolor kits, and musical instruments, each pack weighed about 45–50 lbs. With the help of her hiking partner’s grandmother, they also were mailed supplies regularly to ensure they never ran out of the essentials.
Scott started her journey at Amicacola Falls, Georgia, on April 29. The trip began with a 10-mile approach trail to the southern terminus Springer Mountain. The approach trail began with a 600-plus step climb over flights of stairs to get to the top. As she took that initial climb, Scott remembers thinking, “What did I just get myself into?”
For the first couple of weeks, Scott traveled an average of 10 miles per day. As she traversed the flatter Mid-Atlantic section of the trail, her pace increased to an average of 20–25 miles per day. There were even stretches where she achieved over 30 miles per day.
The journey was difficult and at times took its toll on her both physically and mentally. “Rain was hard,” she explained. “There were weeks when it would rain every day.” At one point the rain was so bad that Scott and her hiking partner contracted trench foot, a very painful condition caused by one’s feet being wet and cold for too long.
There were times when she also struggled with the distance from her family and boyfriend. “I was lucky to have my boyfriend come and visit me once a month, but there would be days when cell signal was so scant that it was difficult to maintain communication. So there were days I felt very alone.”
But for every bad day, there was a multitude of great days, filled with moments of fun, generosity, and “trail magic.” From strangers welcoming them into their home for hot showers and food to the mysterious cooler filled with soda and beer left for them to discover, Scott found herself appreciating the little things in life.
“One day we almost ran out of food. We struck up a conversation with someone who ended up giving us a couple beers, a dozen Krispy Cremes, and some bananas. I think we cried.” It was these special moments that kept her going.
Over 2,000 miles, 30 bears, 15 supply drops, and hundreds of mosquito bites later, Scott reached her destination atop Mt. Katahdin in Maine on September 19.
In the end, Scott’s nearly five-month long journey left her motivated about the future. “I made so many plans and set goals to accomplish when I got back,” said Scott.
To others in need of a push to achieve their goals, Scott recommends getting out of the house and away from the daily routine; “See what happens to your mind when there is not TV or work to distract yourself. See how motivated you get.”