Take a hike: UI grads to spend six months documenting the Appalachian Trail

Iowans to hike the Appalachian Trail
A view of Lehigh Valley, as seen from the Appalachian Trail. — photo by Nicholas Tonelli

Recent University of Iowa grads Elizabeth Furmanski and Collin Blunk are The Wild Outsiders, and they want you to come along, virtually at least, as they attempt to trek the entire 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail.

“In the spring of 2012, a family trip to Tennessee led us to the Smoky Mountains National Park,” Blunk said. “Without much knowledge of the Appalachian Trail, we stumbled upon it and hiked a few hundred yards. That was all it took, the idea of spending six months in the Appalachian wilderness was too good to pass up.”

The Appalachian Trail, often called “America’s Trail,” is one of the most popular hiking spots in the U.S. According to the Wild Outsiders, two to three million hikers visit the trail every year, but only around 2,000 attempt a full “thru-hike.” About 25 percent of those that attempt it succeed.

To make sure they will have the best chance at success, the pair is gearing up (literally) for the five-to-seven-month journey, which will take them from from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The couple leave in about 18 days, and as you might imagine, the terrain and weather conditions they expect to face will vary significantly from day-to-day, making this an especially difficult hike to prepare for.

With an expected temperature range on the trail of between -10 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, their 35-45 pound packs have to contain everything they need to face the extreme weather that will surely be thrown at them. Oh, and they’ll be surrounded by wild animals, too. While most of the wildlife on the trail is harmless and does its best to stay out of hikers’ way, it’s worth noting that they may very well cross paths with bears and venomous snakes.

Since they see this trip as a way to show people at home what it’s really like to live in the woods for six months, Blunk says they plan to update the live feed on their website daily. He understands that there may be a few stretches where access to the internet will be unavailable, but is confident that they will be able to stay connected most of the time.

“The longest stretch the trail offers without access to a town is 10 days,” Blunk continued. “So you can expect our posts to be more frequent than that. Plan to view photo updates, video blogs, and other trail content often throughout our journey.”

It takes a lot of guts to attempt something like this, but it also costs money. According to their website, hiking the entire trail costs roughly $4000-$6000 per person. That’s a lot of money, especially if you’re a recent college graduate. If you’d like to support the Wild Outsiders monetarily, check out their donation page here.

Donations will go toward food, gear, supplies and other unexpected expenses that may arise. Follow them on Twitter @WildOutsiders.

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