Staring at screens day in and day out, hearing your newsfeeds chiming even in your dreams, do you ever just feel like logging off, putting on some boots and going on a long hike through wooded forests, with just Mother Nature for company?
Click start to play today’s Crossword, where you can explore North America’s most famous hiking route – the Appalachian Trail.
Stretching over 3,520km through 14 states – from Georgia to Maine – the Appalachian Trail, or AT as it is usually called, welcomes some 3 million hikers every year, looking to reconnect with their environment. But not everyone manages to complete the entire trip. According to History.com, around 2,500 hikers set out each spring on the Trail, but nearly three-quarters of them end up dropping out somewhere along the way, with factors like injury, fatigue and illness forcing them to head back home.
Still, the call to walk the beautiful trail is strong – the route meanders along streams and ridges, waterfalls and swimholes, and viewpoints overlooking stunning views of mountains and rivers. Nearly all the hikers who walk the AT do so without revealing their real names. Instead, they use a unique Trail nickname that is often humorous, like “Muggle”, “Knock on Wood” or “Sensitive Pigeon”. The tradition of Trail names started as a fun way to break the ice when meeting others on the strenuous journey.
Most hikers cover about 24km a day, and take six months to complete the entire Trail. But those who prefer to run or power walk are able to make their way through much more quickly. The undertaking involves about 5 million steps!
Despite seeming formidable, hikers do not have to be in prime athletic condition to finish the Trail. Emma Gatewood, nicknamed “Grandma Gatewood” became one of the first-ever thru-hikers (hikers who finish the entire trail) in 1955, at the age of 67 years old. Since then, the Trail has seen hikers as old as 81 and as young as 5 complete the trek.
In 2018, Karel Sabbe, a Belgian dentist, became the latest record holder for completing the AT in the fastest time (with a support team): 41 days, 7 hours and 39 minutes.