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May 2013 Online Exclusive

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Portraits

These men and women were photographed as they thru-hiked the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. They each walked more than 2,000 miles—enduring the Smokies, the Shenandoahs, and the White Mountains—to get to the point where they posed for their portraits. Only the vast and lonely wilderness of Maine's north woods stood between them and their goal: Mt. Katahdin, a behemoth of a mountain that stands like a beacon to every thru-hiker. For some the journey couldn't end soon enough; others enjoyed every step along the way.
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chris bennetDuring my five months on the trail as a ridge runner for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, I carried my camera everywhere I went. I photographed all sorts of thru-hikers: teenagers and octogenarians; a millionaire and drifters who were living day-to-day. The people in these photographs all walked over 2000 miles to get to the point where they are standing. One thru-hiker would be the first person to hike the trail with two replaced hips when he finished. Another had hiked the trail in 1981 and summited Katahdin on September 11th. He was so horrified that that the twentieth anniversary of his finish was that faithful autumn day that he set out to hike the trail again just to summit on a different date.

The goal of these portraits is to give you a sense of the diversity along the trail. The thru-hike experience is as much a social one as a wilderness one. Maybe when the time is right, you will be motivated to explore the trail yourself. Maybe it’ll be after you retire, or maybe next week. Whatever the time, prepare to be touched by the trail forever.

Go to the photos.

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