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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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Photo by Chris Bennett

Steve "eLROD" Truskoski, 39, of Weston, VT

My best memory of the trail is no single memory but many things, from the people I met and formed quick bonds with, to sunrise over the skyline in Shenandoah N.P. and slack packing my entire home state, Vermont.  

The best day I had on my hike was my last… It was a bittersweet ending, but for the closing weekend in Baxter State Park in mid-October, I had bluebird skies and relatively mild temps as I climbed Mt. Katahdin, with a posse of the the late finishers.  

My worst day was the day I earned my trail name… getting zapped by lightning during a microburst high atop Standing Indian Mountain in North Carolina. My name was originally "Lightning Rod," but I chopped it because people were associating me with speed, and I wasn’t too fast, just a conductor…YIKES.

My advice for anyone going out to thru hike is start off easy. Limit yourself to 10 or 12 miles a day for the first few weeks, or until you become acclimated to the terrain and your gear.  Many tried to go too big, too soon, and got hurt or dropped out. Next would be check for ticks, always! I got Lyme disease near Harpers Ferry and it really slowed me down. 

My best piece of gear was (and still is) my Big Agnes Seedhouse Light 1 tent: perfect weight, roomy and good in bad weather.

My average pack base weight was 28 lbs. 

Favorite trail food: Hot ‘n Spicy Chex Mix

Go to the next hiker.

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