Here's a nod of admiration to the hiking headliners of 2011:
Jennifer Pharr Davis of Asheville, N.C., age 28, set a new overall speed record on the Appalachian Trail, covering the 2,181-mile route on a supported hike, north to south, in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes. She broke the previous mark, held by a male, by 26 hours and averaged 47 miles a day.
Scott Williamson of Truckee, Calif., age 39, set a new speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail, traveling the 2,650-mile path unsupported in 64 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes. It was Williamson's 13th PCT thru-hike, including 2 yo-yo hikes (start at the Mexico-California border, hike to the Canada-Washington border, then hike south again). This is the third time he has set a PCT speed record, the first he accomplished solo.
Hiking may not be fertile ground for high-flying, gravity-defying videos, nor does it often convey the sort of head-in-the-lion's-mouth derring-do of other adventure sports, but despite the ostensible simplicty of redundantly putting one foot in front of the other, wow, these are impressive accomplishments.
To anyone interested in understanding the vital inner game involved in executing a major thru-hike, take the time to read a terrific San Diego Union-Tribune article on Williamson by Ed Zieralski.
While not nearly as ambitious as the achievements described above, I harbor my own long-distance dreams for the summers to come. Someday I want to check the complete, 211-mile John Muir Trail off my to-do list. I also yearn to take on the top half of the PCT in Washington in one shot, from Snoqualmie Pass (where I-90 intersects the trail) north to Canada. I've done nearly all of it in pieces. But to stitch it all together in a single adventurous stretch sounds, umm, delicious.
What's your long-distance dream for the year (or years) ahead?
Trail photos by T.D. Wood.