Farrell completes Appalachian Trail

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, September 15, 2016

Peter Farrell has always been active. He enjoys biking and used to be an avid runner, but now prefers to walk. He had never tried his hand at backpacking, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

His adventure started in Feb. 2013. He broke up his journey into segments, making about four forays into the wilderness. He covered over 500 miles each time out, and finally completed the entire trail when he summited Mt. Katahdin on Aug. 22.

“I love the outdoors and the challenge of it,” Farrell said. “It was fun buying the equipment and preparing for it. I don’t know what drew me to it. It just seemed kind of natural to do.”

Preparing for the series of hikes was a tall order for Farrell, but he enjoyed it. Of course, he had to ready himself physically. He already walked a lot and gradually increased the number of miles he walked. He said he walked about 1,200 miles the year before he started his trek.

There was only so much he could do around here to prepare him for the challenge of hiking mountains, though.

“Some of that was with the idea that I was going to go out on the trail and I wanted to be ready,” Farrell said. “The problem is it’s so flat around here. Any place you go on the trail, you’re going to hit mountains. My legs were never ready for mountains. It always makes the first couple of weeks hard.”

Buying the equipment was expensive, but Farrell found it fascinating. He was able to keep it light while also finding plenty of sturdy, long-lasting equipment.

The mental preparation was an entirely different story.

“The mental is the hardest part to prepare for,” he said. “It’s such a long endeavor. You’re talking five, six or seven months of hiking. I made it all the way up to Virginia (from Georgia on the first foray), then I wasn’t enjoying it as much. The fun that went out of it was the actual hiking.”

That’s when he decided to break for the time being. He waited until the following year to pick back up in Virginia, and never experienced that burnout again.

“There’s a saying in the hiking world: ‘hike your own hike.’ What that means is, if you want to go slow, go slow,” Farrell said. “If you want to go fast, go fast. If you want to walk a lot of miles, then walk a lot of miles. Hike the trail how you’re going to hike it, or else you’re never going to make it.”

That’s exactly what Farrell did. He did it at his own pace and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It yielded fond memories of meeting fellow hikers along the way. He recalled being out on the trail for about a month at one point and telling his wife that he had not had a cross word with another hiker the entire time.

Peter Farrell stopped to embrace the scenery on a lake on the Appalachian Trail. He said there was an abundance of beautiful views during his forays into the wilderness. (Peter Farrell/Contributed)

He also got to summit mountain after mountain, peering at hundreds of miles of nature stretching as far as his eyes could see.

“It’s beautiful when you’re on top of a mountain,” Farrell said. “The ponds, rivers and lakes in Maine are just gorgeous. Just absolutely beautiful. So calm and gorgeous. The view from Katahdin is amazing if you’re on it on one of the 30 days a year that it’s clear. Fortunately, I was.

“It’s not just being up there. It’s looking over meadows and forests and all that is just gorgeous. You’re never hurting for beautiful scenery.”

Reaching the end of the trail is quite the accomplishment. However, that was never Farrell’s ultimate objective. He posed for the obligatory photo with the sign at Katahdin, and, of course, was ecstatic to be finished. The real goal was to enjoy the trek.

“It wasn’t the goal. The enjoyment was getting there — walking 2,191 miles to get to that mountaintop,” he said. “I was glad it was done. I was a little sad it was done because I was really in a groove. … When I got up there, I started seeing friends. That was a great way to end it. It was a gorgeous day there. You could see, I don’t know how many miles, but certainly 100 miles.”

Farrell plans on taking a break from hiking for a little while. When he does decide to get back into it, he said he enjoys exploring Goose Creek. He also plans to do some long-distance biking.