ENV alum hikes Appalachian Trail
Former ENV major and alum Allie Cook (Class of 2018) is spending much of 2022 hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). We were excited to hear from her and for her to share some of this adventure with you. We reached Allie shortly before the Memorial Day weekend and invited to share some thoughts with us. The interview below has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity. Please see below for how you can continue to follow Allie’s AT adventures.
UC ENV: Where are you now (mile marker/miles in, town, state)?
Allie: I am at mile marker 545.7 (as of Friday, May 27th). Which is right outside of Atkins, Virginia.
UC ENV: How many days have you been on the trail?
Allie: I have been on trail for 54 days. I started on April 4th, 2022.
UC ENV: How far do you have still to go?
Allie: I have roughly 1,647 miles left. I am really close to being a quarter of the way done.
UC ENV: What made you decide to hike the AT (now)?
Allie: I always knew I wanted to hike the AT. Growing up in Massachusetts, I always hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in places where the AT goes through, and seeing the white blazes I was fascinated by the fact that there was one trail all the way from Georgia to Maine. Once I learned about the AT, I knew one day I would hike it. So, then it just became a matter of when I would be able to save enough money and get all the gear. My dream finally become a reality in 2022!
UC ENV: What has been your favorite part of your hike (so far) along the AT?
Allie: Definitely all the cool people I have met. I have met people from Denmark, Ireland, all across the US, and so many other places. Everyone is so nice and has their own reasons to be out here. I could not have asked for a more welcoming community. Also, just being so connected with nature: falling sleep when the sun goes down, waking up when it comes up, hearing all the birds, and just seeing beautiful landscapes all day really has been magical.
UC ENV: What has been your least favorite part?
Allie: Cold rain! There have been a couple days now where I have hiked in really cold rain. There is just no way to not be miserable. You never really warm up, you get soaking wet, and then if the rain doesn’t stop you have to set your tent up in the rain. All you want is a dry place to dry off and those are nowhere to be found here in the woods. Those days definitely have been my lowest days.
UC ENV: What has been the biggest surprise of the trip so far? / What has been the hardest challenge so far?
Allie: The biggest surprise has probably been how much food I have been eating. I knew that “hiker hunger” was a real thing, because you are just burning so many calories, But the amount of snacks and food I consume in a day is pretty wild.
As for the biggest challenge, that was when my sleeping pad got a huge rip and my hiking pole bent–both in the same day. It is always challenging when you have gear malfunctions in the woods. You are usually still a couple days from town where you can get a proper solution.
UC ENV: What is something that has turned out to be less challenging/easier than you anticipated?
Allie: Getting a daily routine down happened faster than I thought it would. Pretty quickly I was able to figure out the best way to pack my backpack for the convenience of reaching different items throughout the day. I also have a pretty good camp set-up and take-down system that I follow every morning and evening. I definitely thought it would have taken me longer to find a groove, but you fall—I fell—into a good routine pretty quickly.
UC ENV: When things get tough, what keeps you going?
Allie: I always tell myself to never quit on a bad day, and that really helps me stay motivated in a really tough moment. But in the long term my mom really helps me stay motivated. She hiked the AT in 2019. And even though I am out here for myself and on my own journey, when things get tough, I just think about how cool it is that we will get to have this experience in common.
UC ENV: What (if anything) has the experience made you appreciate more about nature?
Allie: Nature is just wicked awesome! Whether it is a beautiful sunset or sunrise, all the different bird calls that I hear throughout the day, or the way a tree trunk has just completely grown around a tree, I am just so thankful that I get to spend every day outside. It has also been cool seeing how the landscapes and terrain has changed from state to state and even from day to day.
UC ENV: What is one way your education at Ursinus (in ENV) has shaped your hike?
Allie: I definitely have been thinking a lot about environmental conservation, especially when I was walking through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surprisingly, that was the part of the trail so far where I saw the most trash on or on the side of the trail. First, it made me sad and I grabbed whatever wrappers I could. Second, it made me think back to one of my courses where we talked about Yellowstone. We had a discussion in which we talked about how you help conserve nature so everyone can enjoy it, while also accounting for the impact of millions of people visiting the park each year. So, that is something that seems to always be constantly on my mind: the struggle of how we can make sure nature/the environment is accessible for people to enjoy, but also make sure we are conserving it, as well.
UC ENV: What’s next after the AT?
Allie: To be honest, I am really looking forward to spending time with family. I am learning that I love being outside. Obviously, I want to be able to use to ENV degree in some way. But if there is one thing I have learned out here it is that trail always provides… maybe it is someone giving you an extra granola bar or finding contact solution in a hiker box, or the sun coming out after a rainy day so you can dry your tent. So, I am sure the trail ahead will provide me with the right path afterward whatever that may look like.
If you want to see more of Allie’s AT exploits, follow her on Instagram: @confusedballplayer
We in ENV thank Allie for taking the time to talk with us and wish her a wonderful journey this summer!