Two Drastically Different Approaches to Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail pic

Appalachian Trail
Image: appalachiantrail.org

Between 1984 and 2016, Pradeep Ghia served as the president of Pradeep S. Ghia, MD, PC, an invasive cardiology private practice located in Easton, Pennsylvania. In his free time, Pradeep Ghia enjoys hiking and backpacking along the Appalachian Trail, a roughly 2,168-mile hiking trail spanning from Georgia to Maine.

On average, an Appalachian Trail through-hike, hiking from one end of the trail to the other, takes between five and seven months. Two people who have traversed the entire trail, Karl Meltzer and Jeffrey H. Ryan, set out with drastically different goals, one holding the record for finishing the trail in the quickest time, the other taking almost three decades.

At 48 years old, Karl Meltzer set the speed record for the Appalachian Trail by running the entire length of it in just under 46 days. Meltzer, an accomplished ultramarathon runner who has earned the nickname, “Speedgoat Karl,” attempted the speed run three times, succeeding on his third attempt.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jeffrey H. Ryan, an author and avid lover of the Appalachian Trail. Taking the trail at a more leisurely pace, Ryan took 28 years to complete it using a method Appalachian Trail hikers call “section hiking.” Instead of taking the trail on all at once, Ryan hiked a section at a time.

To Ryan, section hiking offers the most appeal, giving him the opportunity to immerse himself in his surroundings more than someone like Meltzer, who described the trail as a never-ending tunnel that “more or less looks the same a lot of the time.” Section hiking the trail also proves advantageous for those who want to hike the trail but cannot afford to take five to seven months away from their normal lives.

Whether you are out to prove yourself, set records, and push your limits, or simply want to enjoy the immense beauty offered on the over-2,000-mile hike, the Appalachian Trail has something to offer all hikers and nature lovers.

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