Danny Moody and Dan Giguere both recently finished hiking the nearly 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.
The two were selected to take part in Maine Public’s “Here to There and Back” project. The two say the experience gave them a new perspective on life, including how much stuff they really need. Maine Things Considered host Nora Flaherty interviewed the hikers Wednesday.
Flaherty: What daily items did you think you really needed that turned out to be expendable?
Giguere: Electronics in general. You really don’t need those, like the TV or the tablet or the computer or even your cellphone, to get through daily life. You more realize there are few things that you do need, like a shower and a bathroom are really nice, and a roof over your head is one of the few things you do come to enjoy now the rain.
Moody: As gross as it is, clothing. You realize that you really don’t need a big pile of clothing in your bags, so you really minimize it, down to hiking clothes and town shorts. That was one of the things that I noticed got much smaller, was my clothes bag.
Flaherty: But to clarify you did wear some clothes.
Moody: I wore some clothing sometimes.
Flaherty: So what did this experience teach you about your own limits?
Giguere: At first you didn’t think you could hike a 20-mile day, and then you hike to 20-mile day. And then you didn’t think you could hike 30 miles a day, and then you hike 30 miles a day. It’s all about pushing that extra hour, taking that next step, doing that next thing. You’d be surprised by how much more you can accomplish.
Moody: I would agree with that. It gets to the point where mentally, you’ve got to get yourself to do it, because when you’re three-quarters of the way in the trail, your body will walk as far as you ask it to walk. It’s just you’ve got to ask it to do it.
Flaherty: You guys were with other people throughout this at various times, but generally what would you say that you learned about about other people in this whole adventure?
Giguere: Everyone comes from a different background, but everyone is pretty much the same when it comes down to it. You’re all going to go through the same challenges and have the same problems every day, no matter where they came from or what they were doing beforehand. We’re all pretty much alike once we get down to the base of it.
Moody: I’d say there are many different types of people out there, and the Appalachian Trail is a great spot to see all of them. You meet great people, you meet shady people, crazy people — you just meet every single type of person there is and they’re all on the trail, for different reasons too.
Flaherty: How did the way you dealt with the different kinds of people change over time?
Giguere: At first you’re kind of off, you don’t always talk to everybody. Maybe you feel like that person is a little odd, maybe I don’t want to talk to them. But then as the trail goes along you — most of the time at camp at the end of night, everyone’s together and you just start talking to everybody. Everyone has their own piece of something to say, sometimes maybe they talk too much, sometimes it seems like they don’t talk at all or don’t want to talk to you. But just as you go through the trail or spend time out there, you become more open to everything.
Flaherty: Having completed this thing in your early 20s that most people don’t ever do, what would your advice be for any potential thru-hikers?
Moody: I guess there’s really no right time to do it. I was probably the youngest person I came across, in our group I was the youngest person and the age ranged from me all the way up till I hiked with some guy who was 60 for quite a bit of it. And then you’d see people who are older. So there really isn’t a right age to do it, just the right time in your life.
Giguere: Getting out there and testing out your gear, testing out camping in the woods to see if you really think you can enjoy it. Trying it all out before you go and do it. Don’t go out there with no experience, no knowledge. Research what you’re going to do. But I wouldn’t let that dissuade anyone from attempting it. Actually, this year I believe an 82-year-old man completed the trail, which would be the oldest person to ever do it.
Dan Giguere of Manchester, Maine, finished the Appalachian Trail in 4 months and 20 days. Danny Moody of Winthrop in 5 months and five days. This interview has been edited for clarity.