This has been a whirlwind of two weeks since I finished the trail. Two days after I summitted (and the day after my “for fun and photos” summit), I was driving 70 mph down I-95. In one hour of driving, I covered at least two days worth of hiking! That was just the beginning. I visited Boston, had a job interview in Connecticut (three days off-trail!), and drove cross-country to Colorado. I’m finally back in California, reunited with my laptop (surprisingly bittersweet experience), am past my usual post-hike-technology-avoiding phase. This means I can finally post pictures, fill in gaps on my trailjournal, and answer all the questions readers have been emailing me about my hike.
But first—this hike would not have been possible without the help of many people. Enormous thanks to (as I thought of them) “my West coast support team,” my parents, who not only diligently sent out the 20-or-so boxes I packed and labeled back in March before I left, but even more magnanimously, took care of my student loans while I was out hiking. Thanks Kaasama and Sir!
I am forever grateful to my “East Coast support team,” Brian Davidson, who luckily lives on the same time zone as the AT, and was willing to take my calls at all hours. There is no way I could have beat the record or hiked the whole trail without crying if it hadn’t been for my “emotional support team,” and I am still so surprised and honored that he signed up for the job three days before I left for the BMT.
Many thanks to those on the trail who walked with me. Special thanks especially to those who inspired me to hike farther than I had planned, those who night-hiked with me, and those who pushed me to go through with my biggest mile days. Thank you Will, Ben, FaceJacket, the Dude (and his dog, Cayetano), and Highlife.
I am also incredibly thankful to my hiker friends from past trails. Thanks to Pi (who I hiked many hundreds of miles of the PCT with in 2009), whose friendship, support, hiking and ultra-marathony advice, and gift of a tarp (!) made it possible for me to beat the record this year. Pi’s most valuable advice for me as I attempted to beat the record was that enough food and enough sleep are optional (kids, don’t try that at home!). Thanks also to the world famous Lint (we hiked together for hundreds of miles on the PCT in 2009), for the support, stories, and AMAZING maildrop in Stratton. Thanks also to Frogger/Frogs, who taught me so much about ultra-light backpacking and thru-hiking. Good luck to him, wherever he is hiking this year.
Thanks also to American Hiking Society, and their partners, GU and Backpacker’s Pantry. This AT hike was unsupported, but AHS and its partners helped me out on my CDT hike last year and I still had some goodies leftover (albeit, past the expiration date) that I used this year. Between the two hikes, I must have eaten 50 pounds of GU Chomps and never got tired of them. Good nutrition is key to good hiking and I feel so lucky to have had access to such easy to make/easy for the body to use calories.
Lastly, thanks to all the trail angels, maintainers, land conservationists, and trail advocates out there. Hikers may get the glory, but those who do the work behind the scenes are the ones who really deserve all the credit.
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.