Last year we were approached by Eric (trail name “Balls”) and his daughter Reed (“Sunshine”), who had recently finished the Pacific Crest Trail (see OPB’s Oregon Field Guide Episode), and asked if we would sponsor their hike of the Appalachian Trail. Their goal is for Reed to become the youngest Triple Crown Hiker ever. The thru-hikers triple crown consists of the three longest trails in the united states: Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail. Each trail is over 2,000 miles in length and takes several months to complete. When they complete the final stage of their journey Reed will be 13.

In July Balls and Sunshine finished stage two of their quest, the Appalachian Trail (AT). Below is a synopsis of their most recent journey in Balls’ own words, along with some pictures of their journey.

Sunshine and I are excited to be home after completing our second leg of the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown of hiking includes The Pacific Crest Trail at 2654 miles, The Appalachian Trail at 2,184 miles, and The Continental Divide Trail at 3,100 miles. We hiked the PCT in 2011 and just finished the AT this last July. We plan to begin the CDT in April of 2013 just one month before Sunshine turns 13.

Sunshine siging in at the begining of the AT

Balls and Sunshine on McAfee Knob, VA at sunrise

We began the AT April 2nd and completed it on July 23 in just 113 days. We tried to hike slower and make new friends, but most AT hikers only hiked 12 to 15 miles a day. Even at our slowest possible pace we still seldomly saw the same hikers more than one or two days. We enjoy covering miles, so we cranked up our pace to 25-30 mile days in VA. After over a month with no days off, we stopped in Washington DC, PA, and New York City for 2 days each. Sunshine enjoyed all the history both on and off the trail.
Once we reached Maryland, the trail itself began to change it’s nature to very rocky. In PA, Sunshine tripped on a rock and landed on another rock with her wrist. It began to swell immediately and she was in a lot of pain. We knew it was broken, so I made a splint with my Black Diamond Z-poles and a sling with my shirt to immobilize it. We still had to hike out a few miles to the nearest road, but soon Sunshine was singing along to her ipod music despite the pain. One of our Trail Journal readers happened to arrive to the trail head just as we did with the intent to bring us cold sodas. This meant that he had ice to put on the break while we waited for our ride to the doctor! Sunshine had a cast put on her arm, took one full day off and returned to the trail the next day with the doctors blessing.

Sunshine gets her cast removed just before climbing the White Mountains in NH

Balls and Sunshine at the AT mid-point in PA

She had this cast on for a month, but had it taken off the day before entering the infamous rocky and steep White Mountains of New Hampshire. Perfect timing, because she needed both hands to climb the giant and rugged rocks that replaced the other wise easy tread of the last 1,800 miles. While summiting Mt. Washington, we encountered 73 MPH winds. After summiting, the heavy winds continued for the rest of the day. At only 86 pounds, poor Sunshine had to run from one large bolder to the next in between gusts to keep from being blown over.
We were the 70ith and 71rst hikers to arrive at Mt Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT. This is significant since approximately more than 2,000 people began this journey with most of them beginning up to 2 months before us.

Sunshine celebrated her 12th birthday at Grayson Highlands by peting the wild ponies along the trail

Sunshine’s a pro at fording streams

Our favorite gear on this trip? That’s easy, my Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket and Sunshine’s Feathered Friends Egret Sleeping Bag which were provided to us by The Mountain Shop of Portland and Feathered Friends. They custom measured us and made the gear specifically for us. My jacket fit perfectly and was the most efficient and comfortable hiking garment I’ve ever worn. Amazingly, the outer materials of the jacket repelled condensation and even light rain. This gave me ample time to get my rain gear on without wetting out my insulation layer in the process. Other Down jackets I’ve worn before seem to wick in moister and become worthless in seconds.
As a parent, I was very pleased with the protection and performance of Sunshine’s sleeping bag. Most other hikers had bags rated for much cooler temperatures, but Sunshine’s Feathered Friends bag always kept her toasty warm while others complained of being cold some nights. My sleeping bag of another manufacture became damp inside several times from outside condensation. However the superior materials of Sunshine’s bag always repelled the moisture and continued to keep her warm and dry.

Sunshine journaling in her Cozy Feathered Friends Sleeping bag while sleeping under the stars in Maine

Sunshine signing the release form for the official AT canoe route over a dangerous ford

Thank you again to The Mountain Shop and Feathered Friends for supporting us with their excellent products!

Sunshine climbing a ladder over rocks in NY

Balls and Sunshine in VT

Sunshine walking through NY

Balls and Sunshine at the Summit of Mt Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT

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