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Help Us Complete our Appalachian Trail thru hike

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Four years ago, we had a hair-brained idea to do something "big" with our lives. We were newly moved in to our first shared apartment, exhausted by overworking in a little Maine town that we could barely afford, and still uncertain of what we wanted from life itself. Just thinking out loud, I said "what if we hiked the Appalachian Trail?" The rest, as they say, is history. We devoted ourselves to watching videos, reading books, studying backpacking gear, and giving up our apartment to move back in with Derek's mom so we could work to save up for this opportunity. 2020 was going to be our year! And then...the pandemic hit. The quarantine forced us to really look within ourselves, which wasn't easy as many of you know. Despite the tragedies that the effects of COVID left in its wake, we were grateful for the luxury of our health and employment. It allowed us to face the things we always pushed down: taking chances, finishing what we start, finding our confidence, and getting the most out of life. Fast forward to March 2021, we took our meager savings (which was quite frugal by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's standards) and we hopped a plane to Amicalola Falls, Georgia where we intended to begin our 2,000+ mile hike northbound to Maine.

As we began our hike, we found out very quickly that this was NOT going to be an easy feat. In the first few days alone, starting out with hammocks and other gear that did not keep us warm or dry enough from the tornado-born rain storms, Georgia was like starting a video game with the big boss battle first. Suffice it to say, many tears and curse words were abundant in those first few days. We learned quickly that, even though we had never done an overnight or long distance hiking/backpacking trip before, the people that started out as intimidating, ended up becoming fountains of wisdom and their advice was filled with support. Just after my 33rd birthday, just 3 days into our hike, we were met with our first "trail magic" (acts or kindness from non-hikers) in the form of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You wouldn't think a PB&J tasted better than any 5 star cuisine, but in that moment I realized quickly that I was experiencing something I hadn't felt in a long time: pure gratitude and appreciation of the little things that made life worthwhile.

And so, with help from many wonderful people, we pressed on. Along the way, we experienced injuries , illness, animal rescue, mental distress, different dietary needs that aren't always available, and now some financial hardships. We made it 750 miles northbound and stopped at Mills Gap overlook just outside of Buchanan, Virginia. It was at this point that I realized that our funds just were not going to get us to finish the remaining 1,440 miles. We felt crushed. Of course we know that going home and starting up working again was the smartest answer, but let's be honest...we are determined to finish our dream. We each have our reasons for finishing this immense task. While the endless rocks and roots pound our feet into mush and the weight of our packs press us into a Quasimodo-esque silhouette, we know that taking that last step at mile 2,190 will be --if you will excuse the pun-- mountainous.

After much consideration, we have decided to forgo the initial NOBO (northbound) route and are now planning to flip flop, meaning we will travel to Maine and then hike our way south to our stopping point in Virginia. If you can find it in your heart to donate, or even take a few moments to share this page with friends and loved ones, we will be eternally grateful...maybe even name our firstborn after you or erect a monument in your likeness out of peanut butter and tortillas atop the summit of Mt Katahdin! At the very least, we promise to share photos, videos, and anecdotal stories/experiences from the trail. It is our goal to complete this task before the end of 2021. With your help, we hope to make this dream a reality...one white blaze at a time!

Happy trails!

Lesley "Chickpea" Shuman

Derek "Cheddar" Gibson


Lesley Shuman
Jersey Shore, PA

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