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Hiking the Appalachian Trail

By Michael Butler

It is over 2,000 miles and extends from Georgia to Maine - a long trek to traverse indeed.

Brad Godwin can check it off of his "bucket list." Godwin, a 1998 Reeltown High School graduate, hiked the Appalachian Trail in 115 days.

"112 of those were walking. I only took three days off," said Godwin, who shed 17 pounds during the four-month span. "I just love walking so much. I just got up every day and went at it. On a full day I averaged 21.1 miles. The terrain is very difficult. There are no flat parts. It's up and down. There's roots. There's rocks. You hit a town about twice a week. There's plenty of creeks that you go through, ponds that you walk next to and mountains that you go up. It's very diverse."

Godwin's diet was also diverse during his journey from Feb. 22 to June 16.

"I ate way too much sugar because you're stopping at gas stations. I ate a lot of tuna, salmon, mash potatoes and beef jerkey."

To take a substantial leave from work was not a major issue for Godwin.

"I was fortunate enough that I have a couple of jobs with a team that was able to pick up the slack for me. It's been an eight- to ten-year dream that finally opened up."

Godwin did train in the months preceding his taking the first step in Springer Mountain, Ga.

"I had three of my best friends drop me off. When I got to Maine, I had a friend who lives up there pick me up."

In the early stages, there were some cold nights.

"Sleeping's not easy especially during the first few months. I had an inflatable sleeping pad. I did have a tent. It protected me. The last three months I switched it out to my hammock with warmer temperatures."

Among the wildlife Godwin saw included 29 snakes - 2 being venemous (rattlesnakes) and a moose calf.

"You see a lot of beauty every day. There's great views. You hear birds all the time. They provided a great soundtrack for me each day.

In addition to nature's soundtrack, Godwin listened to some music.

"The first month I didn't carry headphones. It was just me and the woods. That was really nice. Then I did listen to electronic music and revisited a lot of rock and roll albums, some classic rock and alternative. It's a lot of fun to hike in the woods with music in your ears. It pumps you up. It's a driving force.

"Every state is beautiful. I got to do the southern states when it was still winter. There weren't a lot of leaves. You can see to the other mountains very well. I did get into Virginia when spring started to come in. You get north, you have high elevation and are above the treeline. It really does feel like you're walking on the clouds. Toward New Hampshire and Maine it really becomes more like mountain climbing. You're way up and it's really pretty."

Godwin said about 20-25 percent of those who attempt to hike the entire trail actually complete it. He plans to do another trail while in his 40s and has a few in his sights similar in length to the 2,193.1-mile Appalachian Trail.

"The next big one is the Pacific Crest Trail. It goes through California, Oregon and Washington. It's 2,650 miles. The other is the Continental Divide Trail. It's about 3,000."