I heard the most amazing story at this year’s Trail Days Festival. Stephanie McMillan, a 37 year-old mother of five who lives in northern Florida, has announced that she and her five children will begin hiking the famed Appalachian Trail (AT) in early July. In fact, her youngest child is three (will not turn four until January).
“How far do you plan to go?” I asked her.
“To Mount Katahdin,” she responded.
“That’s 1,200 miles,” I responded incredulously.
“Yep,” she assured me.
Of course, any mother of a three year-old can say they are going to walk their family all the way up America’s most famous national scenic trail. But I’m glad to report that all indications are that Stephanie McMillan (and her five kids) are doers, not talkers.
Stephanie’s trail name is appropriately, ‘Queen Mother’. She patiently explains that a hiker’s backpack should not weigh more than 20% of their body weight. Her three year-old weighs 35 to 40 pounds. His backpack is minute, and will not weigh over 7 or 8 pounds.
The youngest person to walk a long distance on the AT was six years-old. “What does he think about this?” I asked Stephanie. “He (The three year-old) is the one most gung-ho about the whole thing,” she unequivocally stated. Queen Mother and her thirteen year-old plan to alternate carrying a large tent in which the whole family will sleep. They will use one pot to cook and one water filter, which should save weight.
“My kids should learn a lot more over these few months than they ever would in school,” Stephanie says assuredly. Amen. Thie story of a three year-old hiking the Appalachian Trail should capture the attention of the masses. And in a country with a 22% nationwide obesity rate, that is good news. I will periodically report on it.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010), and ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago’ (2012).