Imagine hiking 2,189 miles in just 125 days. Recently, Livonia, MI residents Ryan Keeling and Quinn Osgood completed this feat, becoming the latest thru-hikers to walk the entire span of the Appalachian Trail.
The duo, who became friends upon meeting on their 7th grade cross country team, have always had a passion for hiking and began taking hiking and climbing trips together throughout high school and college. They had always shared the dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and when they realized in the winter of 2011 that they would both finish their bachelor’s degrees in the same semester, they decided to make the dream a reality.
Ryan (who took on the moniker Pippin for the journey, a fun tradition for thru-hikers) and Quinn (Merry) began actively preparing for the trip in mid-2014 by acquiring new gear, looking more closely at guidebooks and fine-tuning their physical training. Unable to replicate hiking an average of 20 hours per day with a 30 pound backpack in southeast Michigan, the friends turned to running, Crossfit and shorter hiking trips to familiarize themselves with the gear.
“What became most beneficial during our preparations was reaching out to former thru-hikers about their experiences,” Ryan shared. “The wealth of knowledge they provided prevented us from making many of the same mistakes of typical new thru-hikers, such as over-packing or carrying too much food at once.” One of the key pointers they realized from past hikers was which wireless service to choose.
“Choosing Verizon as my wireless carrier was as easy as choosing which shirt I was going to wear hiking every day on the trail—there was only one option,” said Ryan. “While I have always been a Verizon customer, several former thru-hikers informed me that Verizon has the most reliable service, and they were right.”
While Ryan was focused on enjoying the sights and sounds of the trail, he shared that service was always available when they wanted to use their phones. “Considering the ever-changing environment of the trail, I was surprised by how often I was able to use my phone,” Ryan continued. “While I wasn’t glued to my screen, when I needed to be connected, I most often could be.
Sometimes, in the mountainous northern or southern sections, we postponed phone use until we reached the next peak or ridgeline, which would typically have service.” The two always strived to enjoy the moment, rather than always admiring through the lens, but they’re glad they brought their Galaxy S4 and iPhone 4 to keep in contact with family, take photos and update their social media pages on the go.
“When you hike for 12+ hours per day, you see, hear and experience so many incredible things. Without capturing those moments, it would be very hard to recall the beautiful vistas, the people and the amusing mishaps over 125 days of hiking,” Ryan said. Check out the team’s Facebook page to learn more about their journey.