Colorado couple through-hikes the Appalachian Trail
Angie and JD Robinson started their bucket list a few months after they got married. It’s long and ever growing and lives in a book on their coffee table.
The Steamboat Springs couple has completed many of them — skydiving, hitchhiking and visiting different states and national parks. Last summer, they crossed another off their list: through-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
They started off on the trail in June in Maine and ended in November in Georgia — a southbound trek that’s opposite in direction and timing from how most through-hikers complete the AT.
“It’s an effort to preserve the trail because herds of people go in one direction, widening it and its campsites every night,” said Angie, 32, adding that 92% of through-hikers head northbound from Georgia. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is pushing to get people to change direction.”
As New Hampshire natives, starting at the top also allowed them to dial in their supplies while family was still close.
JD, also 32, earned his trail name early, after tramping through Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness. The couple stopped in a gear shop, where one of the owners, nicknamed Poet, was giving advice to hikers with trail-weary toes.
“They were showing him their blisters, and he was giving them ideas,” JD said. “I pulled my feet out, which didn’t have any blisters, and he said, ‘Those are the prettiest feet I’ve ever seen come out the 100.’ My name became Pretty Feet.”
Angie, 32, got hers a few miles down the trail from a hiker called Dr. Doolittle.
“I count my steps when I walk,” she said. “I can kind of figure out when a mile is that way, so my name’s Odometer. I went by Odie.”
The Robinsons’ hike led them through the southern seaboard in hurricane season. After completing the Maryland challenge — hiking 41.5 miles across the entire state of Maryland in a day — they rested. Then, the trail closed for a week as a hurricane roared through. They ran into three hurricanes in total, but only the first one stopped them.
“The other two we just hiked through,” JD said. “Otherwise, you’re just waiting.”
For all the hurricanes, it was a fall rainstorm that created the worst slog of their journey. On the third-to-last day of their hike in Georgia, a storm brought 2 inches of rain in 40-degree weather. They almost quit.
“We were just walking in a river the whole day,” Angie said. “We did 18 miles by 2 o’clock without even stopping.”
“It was absolutely brutal,” JD added.
After more than 2,000 miles, four months and 29 days, the couple finished.
There were certainly hardships along the way: When they skipped a resupply, Angie lived on nuts and candy bars, the only gas station foods her body could process with celiac disease. They spent two days in the “world’s worst hotel” when she was injured in Virginia, worrying that JD would have to finish without her — though they promised to go back and finish any section one of them didn’t complete.
But the entire trip was an adventure, with colorful characters to hike with, laugh with and track their progress with in trail logs.
They found a rickety merry-go-round in a cemetery after following a sign scrawled on a toilet seat that said “shed and cemetery” with an arrow. They got free tickets to a music festival at a brewery that’s known as a safe camping spot. They got help from the “trail angels” scattered along the route, who fed them, allowed them to shower and gave them a place to sleep.
Above all, they learned to “just do it” — joking that the resupply spreadsheets as well as the food and gear prepurchase lists were all probably overkill.
“If you go into it with any resemblance of being in shape, you’re good to go,” said JD, who works in sales for Honey Stinger. “Some training is required, but if you can backpack 10 miles, you’re good to go.”