Tallman prepares for the Appalachian Trail
Used with permission/ Nick Tallman
This summer, while most graduates are saying their final goodbyes and buying dorm supplies, senior Nick Tallman will be hiking along the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.
What made you want to hike the Appalachian Trail?
There’s not one definitive reason why I wanted to do it. I just didn’t want to go to school my first year out of high school. I’ve been going to school for 13 years now, and I wanted to take a year off. I was searching through options of what I could do, and I had a couple of friends who did this, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.
Do you have any previous hiking and camping experience?
I go camping and backpacking all the time but nothing of this scale.
When are you planning on starting?
I leave to head up to Maine on June 14. My parents are driving me up there, and then I’m actually starting two or three days later, depending on how the weather is on top of Katahdin [a mountain in Maine], but from there on out, I’ll be heading south.
How long is it supposed to take?
It can take anywhere from four to six months. I’d like to get around 15 to 18 miles in every day. At the beginning though, it will be a lot harder because I won’t be in as good of shape, and it’s a lot more rugged up North. I’m not really concerned about it. I’ll finish when I finish.
What kind of gear and food are you bringing?
My pack will be less than 40 pounds. I have a really nice backpack and hydration system. I’m not really taking much, just enough to survive. They have springs and streams, and basically any water purification tablets will clean the water as well as I’m going to need it. I’m taking mostly ramen noodles and instant oatmeal with a lot of protein bars, and I’m actually taking my hammock. It’s really sturdy; it’s made of a parachute-like material, and it’s really easy to string up.
How much money will this trip cost you?
My parents’ graduation present for me is the gear, so I’m not really worried about that because they want me to survive. I’m having a grad party also, in part to raise money for this trip. Hiking the trail they say costs about $2 per day, around $2,000 bare minimum, and I’m getting a debit card after school ends so I can pay for things along the way.
What do you think you’ll miss the most?
I’m going to miss the new season of “Walking Dead,” and I’m really bummed I’m going to miss the Olympics. Also, one of my friends has an apartment in Chicago overlooking where Lollapalooza is going to be, and I was supposed to go there this summer, but obviously not now, so that’s kind of a bummer.
What happens if you get hurt?
If I fall, hopefully I can reach for my phone. I have a lot of precautions for things like blisters. Anything more serious than that hopefully I can just tough it out and make it to the next town and deal with it there. If it’s more serious than that, I’ll have to call someone.
What is your biggest worry about the upcoming trip?
I’m most worried about the people. There’s a wide variety of people on the trail. You have anywhere between the stoners and alcoholics to military men and everyone in between. So the people can get kind of shady, but at the same time, they make the trail what it is.
How do your parents feel about your trip?
My mom was actually pretty excited for me. She doesn’t want to waste all of her money on college if I don’t know what I want to do yet, but hopefully during the six months that I’ll be on the trail with myself, I’ll figure it out. But as it’s getting closer and more real, she’s getting more freaked out. She’s just scared that I’m going to die, which really is a possibility.
How do you plan on keeping yourself entertained?
I plan on bringing a lot of books and a journal to write everything down. Other than that, for the most part, by the time I’m done in the evening, I’ll probably be ready for bed. I’m bringing my harmonica too and probably just talking to the other people on the trail. I’m bringing my DSLR camera I used in photo class as well.
What would you like to say to those who say you won’t make it?
I’m not hiking it with the intent of proving myself and finishing. I’m hiking it for the experience, and so if I break a leg and something goes wrong and I need to come home, I’ll come home. It’s not that big of a deal. I know that I had the experiences that I had, and it will be worth it. I’m not worrying about finishing, though I do really want to.