This past summer during my weekly calls with my mom I heard a lot about a friend of my younger brother: Quinn Heffron. He was thru- hiking the Appalachian Trail. Not only was my mom impressed and following his journey, she was sending him FishSki mac and cheese along the way!
Known to his trail-mates as "BlackFoot", Quinn did indeed make it from Georgia to Maine. If you're planning to do the long haul, or if you want to hit up a few spots, here is Quinn's highlight reel, told by him:
Quinn's Favorite Spots
McAfees Knob (Lower Virginia, Mile 712)
The most photographed spot on the trail. The knob is a large cliff that overlooks a gorgeous vista of the Virginia countryside. While the drop-off from the rockface isn’t too high up or dangerous, positioning the camera at a certain vantage point gives the impression that one is standing thousands of feet above the surrounding area which looks super badass! It’s an iconic part of the trail and while it feels kind of obligatory to include it on the list, it nonetheless earns its spot.
Pony mania! Northbound hikers enter the highlands just south of the trail’s 500-mile marker. The section is well remembered by many hikers for its rocky, open terrain and for the wild ponies that roam the enclosed park. Thomas Knob Shelter, a hiker shelter located in the park adjacent to Mt Rogers, has a particularly high population of ponies. Here, backpackers usually encounter clusters of wild ponies who approach them in search of food from benevolent individuals. It’s an awesome spectacle of man and beast cohabitating a shared space enjoying one another’s company and relaxing amongst the crazy awesome views. Sidenote, while hammocking that night at the shelter, I saw a meteor streak across the dark night sky right over the valley that the shelter overlooks. We’re not talking a distant shooting star, but a rather insanely bright object that was so close to the ground that I was anticipating a shockwave of some sort once it arched out of site.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Smokies is the first notable national park that northbound hikers encounter on the trail. It’s well known for its incredible views, diverse wildlife and flora, high population of black bears, and strict guidelines that help preserve the park, and minimize human impact. The park also features the trails highest point: Clingman’s Dome, and a bunch of other incredible views (Charlie’s Bunion being one of my favorites).
The White Mountains
Towards the end of the trail, northbound hikers eventually encounter The Whites: a mountain range in New Hampshire that has a certain notoriety and mythos surrounding it. The hype leading up to the Whites is unreal. Even during the early days of my hike, fellow hikers and passer byers would frequently refer to the Whites, citing its stunning views, intimidating conditions, supposedly grueling climbs, and logistical challenges (lack of shelters and resupply points). It’s a looming challenge and focal point of the trip with many stating that if you can make it through the Whites, you’re in the clear to Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus of the AT). And while the sections in the Whites were among the most challenging and exhausting of the trail, it was undoubtedly my favorite part of the thru-hike. Every day was like Christmas, with an overload of crazy, awesome views due to the fact that most of the section straddles the top of ridge lines.
Just after exiting the north end of the Smokies, hikers eventually pass a bald mountain top named Max Patch. Back in the day, the summit was cleared of all trees and flora so that cattle ranchers could allow their cattle to roam freely on top of the elevated peak. The result for hikers is the first notable 360 degree panoramic on the southern portion of the trail. The group that I was hiking with at the time stopped there at the end of our day to set up camp and star gaze with no obstructions.
Maine's 100 Mile Wilderness
Arguably the most secluded and isolated section of the trail which also features the trails infamous 100 mile wilderness.
Least Favorite Spot
All of Pennsylvania
Hikers usually refer to this section of the trail as the place where shoes go to die. Why? PA is incredibly rocky which makes for slow days and achy feet. Ontop of that, the state is incredibly flat so views are extremely limited. Oh also lots o' rattlesnakes- ahhh!!
And More (told by FishSki)
Quinn's MacGyver moment is not only a great story, but it led to his trail name too: In the Smokies there was a lot of snow, and your boots get wet. At the shelter everyone had their boots lined up on the fire to dry out. Quinn tried to find a spot close to the fire, but space was tight. He ended up dangling one of his shoes a tad precariously before crawling into his sleeping bag for a warm night of sleep.
In the morning, Quinn woke to find only one shoe on the mantel. A woman nearby said "hey, I think your boot is outside, it caught on fire last night, so we had to put it out there". Quinn exited the cabin to find his shoe cooked to unwearable. Fifteen miles from the nearest town, Quinn had no choice but to hike in a pair of crocs (which he had perviously cut the bag off of, so essentially croc slippers). The trail was both icy and snowy. Quinn skated and slipped his way to his next pair of boots. His trail name thus became: BlackFoot.
First Spot He Ate FishSki - Gravel Spring Hut, MD
You try and keep your pack light but full of nutritious food on a thru hike. Quinn was sent FishSki to keep him powered: "It’s so good, the red chile one was insanely good".
Would you do it again?
Probably not right now. He's taking time to focus on his career, although he is seriously considering PCT or CDT for his next trip. He would prefer company for his next long hike, "solo is hard" (don't worry Quinn, Rob already offered to join you).
Thanks Quinn for this wonderful opportunity to share your trip with our FishSki community. Keep an eye on our Instagram @fishskiprovisions, because for this whole week we are posting images from Quinn's adventure!
Know someone doing a thru hike or incredible adventure that could use FishSki?
We love supporting adventurous feats like Quinn's thru hike. If you or someone you know could use FishSki to power their next big adventure send an email with details to Rob and Tania: firstname.lastname@example.org