Hartwell woman conquers 2,190.3-mile Appalachian Trail
Back in August, The Hartwell Sun ran a story about 25-year-old Amber Jenkins, who was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Jenkins started out at the beginning of the trail, Springer Mountain in Georgia, on March 16 and had the goal of reaching the summit in Maine, where the 2,190.3-mile trail ends by Oct. 11. Not only did Jenkins meet her goal, but she exceeded it by reaching the summit on Sept. 27.
“During the latter part of my hike, I hiked with a guy from Germany and his visa was close to running out,” she explained. “I was a little behind on schedule, so I started hiking with him because he was a strong hiker. We got a little behind and afraid we wouldn’t make it by his date, which was Sept. 28, so we just started pushing it. We would wake up at like 7 a.m. and hike until 7 p.m.”
Their longest day was 27 miles.
“It was exhausting. There were no rest days,” Jenkins said. “You start to unravel a little bit mentally.”
Her parents, David and Joy Jenkins, drove to Maine to retrieve her.
“I gained so much from this experience. There were so many lessons I learned,” Jenkins said. “I had backpacked, but only short distances like maybe 22 miles. I learned on this trip how to celebrate the small victories.”
Jenkins said that just three weeks into the trip, she ran into naysayers who were telling her she wouldn’t make it in time. The trail closes Oct. 15 of each year because of inclement weather.
“I decided not to worry about that and to take a step at a time,” she said.
Jenkins also had some surprising results on another front. Over the course of the trip, she lost 70 pounds.
“It was crazy. I did not expect that,” she said. “I went to church when I got back and people were coming to me and introducing themselves to me like I was a new member. They didn’t recognize me.”
While Jenkins is very much satisfied with her performance on the Appalachian Trail, she wants to, at some point in the future, possibly try the Pacific Crest Trail out west, which is 500 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail, which goes from Mexico to Canada and is 3,100 miles long.
“I don’t know if I want to do either of those any time soon,” Jenkins said. “I will probably do some short 200-mile trails.”
Right now, she is just happy spending her time working at Vanna Barbecue and ElsieBee Originals.