What it’s like to walk the Triple Crown in a year

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Editor’s Note: Together, the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail form the Triple Crown hiking; completing them all in a lifetime is joining a group of hiking superstars. To hike all three in a year? It is almost unthinkable.

But not for 21-year-old Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell. Potter, a former Backpacker intern, and Parell, his fellow student at Stanford, embarked on January 1, 2021 on a mission to travel the Triple Crown of the Calendar Year (CYTC), a feat of 8,000 miles that did not been accomplished by only a handful of elite hikers. If Potter and Parell complete all three trails by the end of the year, they will be the youngest to do so and they will join the ranks of hiking icons like Heather “Anish” Anderson and Flyin ‘Brian Robinson. Follow their entire Triple Crown journey on Backpacker’s new podcast, Impossible Odds, which premiered in October.

When I wrote for the last time on the attempt my friend Jackson and I were making to hike the Triple Crown of the calendar year was in January and we had about 400 miles of the Appalachian Trail under our belt. Thinking back to that time – the free space I was in, how I felt physically, the expectations I had – it seems like a world of its own. We are now in mid-September and our nine months of track is more like nine years.

Before January, I was a complete novice in hiking. The longest hike Jackson had done was El Camino de Santiago, the 500 mile pilgrimage through northern Spain from town to town – and it was still a bit more impressive than my record 200 mile hike, in which I carried a bag full of canned beans, three pairs of sweatpants, and a cast iron pan for cooking (in total, the scale weighs about 60 pounds). The thought of wearing all this nonsense now makes me shiver.

I still feel like a novice in some ways. Even after over 6,000 miles and the knowledge I gained from this experience, I realized how much there is still to learn about hiking.

For now, back to TA. With 400 miles under our belts, we approached the Virginia border. I don’t want to say too much, because all the juicy details are included in our next podcast. Impossible oddsbut a major challenge as we continued on the trail were the snow piles which started to accumulate. What started out as dusting quickly reached drifts of 3, then 4, and 5 feet. Hoping to initially cover about 25 miles a day on the AT, we averaged just over 20, and even that drained our energy. We knew it wasn’t sustainable, so we reassessed our plan.

Read the rest of the story and follow the entire Triple Crown Journey on the Impossible Odds podcast, which premieres in October.


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