Nearly Finished with the Appalachian Trail, Ambassador Mary “Speedstick” Moynihan Strives to be 1st Female to do the Calendar Triple Crown
The American Long Distance Hiking Association has given 250 people the Triple Crown Award. These folks have hiked America’s three major long-distance trails—the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail—either in sections or doing each trail in one push. But only four people have actually achieved the Calendar Triple Crown (CTC), hiking all three of these trails in one year.
First done by Brian “Flyin’ Brian” Robinson in 2001 as a section hike, this super thru hike covers a total of 7,900 miles, has more than one million feet of vertical gain and travels through 22 states. To put this in perspective, one would have to hike about 21.64 miles each day for 365 days. Three other people have completed this feat: Matthew “Squeaky” Hazley was the first to do the trails back-to-back in 240 days; Justin “Trauma” Lichter did the Triple Crown plus another 2100 miles in 356 days; and most recently Cam “Swami” Honan hiked it in just 236 days (as part of his 545-day, 14,342-mile “12 Long Walks” challenge). New Hyperlite Mountain Gear Trail Ambassador Mary “Speedstick” Moynihan is currently on the way to becoming the fifth person to complete the Calendar Triple Crown, and the first woman.
Moynihan is three-quarters of the way done with her northbound journey on the Appalachian Trail. She left in January, hiking through the snow and in freezing cold temperatures for most of the first few months. “Hiking in the winter is complex!” she says. “At the end of February I was hiking in snow, and so started my mornings hiking with all my layers on.” She wore a hat, neck gaiter, down vest, down parka, fleece, base layers, gloves, and she’d even wear her rain jacket just for that extra warmth. “It’s all about layering and making sure you have the layers designed for whatever conditions you might come across. I literally got rid of five pounds of gear once winter was over!”
An an avid thru-hiker, Moynihan has already thru hiked all three of America’s famous long-distance trails. But though she grew up five miles from the Appalachian Trail in a small New York town, she didn’t actually fall in love with hiking early on the way most adventurers do. It wasn’t until she graduated from the Art Institute of Boston in 2006 that she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail solo. Despite having no backpacking experience and never having hiked more than ten miles in a day, she still finished in a relatively fast four months and thirsted for more. She set her eyes on the PCT. In 2007 she spent five months on that trail, and four years later in 2011 she completed the CDT. A few years later, after living and hiking extensively in Portland, Ore., Moynihan got the bug to go on another thru hike. She decided on the Calendar Triple Crown.
“I wanted to see these three trails again, and I was intrigued to revisit them in such close proximity to one another, spanning a timeframe that would take me from winter, through spring, summer and fall, back to winter again,” she explains. “I like the transformation that happens to my body and to my mind, despite that at times there are moments so challenging that it’s hard to see the positive.” But, she adds, there’s beauty in overcoming trials on the trail. And for her the reasons for hiking long distances continue to unfold.
Plus, she believes that it’s easier for her to conceptualize doing the Calendar Triple Crown because she has already hiked the “big three.”
“Having a grasp on what it’s like to hike each trail took a huge weight off my shoulders,” she explains. “It’s very intimidating just to hike one trail, let alone three.” She decided, against the advice of the other CTC hikers, to start NOBO on the Appalachian Trail and head East.
“I’m going against the grain,” she says, “but I studied the weather patterns and finally chose to start the AT in January because of the proximity to towns and the advantage of shelters along it’s length.” Plus, she realized she wouldn’t be able to hike 35 to 40 miles per day to avoid winter, as some of the other CTC hikers had done. “I’d rather average 20 to 35 miles per day and take the occasional break and just hike 15 miles,” she adds.
Deciding to attempt such a feat requires a special type of person—someone who can spend a lot of time along (all CTC hikers have done it solo as most cannot keep up with the pace). Honan was motivated to simply spend more time enjoying the outdoors; and Robinson wanted to complete something that most had deemed impossible. Moynihan just loves a good challenge.
“It’s wild that I have so much solitude,” Moynihan says. “It’s kind of a crazy thing. I’ve had 50+ nights so far totally by myself, with numerous four-day stretches where I haven’t seen a soul. You might experience that on the CDT, but that’s not something that happens to AT thru hikers.” But, she adds, she sometimes turns to music or books to escape loneliness. And she brought a smartphone, something she didn’t do on previous thru hikes.
On the other hand, the monotony and solitude are part of the challenge, she admits. “Your mind gets very quiet,” she explains. “And on bad days, well it can get stir crazy.”
For Moynihan, this will be her biggest and toughest adventure yet. But she’s up for it. “I’m like a journalist in search of a good story,” she says. “It was only a few years ago that I discovered I love to write, that it is therapeutic and that by hiking such long distances I give myself a canvas to write upon.”
Stay tuned for Married to The Trail, Part II, which will detail Moynihan’s trip planning for the Calendar Triple Crown. Check out Moynihan’s review of the 3400 Windrider Pack.
The post Married to The Trail, Part I: Moynihan Tries Calendar Triple Crown appeared first on Hyperlite Mountain Gear Blog.