2010-01-14 / Front Page

Young man follows his dream along the Appalachian Trail

Tyler Marlow, 19, the grandson of LaVina Marlow of Lincolnton and the late Buddy Marlow, walked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail (2,175.3 miles). He is pictured here with his dog, Icarus, enjoying the scenery in Maine. Tyler Marlow, 19, the grandson of LaVina Marlow of Lincolnton and the late Buddy Marlow, walked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail (2,175.3 miles). He is pictured here with his dog, Icarus, enjoying the scenery in Maine. For Tyler Marlow, grandson of LaVina Marlow of Lincolnton and the late Buddy Marlow, the only way to really see America is from the ground up — literally.

“To me, there is no better place than being on the Appalachian Trail. I was truly at home out there and with that came the most profound feeling of peace.”

Tyler set out to “thru-hike” or walk the Appalachian Trail in “one straight go.”

He hiked somewhere between 20 and 25 miles a day, which is the average for thru-hikers, for a total of 2,175.3 miles. His journey, which lasted about four-and-a half months, began at Mt. Katahdin in Maine and ended at Springer Mountain in Georgia, the northern and southern terminuses of the trail.

It has been reported that it takes approximately five million footsteps to walk the entire length of the A.T., as it is called by hikers.

According to Tyler, “For years, I have been interested in hiking, and as the pinnacle of achievement, the Appalachian Trail was always a far off dream of mine. But during a hiking trip in 2008, I decided it was time and I was ready.”

In preparation for the trip, the teenager had to pare down his belongings to the absolute minimum to lighten the load in his backpack as much as possible.

When all was said and done, his backpack contained an inflatable sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, a small stove, a one-quart aluminum boiler, one plastic spoon, a jacket, an extra pair of socks, a rain jacket, a cell phone, two books (“Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy and “Titan” by Stephen Baxter), a camera, and a notebook.

As for meals, Tyler said his mother actually packaged all of his food and mailed it to him through the postal service, which allows packages to be shipped directly to individual post offices. “Every week, I would call and give my mother the address of the post office where she needed to send my food. Mostly I ate oatmeal, tuna fish, tortillas, rice, and pasta – mainly dishes that only required boiling water to make.”

However, it wasn’t all Ramen noodles, Quaker Oats, and Starkist tuna. Tyler, who turned 19 on the trail, celebrated his birthday by eating a large pizza in Rangeley, Maine, all by himself.

Except for the company of his dog, a Husky named Icarus, the Lawrenceville native hiked the A.T. alone. “She was absolutely perfect and was born for the trail. She even carried her own food in a special doggie pack.

“She hiked by my side every day for three months until she was struck by a car and killed after hiking 1,500 miles. I had her remains cremated and carried her with me to the end of the trail and scattered her ashes there at Springer Mountain.”

Concerning his own health, Tyler said, “It is really miraculous what the body can do once it is attuned to the stresses of hiking. I left with minimal training, but fortunately, I was in fairly good shape to begin with.

“After the first month, my body was so used to hiking that walking 20 or more miles a day with a pack on didn’t feel like anything at all. It was just what I did everyday.”

However, the weather conditions threw him a curve. “I assumed that it would be very cold so far up north, the weather was actually quite warm until I got into New York when it was extremely hot every day.”

Tyler went on to say there was only one word for the first month – rain. “It rained almost every day that month and all I could do was accept being soaking wet and keep walking – there was no other option. Everything I had was soaking wet; I just got used to it.”

If the first month was rainy, the first week can only be characterized as scary. “To be honest, the only time I was ever scared was the entire first week, not because I was alone in the wilderness but because I was all alone – 2,000 miles away from everyone I knew in the world.”

Although there were hardships, the journey was also filled with a great deal of joy and discovery. “I met people from all walks of life, both on the trail hiking with me and off of it in the towns I stopped at along the way,” Tyler commented.

“I was amazed by the kindness and compassion of all of the individuals up and down the trail, from strangers who would offer to let me stay in their homes for the night to the large community of people dedicated to supporting the hikers on the trail.”

Summing up his months on the Appalachian Trail, Tyler said, “I discovered a sense of utmost contentment in those woods. I was so comfortable that the commodities of normal life were lost to me.

“It’s a lifestyle most people can’t experience in day-to-day living,” he continued. “It takes getting out of what’s normal and leaving the distractions of everyday life behind.

“Also, hiking the Appalachian Trail was an opportunity to get out and challenge myself, both physically and mentally, and to actually do something totally on my own.”

When he is not out hiking, Tyler, a student at Georgia State University, enjoys spending time with his friends, watching movies, and reading.

He is majoring in anthropology at Georgia State.

The young adventurer is the son of James Marlow, formerly of Lincolnton, and LuAnn Marlow.

As the longest, skinniest part of America’s national parks system, the Appalachian Trail stretches over 14 different states including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Conceived in 1921 and first completed in 1937, the trail traverses the wild, scenic, wooded, pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains, passing through more than 60 federal, state, and local parks and forests. In fact, the Appalachian Trail was America’s first national scenic trail.

The trail’s lowest elevation is 124 feet, near the Trailside Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain, New York. It rises to its highest elevation of 6,625 feet at Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee.

Enjoyed by an estimated four million people each year, more than 10,000 people have reported walking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. For casual and dedicated hikers alike, there are 165,000 blazes or markers along the length of the trail.

Also, the national landmark is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the country’s population.

Moreover, each year, thousands of people maintain, patrol, and monitor the trail and its surrounding lands to ensure that this public treasure will be around for future generations to enjoy. Close to 6,000 volunteers contribute approximately 200,000 hours annually toward maintaining the Appalachian Trail.

For more information, visit the following website: www.appalachian trail.org.

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