When news reached me last summer that Ari Ofsevit `06, a fellow Bostonian and geography major, was attempting to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, I thought first of his collegiate devotion to GIS computer mapping and cross-country skiing. I also thought that to begin just after graduation in early June was foolish; most thru-hikers, as they’re called, start before April to avoid finishing the 2,176-mile journey in winter.
But I hoped that I would see Ari, whom I got to know well during a drive home from Mac a few years ago, at Mizpah Hut in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I was working another season in environmental education. The hut is only a couple hundred miles from the trail’s norhern terminus atop
When Ari, having completed the bulk of the trail at a blistering pace, appeared in September—we nearly missed each other due to the difficulty in communication—he looked thinner than I remembered and bore the customary thru-hiker stink. But despite his 15-mile day, he brimmed with energy and opinions. Almost all thru-hikers take a trail name—his, he told me, was Ziploch. “That happened in southern
All thru-hikers delight in quirks and stories. As Ari puts it with typical frankness, “A lot of people [on the trail] are well balanced. But anyone who sets out to hike 2,200 miles is nuts. Every so often you snap back to reality when you meet a real loony.” At Mizpah, I heard stories about a thru-hiking family, a man looking for a wife on the trail, and a roving band of Mennonites—all of whom, to my surprise, eventually appeared.
We spent the next night at Mizpah, where I introduced Ari to the rest of my croo (slang for staff in the huts, all eight of which are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club) and our cooking and food packing chores. Hut life is simple and repetitive, livened by irreverent banter, the immediacy of the weather and the delight of 60 guests when you present them with a surprise chocolate cake dessert. Both Ari and I are considering working in the