By Starrla Cray
WATERTOWN, MN Andrea Jordan recently hiked across the entire 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail in 101 days, a feat that takes most outdoor enthusiasts nearly six months to accomplish.
“Usually, we would hike anywhere between 20 and 27 miles a day, occasionally going as high 30 miles,” noted Jordan, a 2008 graduate of Watertown-Mayer High School.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 1,500 people try to hike the entire trail in one trip each year. About one-fourth of them make it all the way.
Andrea said she never seriously thought about quitting, despite a badly twisted ankle near the beginning of the journey.
“I just bought a brace for it and kept going,” said Andrea, the daughter of John and Cindy Jordan.
Maine to Georgia
Her voyage began Aug. 1 at Mount Katahdin in Maine, and ended at Springer Mountain in Georgia Nov. 9.
“I started the hike alone,” she said. “Then, one of my best friends from Colorado, Steven Shattuck, joined me at mile 440 in Hanover, NH and hiked the rest of the way with me.”
Andrea and Steven made other hiker friends along the way, and finished the trail as a group of five. For Andrea, the best part of the adventure was the hiking community.
“People would gladly give us rides into town even though we all smelled horrible and probably looked like dirty hobos,” she noted. “One woman took us into her home and cooked the five of us dinner and breakfast.”
On the trail, unexpected acts of kindness such as providing a candy bar or a bottle of water to a passing hiker are known as “trail magic.”
“Everyone really looks out for one another,” Andrea noted.
One step at a time
Andrea traveled light, carrying all her supplies on her back. She left some extra clothing layers and shoes with a friend, who sent them to her as needed.
“I went through five pairs of shoes while on the trail,” she said.
The hikers also went through a fair amount of food. Because of her high activity level, Andrea ate about 4,000 calories a day, including “junk food” like Pop Tarts, donuts, Oreos, peanut butter, pasta sides, and ramen noodles.
“Most people have stoves, so they make dinners that consist of boiling water and adding the food,” she said. “I only carried a stove for a very small portion of the trail, so I ate a lot of sandwiches.”
Weather and wildlife
Sleeping was also interesting. Since no one in Andrea’s group carried a tent, they often spent nights under the stars. If the weather was too cold or rainy, they’d head to one of the trail shelters (small, three-sided structures that fit six to eight people).
One time, Andrea and the four boys she was hiking with ended up sleeping in a women’s restroom just to get out of the cold weather.
Earlier that day, a snowstorm had hit with more than 20 inches of snow. The group hiked 15 miles to the nearest town, only to find that the town had no power and they couldn’t get a ride in from the road.
Wildlife added more excitement to the trip, especially one day at Shenandoah National Park.
“One day in the Shenandoah’s, a bear popped my friend’s air mattress and stole his jacket!” Andrea noted.
Andrea was inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail, in part, by her cousin, Luke Jordan, a fellow 2008 Watertown-Mayer High School graduate. Luke is an avid hiker who has completed the North Country Trail (about twice as long as the Appalachian Trail), and is writing a book about his experiences.
Colorado and Kenya
Andrea currently lives in Colorado, and said that being surrounded by the Rocky Mountains was another source of inspiration. She moved there after nursing school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, starting her career at the University of Colorado hospital in oncology and bone marrow transplant (BMT) nursing.
“I love every minute of it,” she said.
At the moment, Andrea is doing community nursing in central Nairobi, Kenya.
“I arrived here Nov. 20, and am staying until Jan. 15,” she noted. “I am hiking Mount Kilimanjaro with some friends Jan. 5-13 before I head back to the US.”
After Mount Kilimanjaro, Andrea is thinking about hiking the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota in the fall.
“Hopefully there will be many more trips in the future,” she noted. “Who knows? Maybe even eventually the Pacific Crest Trail!”
Memorable hiking moments
A few of Andrea Jordan’s experiences during her 101-day trek across the Appalachian Trail:
• Spent a night in a women’s restroom
• Twisted her ankle, which got swollen, black, and blue
• Ate tons of junk food
• Walked an average of 22 miles per day
• Wore out five pairs of shoes
• Saw many wild animals, including an unruly bear
• Made some new hiker friends
• Was in a blizzard with more than 20 inches of snow