Appalachian Trail Inspires Palm Beach Atlantic University Senior

September 2017

After reading “A Walk in the Woods” from the “take a book, leave a book” section in the Warren Library, senior business management major Emily Hochheiser found her inspiration to take on a six-month journey to complete the Appalachian Trail (AT).

“This trail is so much more than what it lets on. It's filled with secrets and wisdom that are only revealed when you think you've seen it all. It's living and breathing and so full of light, yet struck with darkness. It lifts you off your feet yet pushes you to your knees. But the greatest of all is that it won't give up on you, as long as you just keep walking,” said Hochheiser, from Manchester, Maryland.

Without any camping experience and the motivation of wanting to do something completely different, Hochheiser began the trail in Georgia. She started on February 25 and finished August 18. Her journey took 175 days or 25 weeks. It spanned 2,189.8 miles, over 14 states and accounted for 5 million steps. As rigorous as that sounds, consider that a hiker's backpack can weigh between 25 and 40 pounds. It's little wonder that thru-hikers experience body pain and injuries on a daily basis, resulting in fewer than  20 percent of those who attempt the AT actually finish.

Through this experience Hochheiser said that she has amassed enough inspirational stories that will last a lifetime. She said her biggest takeaway from this experience was to" stop waiting and start doing." She came to realize that “you’ll have the most fun if you go into life with no expectations and that simple things make the biggest difference.”

“It's about making the moment you're in the very moment you were born for. Perhaps that's what life itself is all about,” said Hochheiser.

This journey inspired Hochheiser to pursue writing a book based on her experiences. The theme -- being unburdened -- came from an experience she had toward the end of the trail. While hiking over a mountain in a rainstorm, a woman approached her at the summit, and spoke to her saying,  “You look so unburdened.” These words inspired Hochheiser to press on as she watched the last cloud in the rainstorm pass and could see the last mountain of the trail ahead.

After graduation, Hochheiser plans to travel back to her favorite state on the trail, Maine, and work in a hostel to be a part of the “trail magic” helping future thru-hikers. She also plans a road trip across the U.S. visiting all of her trail family members and possibly take part in the Pacific Crest Trail.

Sunrise on McAfee
Trail Family on Katahdin


Killington VT

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