How to Hike as a Family for over 2000 Miles (Do It Like This)

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Meet the Family of Five that is About to Finish their 2100+ Mile Journey Hiking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail

Tougas family
This photo was taken at the base of Mt. Moosilauke in the White Mountains of NH. We climbed it via the Glencliff trail to the summit then down the rugged Beaver Brook trail, which was more like a slippery cliff in a few spots. Their trail names from left to right are Toe Salad, Fimby, Tenacious Bling, Otter, Padawan – and of course, Ronin and I, who haven’t qualified for trail names yet!

Renee and Damien Tougas and their three kids have spent the last six months hiking from Georgia to Maine (~2000 miles) on the Appalachian Trail. They have about two weeks of hiking left before they summit Mt. Katahdin, which is the tallest summit in their former home state and the end of their 2100+ mile adventure.

On the AT, they are known as the von Trapp family, and their reputation precedes them. You see, very few people try to thru-hike the AT each year, and it’s almost unheard of for a family of five to even attempt it (especially with teens and pre-teens). They have literally become legends in the thru-hiker community this year.

Everyone on the trail has heard about them. In fact, I spent a night camping with them on the eve of our hike up Mt. Moosilauke, and I observed this phenomenon myself as some fellow thru-hikers came into camp and slowly realized that this was the famous von Trapp family they’ve heard so much about already.

Now, I only had a short visit with them over an evening and a day of hiking. And of course, it was all too short. But it was plenty long enough for me to realize that there was no way I could possibly understand what this family has been through these past several months. A week-long backpacking trip is like a stroll on the beach compared to this.

It quickly dawned on me that a trip of this magnitude must be experienced to be understood. During those few hours in camp and while climbing the mountain in the company of many seasoned thru-hikers, I felt like I was in a whole other world that is completely foreign to me. And in my discussions with some of them, I learned that it is a totally different world. And I got but a smidgeon of a glimpse into that world that left me wanting more.

Since they left Georgia this past Spring, the Tougas family has encountered all kinds of weather, people, wild animals, sicknesses, and many other challenges. And boy, do they have some stories! They’ve walked alongside wild ponies, met trail legends, and seen more of America in six months than many people will see in a lifetime. Throughout this grand adventure, they’ve encountered many hardships, but they’ve held strong as a team and are some of the most inspiring people I know. And I wanted you to know about them because their story is remarkable.

In two weeks, God-willing, they will stand atop the summit of Mt. Katahdin and look about the surrounding landscape – exchanging quick glances, understanding grins, and warm smiles. And I’m sure, many long embraces, perhaps some tears, and hopefully some shouts of victory. No matter what, I’m sure that there will be immense joy and a profound sense of accomplishment that will take a long time to really sink in.

More Information

You can learn more about their journey and follow their video series at www.ToeSalad.com. That’s right. They’re not only hiking the AT as a family (and doing it ultralight backpacking style, with minimalist footwear, and trying their darnest to adhere to a mostly vegan diet), but they’re also documenting the entire process via video so that we can get a small glimpse into their adventure – the ups, downs, and everything in between.

beyond our boundaries

Note: you can also check out an interview I did with Damien (the Dad) prior to their trip here: How a Family of Five Plans to Thru-Hike the 2000+ Mile Appalachian Trail this Summer.

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