Out of the thousands of people who attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail each year, roughly one in four actually completes the trip, so it was no small feat when a Kennesaw State alumnus completed the 2,200-mile hike on July 15.
Davis Ozier, 22, graduated from KSU in December 2016 with a degree in civil engineering. He says he graduated early in order to begin his epic hike in the spring.
The Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states, eight different national forests, six national park units and numerous state parks. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the entire hike takes an average of 5 to 7 months to complete.
Ozier began the hike on March 18 and completed the hike on July 15 in Katahdin, Maine. It took 120 days, or roughly four months, for him to complete the journey, which was his first major hike.
“Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was something that I’ve wanted to do since I was little,” Ozier said. “It was something that my father got me interested in, and one of those things that I always saw myself doing, I just needed the right opportunity, like the time right after college.”
Taking on a hike of that extent takes special planning and preparations, so Ozier watched several YouTube videos to get a sense of what daily life on the trail was like. He also completed weekend hikes to help “fine tune” his gear selection.
“I also did a little trail running a few weeks prior to hitting the trail to physically prepare,” Ozier said. “There wasn’t much I could do to mentally prepare though. That comes on the trail.”
Although Ozier started the hike alone, he met several other hikers along the way of different ages and backgrounds, including a Canadian man that went by the name of “Maple Syrup.” A few of the fellow hikers became his “trail family.” He even took on his own trail name — “Engineer.”
“Maple Syrup and I hiked together nearly every day since we had the same pace,” Ozier said. “We added a few more friends along the way, but in Vermont, we all got split up due to injuries and deadlines.”
Ozier says he hiked another three to four weeks alone before finishing. He recalls this time as the toughest part of the hike, not only due to the excessive terrain but also from not having the support from his trail family.
While on the trail, Ozier found a new sense to the meaning of adventure when coming face-to-face with several of the animals in the wild, including a mischievous skunk that got into his food bag.
Aside from the incredible scenery of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Ozier said he enjoyed seeing the best parts of humanity through all of the “trail angels” and “trail magic” the most.
“Everyone, no matter where they were from or what background they came from, came together on the trail with the common goal of reaching Katahdin in Maine,” Ozier said. “The hikers couldn’t have been nicer or more generous. That is what made the hike so special.”
When asked what advice Ozier has for others interested in taking on the trail, he replied:
“Get out on the trail and just start walking,” Ozier said. “Too many people say they would love to do a hike but give excuses for why they can’t.”
“Almost everyone on the trail had to make some sort of sacrifice to have that much time committed to such a hike,” he added. “But it is all worth it in the end.”
Although Ozier has not confirmed a future hike since he started a new job, he says one day he would love to complete a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail to earn the prestigious title of a “Triple Crown”.