Finding solitude on the Appalachian Trail
Janet, who goes by the trail name A.J., and her dog Coffee Bean set off on a 30-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail from Falls Village to Great Barrington on Thursday, July 23. 
Photo by Hunter O. Lyle

Finding solitude on the Appalachian Trail

FALLS VILLAGE — Accompanied by her dog Coffee Bean, the hiker whose trail name is A.J. set out on Thursday, July 23, looking to complete yet another section of the Appalachian Trail, this time hiking from Falls Village to Great Barrington. 

As a section hiker, this segment was just another one of many on her way to finishing the entire trail.

Over the past decade, A.J. has section hiked the Appalachian Trail, already finishing close to 900 miles of the 2,190 total miles in various states, including a long trek from Virginia to New York.

“I’m hiking because I have a goal to finish the entire Appalachian Trail. My mother started out doing it with my aunt,” said A.J. “My aunt finished, my mother was not able to. So, if anything, I want to finish it for her.”

While she would have liked to thru-hike the entire trail, she could not take off the six months or so it would require from her job and responsibilities. Instead, she decided to do smaller parts of the trail — which she said has become more difficult. Traveling to the more distant parts of the trail, which goes from Georgia to Maine, got more difficult and expensive for A.J., who lives in central Mass. Getting to the southern states in particular was tough; A.J. finished those sections and is now concentrating on the northern part of the trail. 

 As a result of the ongoing pandemic, restrictions have been put in place for hiking the Appalachian Trail. Many shelters have been closed, too.

“There’s not a ton of difference to me because I’m a tenter,” said A.J. “It’s different but it’s mostly not that different. I mean, you’re out in the woods, it’s not like you’re going to Hannaford’s to pick up groceries.”

This year, the trail was officially closed in spring because of COVID-19. Here in the Northwest Corner, there has been an intense amount of day-hiking on the AT and other trails. Mostly, though A.J. finds the trails to be fairly solitary.

“I like being out here,” she said, “because there aren’t a lot of people.”

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