I’m Carl Stanfield, former Alabama Outdoors Store Manager and employee for the last 3 years. After a season of life most of us are ready to stop talking about, I’m starting my next chapter with the biggest adventure I could fathom during the quarantine days. In 2022, I will be attempting to spend my entire year backpacking. And I just might break a record along the way.
I spent the latter half of my twenties gathering experiences in wilderness travel and alternative living. In 2018, I spent 4 life-changing months thru hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Good fortune proceeded to spit me out of another successful thru hike the following year at the Canadian Border in Washington, having traveled 2,650 miles from Mexico by way of the Pacific Crest Trail.
These experiences were challenging and deeply rewarding in their own ways. I loved the challenge, the trail community, the healthy mind, and the overall effect on my calves.
So… What Do You Do After That?
But now, as I creep closer to the beginning of my 30th year of life and an anticipated drop in my body’s peak performance, I want to attempt a truly extreme athletic accomplishment. I know that my body can hold up for 4 or 5 months of wear and tear at a time, but could it take a year? I’d like to find out.
It turns out that the thru hiker lifestyle of living on America’s National Scenic trails and eating freeze dried food for months on end while meeting quirky fascinating people in small mountain towns is where I’ve found the zenith of happiness. I truly love that adventure, more than anything I’ve ever felt. And so far I’ve been quite pleased with how those experiences translate into “regular life” opportunities. I believe it is my trail record that helped my career at Alabama Outdoors, and I expect that expanding on it will continue to open doors for me.
And so it is that next year, I will be attempting to travel 11,000 miles on 4 hiking routes through 24 states, pursuing both extrinsic and intrinsic milestones. These routes are the Eastern Continental Trail (Key West to Canada, 4,200 miles), the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada, 2,650 miles), the Continental Divide Trail (Canada to Mexico, 3,100 miles), and the Mountains to Sea Trail (North Carolina, 1,100 miles). I believe the current record for miles traveled on foot in a calendar year to be roughly 10,300, set by arguably the most traveled backpacker in history, Cam Honan.
My planned route will begin in Key West, Florida on January 1, 2022. A 200 mile road walk will take me to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail, where I will hike roughly 1,100 miles to the Alabama border. Another multi-hundred mile road walk takes me to the 340 mile Pinhoti Trail, which, after a small connecting trail, will get me to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. 2,200 miles later I will complete the first leg, ideally by mid to late May. Leg 2, the Pacific Crest Trail, will span 2,650 miles traveling north from mid May to early August. I will then hop onto the Continental Divide Trail in Canada and hike back down south to the Mexican border.
This would complete the famed Triple Crown of Hiking, but I’ll still have one more relatively small trail I’d like to tackle. The Mountains to Sea Trail spans 1,100 miles and the width of North Carolina. I hope to start on the coast and hike west, finishing my trip near my home town of Maryville, Tennessee.
In order to achieve this lofty goal of mine, I will need to average just over 30 miles every day for the entire year. It’s a wild stretch of a goal to say the least, and I really do understand how insane it must sound. But I believe it is just on the brink of what is physically possible for me, and I want to try while I can.
Throughout this endeavor, Alabama Outdoors will be partnering with me, so you can expect to stay in touch through them! If you’re interested in following my personal account, you can do so on Instagram @prof_carl.