Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, the most successful 100 mile endurance athlete ever, recently astonished the ultra-running and backpacking community by completing the Appalachian Trail in a record time of 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. The classic “Speedgoat” quote from his attempt was, “2,188 miles is not that far.” For most of us, we might not see eye to eye with him on that statement, but Jeffery Garmire is one of the few who would probably agree.
On Febuary 5th, Jeffery “Legend” Garmire stood on Springer Mountain, Georgia with his eye on completing the Triple Crown of backpacking in one calendar year. To complete the Triple Crown one must backpack the Appalachian Trail (2,184 miles), the Pacific Crest Trail (2,654 miles), and the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles). There are just over 250 people known to have earned the title of a “Triple Crowner” and, for most of them, it took many years to complete. Since that chilly winter day in February, the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and over 2,400 miles of the Continental Divide have passed beneath Garmire’s feet. 46Climbs has had the opportunity to ask “Legend” about his incredible trip to inspire others and raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Q: How did you get started backpacking?
I began backpacking with my parents at a young age with just short (less than 3 mile) trips over a weekend. In 2011 I discovered long distance backpacking and found I can go far greater distances than I ever thought.
Q: What motivated you to attempt to do the Triple Crown within one calendar year?
It’s already been something I considered. I had done the math multiple times and figured it could definitely work and this was the year I had both the right amount of time and the right amount of money. Long distance hiking has always shown me a softer, better side of humanity and helps put life in perspective. Often the people that have the least to give will do all they can the most and it is really refreshing to be on a hike like this and experience this generosity.
Q: What is your schedule?
I hike during every hour it is light usually only stopping to get water, or grab more food out of my pack. During the summer this meant I was hiking by 5:45 AM and not setting up camp until 9:15 PM. With the shorter days and colder temperatures from the changing seasons my days have shrunk too which means I try to hike quicker. I reach towns in which to resupply every 4-6 days where the majority of the time I have a prepared resupply box sent out by my dad. I think of the trip in many, many 4-6 day stretches.
Q: How did you prepare for this?
I put together a rough schedule of where I needed to be in terms of weather and dehydrated as many meals as I could and then started my hike. All my training was done during the first two weeks of the hike. I didn’t want to waste any miles before they counted!
Q: How do these trails differ from each other?
I had only done the Pacific Crest Trail before. Other than that I depended on a guidebook for the Continental Divide Trail and a data book for the Appalachian trail as well as my dads great research that he would send on the fly. It truly was a learn as I go experience. The Appalachian trail has a lot more water, is lower elevation but with steep climbs and has a rugged shelter every 10-15 miles. The Pacific Crest Trail is full of diversity ranging from sea level and rain in the Pacific Northwest to above 13000′ and snow in the Sierra Nevada to long waterless stretches in the Southern California Desert. The Continental Divide trail is the longest at about 3,000 miles and stays over 8,000′ of elevation for most of it. It is the most extreme, punishing and rugged.
Q: What challenges do you face on these trails?
Scheduling and carrying the right gear is the biggest challenge. In trying to be as lightweight as possible I have toed the line on the gear I carry. I want the lightest pack possible but I don’t want to be miserable. It is quite a balancing act and often requires some improv on the trail.
Q: Why are you raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention?
This is an often neglected and under publicized cause that I feel strongly about. Suicide does not effect one demographic or age group and is often not something people are comfortable with covering but I think it is something that needs awareness ranging from how it effects our veterans, to teenagers to middle aged people. The AFSP is one of the most reputable and efficient charities and I felt comfortable pointing funds there.
Q: What can people do to help you in your journey? (i.e. company on the trail, tasty treats, encouragement)
I love comments and encouragement (as I assume we all do). But if we can raise money for Suicide Prevention and meet the goal of $10,000 nothing would make me happier. If my journey has any impact I hope it would help inspire people to put their best foot forward and help make a positive impact on the world. I think that is all we can hope to do.
Appalachian Trail: 2/5-4/29
Pacific Crest Trail: 5/3-7/23
Continental Divide Trail: 7/28-?
To support this cause, visit Garmire’s Fundraising Page.
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