MOUNT VERNON, Mo. — When a new Missouri State University graduate from Mt. Vernon found herself working a job she had too much experience for, she quit and hit the mountains. She hiked all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, traveling through 14 states in 147 days.
KOLR10 met up with her after she found her way back to Missouri to find out what kind of experience she went searching for instead.
Over-qualified and under-stimulated, are symptoms of a sickness that hit Hannah Smothers hard: the travel bug.
“I looked up cheap ways to travel, and the Appalachian Trail popped up,” Smothers said. “I’d never heard of it before, I’d never been on any kind of backpacking trip before in my life, but as soon as I saw it I knew in my gut that that’s where I needed to go.”
So Smothers came up with a cure, turning, what will remain dreams for many of us, into her own reality.
“It’s 14 states, almost 2,200 miles,” Smothers said, looking at a map.
She hiked the Appalachian trail over the course of five months, alone.
“It’s really hard to find hiking buddies who can take six months off of their lives to go be homeless basically,” she said.
She did meet a couple friends along the way, black bears at nearly every bend.
“You’d just be walking early in the morning, or in the middle of the day, and they’d be like, 30, 40, 50, feet from you,” Smothers said.
Clicking her hiking poles was enough to scare the bears, but Smothers got to know the wildlife well, sleeping within reach of the trail’s truest inhabitants in a hammock. It was lighter to carry than a tent. Few other items fit in her 30-pound backpack, just the food she would buy after a stop in town, a guide book, and Bible.
The few friends she met along the way, and her faith, were enough to carry her to the end.
“There’s days when you’re just in the dumps, it’s raining, everything’s terrible, your feet hurt, and you just need a little encouragement,” she said.
When she reunited with her parents at the southern-most part of the trail in Georgia, they realized she was sicker than ever before.
“My mom’s a crier, so she hugs me and is crying. And my dad, you know, he comes up and hugs me, and is like, ‘man y’all smell bad,'” Smothers said.
She’s been bitten by an incurable bug, only made worse by a shower and warm bed.
Smothers spent a dollar per mile, which is what previous hikers told her to try to budget. She has a couple other backpacking trips on her list, but says she might stick to exploring Missouri until she can earn enough money to take another trip.
Scroll through some of the photos Hannah took along her way: