Uncertain season: ATC issues 2021 thru-hiking guidance as pandemic continues

Appalachian Trail thru-hiker season was already in full swing when coronavirus fears prompted widespread lockdowns in March, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was swift to react. 

From end to end: Against ATC wishes, thru-hikers summit Katahdin

When Karly Jones began the Appalachian Trail on Feb. 27, the weather was cold and the trail crowded. She quickly earned the trail name Jitter, short for jitterbug.

“I was constantly moving to try to stay warm, so I would hop from one foot to another and rub my hands together or jump around, or anything to keep warm,” she said. 

As February turned into March, Jones climbed Springer Mountain, traversed Neels Gap and then Dicks Creek Gap, summited Standing Indian Mountain and made her way through the challenging terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s when she first heard about COVID-19, from a group of pre-med students who had just been notified that their classes would be canceled for the next two weeks. By the time she reached Hot Springs, the world had changed. 

“That was when a lot of people were making decisions and plans to go home,” she said. “I significantly noticed it.”

A.T. dreams meet COVID-19 crisis: Some hikers leave the trail as others press on toward Maine

In the last two weeks, the world has changed. From darkened downtown windows to packed-full parking lots at Ingles and Wal-Mart, the evidence is everywhere, impossible to ignore.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.