The Bennett Family is trail famous for thru-hiking both the Pacific Crest, Pacific Northwest, and Continental Divide Trails. On April 13, the family started their quest to complete the Triple Crown by thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (the Triple Crown = Pacific Crest + Continental Divide + Appalachian Trails) with all members of their family sporting a combination of Ultraventure Pro and Trailventure 2 (sans their trail pup, Muir). Now at the halfway point (and in a fresh set of Topos), mother-of-the-pack Mindi (trail name: Wildflower) checked in with us to share some of the Bennett’s most memorable experiences so far and how their shoes are holding up.
One can measure a thru-hike in many different ways. At our half-way point, we have taken approximately 2,550,994 steps, with 21 resupplies, 2 zeros (days where we hike zero miles), and a plethora of awesome trail-magic experiences.
We have found the Appalachian Trail to be a green tunnel, like we were warned it would be, but it feels like a tunnel through a botanical garden. Especially wonderful was being in southern Virginia in early June with the mountain laurels, rhododendron, and azaleas all in bloom at once! Marching from Georgia to Virginia, in the “spring parade” and watching the flora and fauna come to life was a delightful experience.
Other experiences are more difficult, like dealing with heat rash, bug bites, chaffing and humidity. We’ve become accustomed to the daily chores on the trail, like drinking the grey water from our cold soak cups (i.e. doing the dishes), protecting our food from all the animals that want our food, swallowing toothpaste, digging cat holes, and packing all our gear into packs that seem too small (until we shoulder them, then they are too big and heavy).
Our brains have benefitted from spending hours looking at the different shapes, sizes, textures, and patterns of leaves, breathing fresh air, and drinking water bubbling straight from the earth.
The Juxtaposition of West vs. East
The saying must be true that “the most difficult trail will be the one you are currently on.” Our memories of the struggles and suffering we faced on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail have faded and the very best memories take center stage.
The Appalachian Trail has been a “walk through the park” thus far (many National Parks, in fact), but it hasn’t been easy! We would definitely go as far as to say that the first 1,000 miles were more difficult (elevation gain & loss wise) than any other trail we’ve done. However, the water is more plentiful and we’ve only had to carry 2-4 days of food at a time, which is a luxury.
Having lived in Washington State for many years, we are used to hiking in the rain, but storms are different in the East! One night, after 3 days of on-and-off rain, we found a flat spot to take a dinner break and it began to sprinkle. Quickly it progressed to a downpour, coming down so hard that mud splashed up into our food. There was nowhere to hide; we had to just eat in a hurry, pack up and move on. If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry, and fortunately we were laughing!
Trekking on in Topos
Without a doubt, there are as many different opinions on shoe brands as there are vertical elevation climbs in Georgia. We continue to love Topos because of the toe room, cushion, breathability, and the gaiters. Our family of 6 has been wearing Topos for 1000+ miles and we are impressed the Ultraventure Pros have been a success for 5 out of 6 (my husband switched to the Trailventure 2 boot to protect his toes on the steep downhills and for the denser sole). We do miss the softer, pine needle covered trails of the PNW and are very grateful for the rock guard in our Topos! With about 2.5 million more steps to go, the trail reportedly only gets rockier from here on north. Wish us luck! 🍀
About the Author
Mindi Bennett, her husband (Adam), four children—Sierra (19), Kaia (17), Tristan (15), and Ruby (12)—and trail dog (Muir) have hiked the PCT (‘19), PNT (‘20), CDT (‘21), and are currently attempting an Application Trail thru-hike (‘22). Follow their journey on social media: @kidsoutwild.