Eddie Janicki Conquers the Appalachian Trail
GU civil engineering grad Eddie Janicki (‘15) had never been a big hiker, but one phone call from his best friend changed all of that.
Now, Janicki is one of about 500 people who have completed the approximately 7,875-mile Triple Crown of Hiking: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
His journey began with the PCT, a 2,650 mile-long trail from the California-Mexico border, through Oregon and up to the Washington-Canada border.
Janicki first heard about the trail in 2018 from his best friend, fellow GU graduate Eric Travis. Travis wanted to hike the PCT with his brother, Marshall, who had already hiked the AT. The plan conveniently aligned with Janicki’s life then — he was finishing up a project as a Project Engineer, making it a good transition point to quit.
“It was a weird thing to get into when you don't really know about that whole world,” Janicki said. “But the more I thought about it, it sounded like a really exciting opportunity for me.” Aside from day hikes and car camping, Janicki had never spent a ton of time in the mountains. Having always been naturally athletic made preparation easier, but training isn’t everything on the trail.
“There’s really no way to train for a hike of that magnitude,” Janicki said. “The only way to do it is just mentally commit to it and then you get stronger each day on the trail... Mentally I was ready, even though I didn’t know it yet. That’s the most important thing, everything else you can learn and get through.”
Janicki figured out the PCT as he went on, earning the trail name “Bard” from a hiker named Jesus after a couple days because of the guitar he hiked with on his back. The first couple of weeks were spent sending home stuff he didn’t need, but the guitar stayed for the whole trip. “It’s a pretty big undertaking and it hits you in weird ways in those first couple of weeks until you settle in,” Janicki said.
Crossing the border into Oregon was a huge milestone for Janicki on the hike, with California having taken three and a half months of their five and a half month long trip. A bear encounter in Yosemite left a mark on him as well, but he completed the PCT without too many issues. After 143 days of hiking, Janicki made it home to Seattle. He returned to his engineering job and picked up where he had left off, grateful to be able to cook in a kitchen again. Now having completed all three, Janicki said he enjoyed the PCT the most because he hiked it with his friends.
“After hiking the one I still didn’t have any intention of hiking the other, but life goes on and you kind of get bored at home after a couple of years,” Janicki said.
Alone, Janicki set out for the CDT in April of 2020, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. The CDT is about 3,100 miles long from New Mexico-Mexico border to Montana- Canada border, traversing through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Despite being over 3,000 miles in length, only about 2,600 miles are actually hiked.
“It was a whole different ball game because already off the bat, it’s the most desolate and most intimidating of the three trails just because of wildlife and terrain,” Janicki said. Throughout his whole 157-day trip, he only saw 10 other hikers. The desolation of the CDT made completing it feel more emotional than the other two hikes, leaving him with a mixture of relief at being done and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The CDT is the individual hike he is most proud of completing.
Again, Janicki returned home to the routine of his daily life in Seattle with no intention of hiking the AT. As time went on, Janicki couldn’t see a reason why he shouldn’t tackle the trail. “I was in a lucky position where I could complete all three, so I had to take that opportunity,” Janicki said.
He set out alone again for the 2,190 mile-long AT, hiking from Northern Georgia through North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire to Maine. Of all of those states, Maine was the coolest to Janicki. Compared to the other trails, the AT was well-established and very social, with lots of already established shelters along the way to sleep in. The reality of the rainy and humid weather he wasn’t used to made the hike less enjoyable for him.
The most monumental point on that trail was the Mahoosuc Notch section in New Hampshire, which Janicki said was the most brutal day he can remember from the AT. Being done with the 25.9-mile hike was a cause for celebration for him and the other hikers and it marked the beginning of the end.
His fiancé and brother flew out when he completed the trail on Sept. 14, 2022, after four and a half months of hiking. The three spent a few days in Acadia National Park before making the flight home.
Adjusting to life at home is always hard and comes with a mixture of emotions, though it’s mostly a happy thing, Janicki said. “No one will ever know what you truly went through,” Janicki said. “They can hear all the stories and everything and it’s great, I love sharing my experiences, but truly, no one will really know, and that’s the hardest part about it.”
Now, Janicki is enjoying being home with his fiancé and focusing on his career. As of now, he has no hikes planned for the future.
“I’ve definitely just become more confident overall, like more resolved and stronger overall,” Janicki said. “My whole mental clarity has shifted over these three trails where there’s nothing in day to day life that seems daunting or that important really.”
Janicki believes that anyone can do the trails as long as they commit to it. To prospective long- distance hikers, he warns against overplanning and overthinking things and recommends getting in the habit of saying yes.
“When you’re out on the trail for that long, life is very intentional, very simple and very rewarding — difficult and rewarding,” Janicki said. “It just puts everything in perspective and in my life. Before those trails, I don’t think I had as much [perspective] and appreciation for life at large.”