HANOVER, NH (WEAU) - An Eau Claire man is taking his dream to new heights and enduring a wide range of weather, entering his fifth month of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains.
Ryan Johnson’s curiosity has taken him far.
“I'd never been on any backpacking trips longer than like a week,” Johnson said Sunday.
But in March, the then-23-year-old Eau Claire man set out on a journey unlike any he'd done before.
After saving up some money, he set out for Springer Mountain, Georgia, where he began a 2,180 mile quest through the Appalachian trail to Katahdin, Maine.
About four months in and 1,700 miles hiked, he said there have been some major challenges along the way.
“Back in Tennessee, North Carolina, we had 2 1/2 feet of snow in the Smokies, and just cold and snowy I guess. Lately it's just been raining nonstop,” Johnson said from outside Hanover, New Hampshire.
“I was walking down the trail and all of the sudden there was a male moose standing in the middle of the trail and it charged at me. It didn't do anything, it kind of stopped, and I threw my arms up and yelled at it, but it was pretty scary.”
But after meeting five other hikers, with trail names like Chinstrap, Paranoid, and Biscuits and Gravy, Ryan, or Sconnie, as he's known there, said the kindness of others has been a pleasant surprise.
“We call it ‘Trail Magic.’ Whether it be people giving you a place to stay or showing up with a cooler of ice and sodas … they're unbelievably kind. They'll do anything for you.”
Johnson said besides getting in better shape and seeing a new part of the country, the trail has given him a new outlook on life.
“You stop taking for granted all the small things like running water, vehicles, air conditioning,” he said. “It's very humbling. It teaches you to be humble, kind of thankful just to be doing what you're doing and to be from where you're from.”
Johnson said he expects to finish the trail by Aug. 1 and he plans to someday hike in Spain and New Zealand.
He has a blog following his trek at: http://sconniesqualor.tumblr.com/