By Miriam Bernard
To some people, NODCC community member Michael Denlinger is known only as “Hydro”. This is because every one of the roughly 3,000 individuals who take on the monstrous task of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is given a “trail name”, and that is how they introduce themselves to anyone they meet during the six-month trek along 2,000+ mile trail, winding its way through 14 states. 25-year-old Michael, originally from Charlotte, North Carolina happened upon a brewery in his hometown that was inspired by the trail, and he happened to meet a few people that had accomplished the massive through hike. This led him to read the book “The Unlikely Thry-Hiker” by Derick Lugo, which inspired him to begin saving up to complete the trek himself.
Michael has C-ACC and Hydrocephalus. He had always known about the hydrocephalus, but it wasn’t until middle school that he really noticed that he had ACC. It was pretty tough academically and socially, and he attended seven different schools trying to find the right fit. Eventually, it worked best graduating from high school online.
Michael’s trail name, Hydro, came partially from his hydrocephalus, but also because of the excessive amount of water he carried at the start of his Appalachian Trail journey. What surprised him most on the trail was how many people were also hiking the trail. In the beginning, there were people at every campsite and he would see people all the time. However, the farther up he went, it grew less and less crowded.
Mentally his biggest challenge was being extremely unorganized. He lost a great deal of gear that he had to keep replacing. He grew somewhat better at managing his belongings as time went on. Physically, Michael states the most challenging part of the trek were the White Mountains in New Hampshire. However, he’s quick to add he enjoyed every second of traveling through them.
Hydro claims the most difficult part was the fear of the unknown. He had always had a tough time with “change”, but on the trail, every day was completely different from the last, and required adapting quickly to new difficulties. This was an exercise in patience and acclimation. Now, looking at the experience from the other side, Michael is sold. He was a barista in his pre-thru-hiker life, but now he has selected a job that allows him time for more adventures without needing to ask for time off or quit any jobs: driving for Uber. He calls his traversing the entirety of the Appalchian Trail the “best experience of his life” and would say he recommends it for anyone. He’s already planning his next major thru-hike: the Pacific Crest Trail from The Mexico border all the way to the Canadian border. Michael Denlinger is living proof that ACC and Hydrocephalus don’t have to be hindrances, but can be catalysts for chasing huge dreams that turn into epic, life-altering memories. Congrats, Michael, on this massive achievement, and we can’t wait to catch up with you when you’ve completed the Pacific Crest Trail!
A few awe-inspiring facts about the Appalachian Trail Trek:
· It takes roughly 5 million steps to hike the entire A.T.
· The total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times.
· Thousands of volunteers contribute roughly 240,000 hours to the A.T. every year.
· More than 250 three-sided shelters exist along the Trail.
· Virginia is home to the most miles of the Trail (about 550), while West Virginia is home to the least (about 4).
· Maryland and West Virginia are the easiest states to hike; New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest.