Long trails have a gravity that pulls thru-hikers toward them with irresistible force. I’ve answered the call of the John Muir Trail — twice. But of all the long trails in the USA, none is better known than the grand-daddy of them all: the Appalachian Trail — or simply the AT.
My curiosity about the AT was first piqued by Bill Bryson’s book, Walk in the Woods. But Bryson didn’t actually finish the AT. Recently, I’ve been listening to The Trail Show podcast, where everyone on the show has hiked the AT at one time or another. In spite of all of this, I had an impression that the AT was very likely the easiest of the Big Three long trails; being shorter than either the Pacific Crest and the rugged and lesser-traveled Continental Divide Trails.
Dim the lights. Pop in the DVD (or in my case, queue the digital download on my Apple TV). Sit back and enjoy Flip Flop Flippin’: One Man’s Search for Character(s) on the Appalachian Trail. Filmed entirely by Scott “Squatch” Herriott while hiking the AT, FFF provides a great feel for what it’s really like to spend nearly half a year hiking the Appalachian Trail.
What’s with the name? Squatch wanted to be able to film some of the same hikers over and over, so he planned his hike with multiple “flip-flops” — hiking for a section, then hitching up ahead and hiking back to where he left off — and repeating over and over. His theory was that this way he’d run into some of the same characters again and again, and be able to capture their impressions at different points along the trail.
It worked well. FFF captures the effervescent enthusiasm and nerves shared in Georgia. You experience the social, party spirit of zero days in town, gorging on food and resupplying. And you sense the weariness as weather, injuries, and a really tough trail begin to chip away at hiker’s spirits. And for those that make it the entire 2,180 miles to Katahdin, you celebrate with them!
The cast of “characters” proves that truth is stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up.
There’s the couple who learn that they are expecting. They made it all the way, and their daughter was born healthy, happy and with the middle name “Katahdin” — naturally.
There’s the aging stand-up comedian, cracking wise about the weather in one of the AT shelters. The trumpet-playing mom and her two sons. A guy who packed a portable electronic cello and a battery-powered amp (he didn’t make it). There are solo hikers, friends, and many who share the trail on and off over the course of many months.
In the end, you’re left with a very real sense of what it’s like on the AT, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. Well done, Squatch. Hike on!
Flip Flop Flippin’ Trailer
The trailer gives you just a sample. But get the full movie.
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Flip Flop Flippin’ is available on DVD, Blu-Ray or digital download directly from Squatch Films, where you’ll also find the aptly named sequel, Flip Flop Flippin’ 2, as well as films from his hikes on the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails. Next up for Squatch? He’s hiking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.
I got to meet Squatch at the ADZPCTKO event in Lake Morena a couple weeks ago. It was a pleasure talking to him about his experiences. A very funny guy, and the real deal.