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AT Hikers

Profile: Gaia
By Ken Anderson
Oct 6, 2004 - 6:27:00 PM

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On the trail, Jennifer Berry is known as Gaia. She came into the Magic City Morning Star & Hard Drive Cafe on October 6th, having completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on October 4th, a journey that began at Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 15, 2004.
Gaia is also known as Jennifer Berry

She carried from 35-40 pounds in her pack, which included a tent, which was her home for most of the nights that she was on the trail.

"I sleep better in a tent than in a shelter," she said.

She was no stranger to hiking, having hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia, and in North Carolina. She, her father, and her brother had hiked about 120 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail as well, so she had a pretty good idea of what she was getting into, and came prepared.

She is from Rochester, New York, although she has most recently been living in Colorado.

For Gaia, the best parts of the trail were the Smokies, Roan Mountain in North Carolina, the Grayson Highlands, and all of Maine. She especially liked the Overmountain Shelter in North Carolina, which is a two-story structure that was an old hay barn converted into an AT shelter.

Gaia wasn't too fond of Virginia. "It went on forever," she said. "And they had us crossing four-lane highways." She also didn't much like the Shenandoahs, mostly because there were too many roads.

She had the hardest time while hiking the part of the trail that goes through New York, as the weather was humid, her knee was hurting her, and she was sore all over. Only her determination, bolstered by the encouragment of friends that she had made along the way kept her going during the tough times. Her experiences have taught her that the most important thing to bring with you on the trail is a good attitude, an essential internal ingredient that sometimes needs to be replenished along the way.

Having already accomplished challenge of the Appalachian Trail, she doesn't think she'll do it again. But she might.

"But who knows," she said. "I wouldn't rule it out." If she hiked the AT again, it would probably be a southbound trip, for a new experience.

More likely. she thougth that she would opt to hike only the better sections of the AT rather than the whole thing again. She said that her dad might do a thru-hike, and if he did she would like to hike a big part of it with him.

"The thing about thru-hiking is that you're always moving," she said. She might like to do some hiking that doesn't have any time constraints. "The slower you go, the more fun it is," she added. When you find some place nice, you should stay awhile, she suggested.

For this reason, she took about 45 zero days. A zero day is a day without moving forward on the Appalachian Trail, and a zero day might be spent on the trail itself, in a shelter, or in a town.

Whatever she chooses to do in the future, Gaia will never forget her AT thru-hiking experience.

"What an accomplishment to look back on," she mused.


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