In early September Richard Hornby wrote an article for the Craven Herald about Steven Hoyle, from Skipton, who was approaching the end of an arduous challenge he had set himself. With the challenge completed, Richard caught up with him to gain an insight into his experience.




STEVE, a former member of the British Army set off in early April to walk 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, solo, carrying everything he needs in a rucksack. 

He completed the trek in support of The Rawthey Project CIC, based in Sedbergh, which helps struggling veterans, suffering from the complex effects of mental health issues. Specifically, the funds raised will help to establish the Tom Thacker Residential Recovery Course.

Richard posed a number of questions to Steve about the trek. Here are Steve's answers:

What inspired you to take on such a challenge in the first place?

The Appalachian Trail had been high on my bucket list for many years, after reading about it in the National Geographic Magazine. I had researched it in depth over the years and this whetted my appetite and drove me to attempt to complete it in one go. The challenge gave me the opportunity to raise much needed funds for the Rawthey Project CIC and also raise awareness of their work to help veterans struggling with mental health issues such as PTSD to reclaim their lives, alleviating their suffering and that of their dependents and wider family.

How did you prepare for the isolation that you must have faced?

A lot of people have asked me this. Thankfully, I am a person that is very happy in my own company. So much so that I did not find myself struggling with the isolation at all. In fact, I embraced it. Maybe that is why, finding myself sharing an overnight camping spot with a bear, prowling around the camp site outside of my tent, an experience that I have no wish to repeat any time soon.

You must have experienced a wide range of emotions during your challenge, can you tell us about the high and low points?

I felt much of the time that I was on an emotional rollercoaster, having to deal with the extremes of weather which varied from snow and ice in the Smokie mountains towards the start of the trail to extremely heavy thunderstorms as the summer heat provided the thermal trigger. Another low point was the constant assault of mosquitoes and black flies during the summer months. If you couple that with the jungle like humidity and heat, then you experience a very unpleasant environment. The rocks of Pennsylvania were brutal and lasted over 120 miles, though you’ll need to look at the accompanying photo’s, to have a real appreciation as to what I am talking about. On the other side of the coin achieving daily & weekly objectives, ticking off the miles, or climbing to a wonderful vista provided me with the opportunity where I could take stock of my achievements and allowed me to recharge my mental batteries and reinforce my confidence that my challenge goal would be achieved.

What went through your mind when you stood at the finish point at the summit of Mt Katahdin?

After such a long time with just the trail and myself, to reach the summit of Mt. Katahdin (elevation 5,269 feet), which was the challenge finish point summit seemed almost surreal. It is difficult to put into words. After 6 months of walking (with only the odd planned day off for admin, washing and re-stocking food supplies) I was there, at the end, at the place that had been my focus for so long and it was under the soles of my boots. This gave me a feeling of immense satisfaction, coupled with relief, and an overwhelming feeling of pride .

Do you have any facts or figures to give readers a sense of what you have achieved?

The Appalachian Trail is just shy of 2,200 miles long and traverses 14 American States. The terrain is mountainous for its entire length, with an elevation gain and loss equivalent to hiking Mt. Everest from sea level and back 16 times. The total elevation gain of the Appalachian Trail is approximately 520,000 feet.

What does the future hold; Do you have any plans for another adventure in the near future?

I started the challenge weighing 111kg (17 stone 7lb). By the end of the challenge, I weighed 92kg (14 stone 7lb), a weight loss of 19kg (3 stone). I will spend the near future allowing my body to recover from the stresses I have put it through. I will be visiting family, and friends, which will be a big part of this. As for future projects, I am sure that can only be answered accurately after good few months of normality. Then clarity of mind will hatch any future challenges. One to watch!!

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