Rankin County News, Brandon, MS

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

'Only' 700 miles left for Lovett

Adam Moore, Journalist


     As 19-year-old Alan Lovett will tell you, he's only got about 700 more miles left to hike.
     That's 700 out of a total of about 2,100 miles, the length of the Appalachian Trail, which the Castlewoods resident and Mississippi State University student set out to hike in March.
     "I know it sounds crazy to say that," Lovett said.
     "But I've come 1400 miles so far, so 700 isn't that big of a deal anymore."
     In Connecticut now, the MSU sophomore began his hike in Georgia, and intends to see it through all the way to trail's end in Maine, which he expects to arrive at on July 20.
     The Rankin County News first wrote about Lovett the week he started his trek, but with about two-thirds of it behind him now, he is coming along faster than he originally expected.
     But it hasn't been an easy trip to make.  Not only has the weather been cooler than usual, but he hiked his entire first month through snow.
     "The first day, I was like, 'It's snowing. Cool, I like this.'  By the end of that day, I was like, 'Man, I really hate snow,'"  Lovett said in a phone call from Connecticut, where he met up with his father, Dale Lovett, and plans to take a couple of days off the trail to do some sight seeing.
     "I had never done any serious snow hiking before, but I've done it now."
     He went one stretch where his water did not thaw out for three days.  And though the snow he went through in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park was one of the most difficult parts of the trip, it was also one of the most memorable.
     "When you get to the top of a 6,000 foot mountain and look down, and everything you see is covered with snow, it's one of the most beautiful things in the world," he said.
     When the winter snow left, it was followed closely by spring showers.  Lovett said he hikes through a thunderstorm almost every afternoon.
    And of course, there is the problem of bathing while on the trail.  As in, hikers don't really get to while they're on it.
    At first, Lovett was able to grab a shower in towns he came through, about every 10 days, but the last shower he took was his first in nearly three weeks.
     "I'm not gonna lie to you, I don't smell good," he said with a laugh.  "I was talking to one other hiker I met on the trail who said it will take about two weeks to smell good again.
     "A shower will get one layer of dirt off but it won't make you smell good."
     But that's all right for now.  The people he meets on the trail are hikers too, and at this time of year, there are enough so that he's almost never alone.
     For a while, he and several other hikers had a running game of ultimate frisbee going on.
    When he makes his way to a town, he looks for the biggest meal he can find, and then promptly heads to his hotel bed.
    "It's awesome to just go face-first on a bed and then watch ESPN until I can't keep my eyes open," he said.
     At night, he writes in his spiral notebooks, keeping up with the work he is going to have to do when he gets back, which will  get him credits in MSU's honors and kinesiology departments.
     His dad set up a website, www.justlovett.com for friends and family to track his progress.  His mother, Charlotte Lovett, has been tracking his progress herself every night.
     "I feel kind of like mission control," she said.  "I track everything.  That's Mom's job."
     Both his mother and father will be driving up to meet him in Maine, and wait for his arrival there.
     At this point, with three months behind and two more ahead, Alan said it will be just as much a lifestyle change to come back as it was to start hiking the trail.
     "I know for sure I'm going to miss the trail.  One day I'll be sitting in an office or a classroom and look back and think that I miss even the worst day on the trail," he said.
     "It's turned out to be amazing.  It's nice when you get something right every now and then."