Irene MacAulay of P.E.I. heard about the Appalachian Trail only six months before she decided to hike the entire 3,523 kilometres in 2017, and even then she didn't train for the epic walk.

The trail begins in the state of Georgia and ends in Maine. About 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire trail annually, but only about 500 of them complete it, MacAulay believes.

'It really kicked my butt!' — Irene MacAulay

"I just thought it would be a really cool way to explore America," she told CBC Radio's Mainstreet of the trip, which began in April and ended in October. "It's not like your average trip to the States."

Irene MacAualy and hiking partner on Mason Dixon Line

Irene MacAulay, right, at the Mason Dixon Line on the trail with her hiking partner. (Irene MacAulay/Facebook)

MacAulay chose the vacation as an inexpensive alternative to backpacking in Europe, which is also popular with young people. 

"I could have done two weeks in Europe and spent the same amount of money that I did spending five and a half months hiking the Appalachian trail," she said. 

Highlights 'in the little things'

She didn't train for the trip, but rather eased into longer hikes each day along the way. 

Irene MacAulay on Appalachian Trail

'It's not like your average trip to the States,' says Irene MacAulay of her six-month hike along the trail. (Irene MacAulay/Facebook)

"You can condition your body to be able to handle that sort of mileage," MacAulay said.

She and her hiking partner shared a small tent along the way.

"The highlights were kind of in the little things," she said, citing fun moments spent with people she met along the way. The trail is full of hikers doing the entire trail, day hiking or weekend hikers, she said.


The scenery along the way — here in Massachusetts, for example — was breathtaking in spots, MacAulay says. (Irene MacAulay/Facebook )

The White Mountains in New Hampshire was where the hiking terrain was most challenging, MacAulay said, with elevation changes and extreme weather. Southern Maine was also difficult. 

"We got to the top of the mountain and just sat in silence for a little while," she said of where the trail ended on the peak of Mount Katahdin in Maine. 

MacAulay has not been bitten by the hiking bug and is not eager to do another long-distance walk, she said.

"It really kicked my butt!" she said with a laugh. She does still love to camp, though, and shared that her nickname on the trail was "Camp." 

With files from Angela Walker