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The Wicklund Appalachian Adventure

Russell Wicklund is gearing up to hike the Appalachian Trail with his son, who is also named Russell. We’re going to follow them every step of the way.

One of my favorite things about writing for 50 Campfires is meeting other outdoor enthusiasts on our Facebook page. They come from all walks of life, and they all experience the outdoors in different ways. For some, a long weekend at the campground is as rugged as it gets. Others hunger for a more profound challenge. They want to push themselves and see what they’re capable of. One of the most time-honored ways to do that is to tackle all 2,189 miles of the most classic routes we have – The Appalachian Trail. 

When I met Russell Wicklund and found out that he was prepping to hike the entire trail with his son, I immediately knew that it would be an adventure worth following here at 50 Campfires. He agreed, and here we are. Russell and Russell are currently about three weeks away from taking the first step of what will surely be a long and rewarding journey. I had many questions but narrowed it down to just three. Here’s what he had to say.

1. What inspired you to hike the Appalachian Trail with your son?
I have always enjoyed the outdoors since a kid. I have also liked a challenge (28 marathons, 80+ triathlons (one being an Ironman distance). I thought hiking that distance would always something you could look back on as an accomplishment to hang your hat on. I was lucky to be able to retire when I was 50 with good health. My son wanted to go along (he is also big into the outdoors…he is a guide in the BWCA during the summers), so we waited till he graduated from NDSU (now he is going to take a gap year after college so he can do the thru-hike). Going together also reassures my wife that we will be ok.

Russell breaking in his new hiking shoes.

2. What types of preparation are you currently doing?
I have always been in the gym staying in shape for hunts (especially difficult terrain in Idaho and Alaska). Been in the pool doing a straight up 1 mile swim 4 times a week, on the treadmill at the max angle with a 70-pound pack three times a week, stationary biking along with actual practice hikes with the clothing, and loaded pack with the actual weight that we will be starting with. We also used most of the gear and clothing that we will be using while on a 17 day Alaska trip and then a ten day Idaho trip this last fall.

Giving their tent a trial run in Idaho last fall.

3. What do you think will be the most challenging part of this adventure?
I think the biggest challenge for me personally will be “Will my 54-year-old body take the punishment over that distance and time?” Not much I can do but try to be in good shape at the start and go slow at first. Our plan is to do 10 mile days for the first couple of weeks. Try to avoid stress-induced injury because we pushed too hard too soon. Taking time off when needed to rest and reorganize gear at hotels/hostels.

I’m excited to follow Russell and his son on this epic journey. When they can, they’ll be sending updates and I’ll be adding to this post as they come in. I wish them the best of luck and I hope you follow along!

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