When you're prepping to hike 2,190 miles, packing a razor might not make the cut.
The journey Jolly took was for more than just himself. He sought donations on his website (athike.jollyoutthere.com) to benefit the National Park Foundation-a nod to his cross-country road trip. He raised $26,000.
"It's humbling to be in these places," Jolly says of the park system. "The national parks are our country's greatest national treasure, and they need our help."
Social media played a big part in the fundraising. He treated followers to sights and sounds from his hike, like pictures of him eating a half gallon of ice cream-a traditional celebration for reaching the Appalachian Trail's halfway point. He posted selfie videos with thoughts and stories-like finally finding a cell signal on Father's Day so he could connect with his daughter. And he shared photos of beautiful scenery, from foggy lakes to iconic McAfee Knob in Virginia.
The next four years brought plenty of planning and prepping: He read stories and watched YouTube videos about successful hikers, and broke in three pairs of boots. Then the adventure began. In March 2018, on his birthday, Jolly set off on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia, feeling like a kid headed off to his first day of school.
“At some juncture, you just have to go,” Jolly says on his first video from the trail, posted to Instagram (@jollyoutthere). His second post talks of meeting interesting hikers—followed by the observation that several quit after their first day.
Jolly didn’t quit. Yes, there were challenges along the way, from bears and snakes (and even a porcupine in Maine) to the physical exhaustion that ended most days. But he kept a constant focus: one step, then another, and another, and another, until he reached the end.
On his 195th and final day of following a rocky, winding path through the wilderness, Jolly had much to think about.
Like meeting new friends with their own trail nicknames—and commiserating and celebrating along with them.
Like all the stumbles along the way—such as a tumble on the White Mountains in New Hampshire, which bent a hiking pole and brought a few bruises.
Like finding motivation to reach new heights—Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony helps with difficult summit climbs—and reflecting for countless hours on what’s next, both on the trail and beyond.