Brandon Frye of Oxford summits Mount Katahdin on Aug. 27, marking the end of a 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail journey. Submitted photo

OXFORD — “Why? That’s a hard question to answer,” said Brandon Frye, 33, of Oxford. “There were multiple variables. I think you need to do what you can to make sure your life doesn’t get stagnant.”

So, with his mind made up to “just get out there and do something”, Frye set out to hike the 2,192 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He left Springer Mountain in Georgia as a solo hiker on March 12.

“The beginning was the hardest part,” he said. “I didn’t really know 100% what I was getting myself into and, frankly, I was unprepared.”

Frye, a carpenter by trade, had camped prior to his quest but had no experience hiking or backpacking.

“I dealt with a lot of knee pain and discomfort in the beginning,” he added. “My third day in, I thought I was going to have to leave the trail. But, I grit my teeth and kept telling myself if I could make it through the first few days, I would be able to make it to Katahdin.”

He ended up gritting his teeth for most of his first two months on the trail. His perseverance led, not only to self-discovery and gave him the chance to learn from other hikers.

“I met hikers from all over the world so I learned a lot about cultures and people in general,” he said. “There were people my age on the trail but I also saw a bunch of old-timers and, of course, young people. Younger hikers have physical stamina but not always the mental advantage.”

“You have a lot of time to think, so you learn a lot about yourself,” he added. “I learned you can always push yourself a little farther. You would be amazed at how much you can do if you really set out to do it.”

Frye said he was hard-pressed to name a favorite section of trail. “I really enjoyed all of it but the Roan Highlands in Virginia and the 100-mile wilderness in Maine probably tie for the top.”

Brandon Frye of Oxford leaves Springer Mountain, Georgia, on March 12, to begin his Appalachian Trail hike. Submitted photo

“The Roan Highlands was cool because the grassy terrain was different than what I was used to,” he said. “There were wild ponies that would come right up to you and use you as a mobile salt lick. It was a really cool experience.”

Frye said the most memorable part of the remote 100-mile wilderness was stumbling upon pristine ponds for a chance to swim and rinse out his clothing.

On Aug. 27, 168 days after he started, Frye summited Mount Katahdin and marked the end of the trail. Along the way, Frye received words of encouragement and support from friends and family.

“My family was right there with me through thick and thin,” he said. “I felt like we carried each other.”

Would he do it again? Possibly.

“I’ve already hiked the AT,” he said. “If I were to do another long trail, I’d go somewhere else. The Pacific Coast Trail comes to mind. It would be a much different situation and would give me so much more to grow on.”

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