After leaving the University, Will McCranie decided to walk 2,200 miles.
On Nov. 18, McCranie, a 2012 forestry and wildlife management graduate, began in Maine and traveled to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It’s McCranie’s cause which separates him from other thru-hikers.
He hopes to raise $10,000 to donate to Meals for Millions, an organization that helps fight hunger.
“It’s been a lot of fun. The trail’s been beautiful. It’s hard. It’s very hard, but I’m having a blast,” McCranie said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from a lot of people, largely from home, but a surprising amount of support on the trail. I’m funding the hike and trying to raise an additional $1,000. Right now, I’ve covered my costs completely for the hike, which was about $4,000 and raised an additional $3,000 at this point. I’ll be fundraising until the end of the year.”
McCranie’s journey started on June 14. Most Appalachian Trail hikers start in Georgia and travel to Maine. They are called GAME hikers. McCraine bucked the usual trend and traveled southward, and he is therefore a MEGA hiker. Starting in Maine is riskier than Georgia because hikers encounter fewer outposts and 100 miles of wilderness during trip.
“Going south, you start off in a much harder section and there are many fewer people,” he said. “The trail is hard either way, but I think it’s been more difficult going south.”
For a week during the trip, McCranie was joined by family friend Steve Perry. Perry and McCraine hiked together for about 300 miles from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.
“We took about a week to do it, and it was serendipity. The weather was fantastic,” Perry said. “I was worried about being able to catch up with Will because he’d already been on the trail — I guess a month and a half or so at that point. I think I slowed him down a little bit, but we hiked 14 to 16 miles a day. I kept up reasonably well.”
Throughout the trip, McCranie went through three pairs of boots, lost nearly 50 pounds and usually hiked between 20 and 25 miles a day. His father, David McCranie, said Will McCranie’s passion for hiking has been present since childhood.
“Will started backpacking when he was about 9 years old,” he said. “I took him on his first trip to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain and he kind of developed a passion for it ever since.”
Both McCranies are involved in the Boy Scouts of America, where Will earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Despite Will McCranie’s outdoor training, his father said he worried like any other parent during his son's hike.
“Will has a satellite tracking device, called Spot. You turn that thing on and press the button, and it’ll send you the exact GPS location. I’ll know exactly where he is even if he can’t get cell service,” David McCranie said. “We have an agreement that at the end of every day when he gets where he’s going to camp, he sends me a satellite location ... That was a really great idea, until about four weeks in, and he just forgot to send it for a day. And then, you know, you’re just a nervous wreck.”