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Fred Jolly hikes Appalachian Trail, fueled by his love for the National Parks.

Fred R Jolly and his wife, Laura, moved to Harbor Country in 2016 after completing a two and one-half year road trip in a motorhome, during which, they visited all 60 of our nation’s national parks and all 50 states. They previously lived in Chicago. It was on this trip that Fred decided to attempt to thru-hike the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail that runs through 14 states. He completed this challenging endeavor on October 5, 2018, after spending six and one-half months on the trail. As part of his hike, he raised $26,000 for the National Park Foundation. His entire trek is chronicled on his website: Fred is now taking a much deserved rest.

Dig the Dunes asked Fred some questions about his journey. Here’s what he said:

What inspired you to hike the Appalachian Trail? I came up with the idea of hiking the trail when we camped near the trail in 2014. I wanted to see if I still had enough “gas in the tank” to complete the trek, at 62 years of age. I also did it to raise funds for the National Park Foundation, and because of the generosity of many followers of my hike, I raised over $26,000.

How did you get yourself motivated to actually do it! I have always been the type of person who sets his mind on a goal, and then in a focused way, pursues the goal. Also, once I started telling folks about this, I pretty much had to follow through with it.

Did any part of the trail remind you of trails back home? What was your favorite part of the trail? The AT is much more challenging than any of the trails around here, as it is covered with rocks and roots and is for the most part, all up and down. My favorite part of the trail, was also the most challenging part to hike: the section through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Incredibly steep and rocky, but also, incredibly beautiful. 

What is the longest you hiked without stopping? I had two days where I hiked 26 miles, which pretty much trashed me for the next two days in each case. I had many other days that were in the 17 to 20 mile range, and overall, averaged about 13 miles per day.

What was your favorite thing about the experience? What was the worst? The best part: finishing. A very close second: the people. Both those on the trail and those whom I met along the way who helped hikers. The worst part: the very challenging condition of the trail, being all rocks, roots and mud, and all, climbing and descending. 

You did this alone. Were you lonely? Did you meet people along the way or see people that you knew? I was never lonely, but I did miss my wife, daughter and the folks back home. It was wonderful how many folks followed my hike, and sent me words of encouragement through, Facebook, Instagram, texts, emails, and cards and letters. I did not know anyone going into this, but made many wonderful friends along the way. 

Fred R. Jolly hiked 2,190 miles along the Appalachian Trail. It took him 6-1/2 months.

Part of your reason for doing this was to raise money for the National Park Federation. Tell us about that and how someone can donate now. I mentioned that my wife and I visited all 60 national parks and another 130 national park units during our two and one-half year odyssey. Personally, I believe that they are this nation’s greatest national treasure, and I wanted to give something back. Contributions can still be made through my website:, and would be greatly appreciated!

What is your favorite trail here in the dunes? And why? I’ve only had the opportunity to hike in the dunes at Warren Dunes State Park, where I did a fair amount of my training in preparation for my thru-hike. The most challenging aspect, doing hill repeats on Tower Hill with a full pack. But, all of the trails are beautiful. 

If you were to give anyone one piece of advice about hiking the trail, what would it be? Honestly, if someone wanted to do a long-distance hike, I would probably suggest that he/she consider doing the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) instead of the Appalachian Trail. I talked to many folks on the trail who had thru-hiked the PCT and were now hiking the AT, and to a person, they all said that while the PCT is a longer hike by about 460 miles, it is relatively easier, can be hiked faster, is much more scenic, and much more enjoyable to hike. 

Anything else? Simply, get Out There, wherever that might be: hike the dunes, hike other trails, visit our extraordinary national parks, as well as, state parks. And if you are looking for ideas, feel free to check out: www.jollyoutthere, where we chronicled our two and one-half year road trip.  

You can donate to Jolly’s crowdrise fund and support the National Park Foundation, right here.

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