By Darn Tough Vermont

What the Appalachian Trail Means to Darn Tough

May 28, 2024

At Darn Tough Vermont, our mission is to make the world’s best socks, here in Vermont, and back them with an Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee. We’re pretty sure no one puts that guarantee to the test more than thru hikers.

We have several Appalachian Trail thru-hikers on staff, including in product development, who help us make better socks. And with the A.T. running right through our home state of Vermont, the trail holds a special place in our hearts.

Our A.T. experience isn’t limited to Vermont though. Here are some first-hand testimonials from Darn Tough employees on what the Appalachian Trail means to them.

Owen R., Product Line Manager

To me, the A.T. means freedom. A freedom to explore, learn, and be my truest self. A freedom to find common ground with other likeminded people, or enjoy a simple solitude in the wilderness. The A.T. and its legacy are a celebration of this freedom, as well as nature, grit, and the tradition of determination and self-sufficiency that it takes when finding oneself.

I thru-hiked the trail northbound (NOBO) in 2017. I’ve also hiked the 100 miles that overlap the Long Trail in southern Vermont three other times. I have so many favorite moments tied to my A.T. thru-hike. One in particular, took place at dusk in the Grayson Highlands.

Owen R., Product Line Manager; Darn Tough Vermont

Like many other favorite moments on Trail, this was a night that I chose to keep hiking past my original destination given how perfect everything felt. The highlands are famous for wild ponies, which I was lucky enough to see as golden hour set in. I descended the rocky, brushy trail and crossed the 500-mile point for my northbound hike.

As the sun set, I walked into a shelter and was welcomed by a jovial crowd who had all just shared a similar experience. You hang your food in the Highlands to preserve it from wildlife, including wild ponies. In the night we heard the clip-clop of the ponies on the lookout for any food.

And I have to share a high-level memory I have of the many people who helped me along the way. The kindness of strangers for rides, encouragement, and trail magic made it all possible.

Brandon S., Project Producer

The Appalachian Trail, aka “the Footpath for the People,” is a unique trail that I have had the opportunity to explore in bits of pieces in both Maryland and Vermont.

For the past few years, I’ve been part of a team of Darn Tough Vermont employees that has teamed up with Nancy and Jeff Comstock to feed A.T. hikers between Killington and Woodstock.

That is where I have been able to meet thru-hikers from all walks of life and hear their stories of their journey, either southbound (SOBO) or NOBO, on the trail. Being able to listen to their stories as we share a meal together is an enriching experience that has made me excited to hopefully take on a thru-hike journey of my own one day.

Jenny H., Content Strategist

“When you reach New Hampshire, you’ve hiked 75% of the distance and completed 25% of the work.” — An A.T. Thru Hiker

I was a young teen when a bearded, classically smelly thru-hiker told me that adage over a bowl of soup in the Zealand Falls hut. His statement filled me with pride for my home state and the mountains I had learned to hike on.

Growing up in Northern New Hampshire, I spent countless hours and miles hiking the White Mountains with my dad, bagging our forty-eight 4,000-footers and beyond. Many of those miles were spent following the white blazes of the A.T.

Jenny H., Content Strategist; Darn Tough Vermont

A few key memories:

  • Duct-taping my boot back together after the seam gave out on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail
  • My feet complaining that there is no end to the rock steps of the Liberty Springs Trail
  • Snacking on leftover, cold pancakes (free!) in the Greenleaf Hut before making the final ascent of Mt. Lafayette
  • Sighting the Cog Railway and racing up the Crawford Path to try beat the train car to the summit of Mt. Washington

From chats on summits to shared mealtimes in huts, running into thru hikers is one of my favorites reasons to stop and listen. My dad and I ask for their stories, impressions, and thru-hiking tips; we love listening…and scheming about our own future A.T. thru-hike.

Kevin S., Ecommerce Experience Manager

I was born and raised in the metro NY area; my father was a college professor and had the summers off, which meant we spent our summers on month-long to two-month-long camping trips. As a result, I was falling in love with the outdoors and hiking trails up and down the East Coast from a young age. It was only a matter of time before parts of the famed Appalachian Trail ended up on our travel list.

Since those early hikes on the A.T., I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the outdoor industry and have seen the A.T. through a bunch of lenses. Whether it’s thru-hiking, speed records, part of someone’s Triple Crown (the three major U.S. long-distance hiking trails — Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail), just backpacking parts of it each year, or winter travelling, it has remained a constant icon for me to appreciate.

Personally, I’ve been on various parts of the Trail many, many times and enjoyed every mile of it. To see a trail register so full of names and look at where everyone was coming from is always fun. But for me the most exciting memory is learning about what the A.T. is and realizing there is a trail you could hike from Maine all the way Georgia or vice versa. The thought of something like that existing in modern America was so incredible to me.

Whether I picked it up in Harriman State Park an hour or so north of NYC or trail ran part of it 20 minutes from my now-home in Vermont, the Trail continues to inspire and enthrall me. There’s something about being part of something so much bigger than just a trail or loop, something that has such a history and that so many people have built, hiked and enjoyed.

It’s not your average trail; I’d recommend you go find your piece of it, whatever that looks like.

Michaela H., Photo Coordinator

During my time living in Asheville, NC, one of my favorite places to escape for weekend adventures was Max Patch on the A.T. The trail up the bald mountain offered sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and large open grassy spaces covered in wildflowers. I spent many afternoons hiking with friends to the summit, photographing thunderstorms rolling in, and running around the summit with my dog, Arrow.

Michaela H., Photo Coordinator; Darn Tough Vermont

Hiking the A.T. up Max Patch gave me the opportunity to get to know my home state’s biodiversity and appreciate the scale of some of the oldest mountains. The transition from green fields to rhododendron tunnels never ceased to amaze me and always left me wanting to explore more of the Trail. I’m looking forward to the day I get to experience more of this beautiful Trail.

Michelle Z., Customer Service Manager

Growing up, I was lucky to be able to escape the suburbs of Long Island and spend my summers at camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. Backpacking was a big part of our summers, and it was in the White Mountains on the A.T. where I learned that I could do hard things. The presidential peaks are unforgettable not just for their views, but for teaching me the grit and determination that have helped push me through many difficult times in life.

The summit that will always be my favorite is Mt. Jackson, and I will never forget how awestruck its open summit left me. While we weren’t traditional thru hikers, our groups loved to get in the spirit while on the trail and give each other trail names.

One summer, I earned the moniker Nutmeg after dumping an entire ration of nutmeg into our fajita’s refined beans after a long day on the trail. Thankfully the end of the day dinner hunger had us all laughing about it, and no one seemed to mind all that much.

Ryan S., Copywriter

If it wasn’t for my experience thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, I wouldn’t be here today. Not in a morbid sense, but realistically — where I am in my life, my career, my relationship with my soon-to-be wife — none of it would’ve manifested had it not been for those painstakingly strenuous, wonderfully awe-inspiring nearly 2,200 miles.

Before starting my Northbound thru-hike in 2017, I had never spent more than two consecutive nights camping in the wilderness. Now, seven years later, it’s essentially the only thing I think and talk about (if you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancée). My life’s trajectory — including uprooting and moving to Vermont to be closer to the mountains — is a direct result of my time trekking the A.T.

Ryan S., Copywriter; Darn Tough Vermont

My favorite memory (aside from kissing the trail sign at the summit of Mount Katahdin) was crossing the Delaware River at the PA/NJ border. Born and raised a Jersey boy, it was a monumental, nearly emotional moment for me as I walked across the I-80 bridge, my own two feet the motor that drove me there, the pack on my back and my shoes (and of course, my Darn Tough socks) my only and most prized possessions.

Having slogged through months of rain, mud, and a few gnarly bouts of poison ivy to reach this point, it was incredibly rewarding to realize just how far I had come with so little. It’s a life-changing endeavor that I’ll never forget and one I’ll continue to share with my friends and family forever — or at least until I thru hike the Continental Divide Trail. But even then, you always remember your first.

Trail Partners

Darn Tough Vermont

We’re a proud partner of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and supporter of their work to maintain this amazing trail. If you’d like to help us in our support of the ATC, we knit an ATC Hiking Sock that gives back.

See you out there.

As stewards of the world’s most iconic hiking trail, the ATC is proud to partner with Darn Tough Vermont (DTV). A model for sustainability and social impact in its communities, DTV has helped us champion the A.T. and advance our mission to protect it since 2009. Check out DTV’s blog, The Alternate Stitch, for a spotlight on the ATC’s history and work.