HomeOutdoorsCollege Students on Mission to Be Youngest Hikers to Conquer 8,000 Mile ‘Triple Crown’

College Students on Mission to Be Youngest Hikers to Conquer 8,000 Mile ‘Triple Crown’

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a goal for a lot of people. Some hikers say they’d love to walk the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide. Someday, when they have the time, they’ll get to that if their work schedule opens up or if they can find the time to train. Two Stanford students plan to hike all three — called the “Triple Crown” — before fall semester begins.

Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell are working to becoming the youngest hikers ever to traverse the Triple Crown. That’s nearly 8,000 miles in total. They’re calling it their Calendar Year Triple Crown. They started their trip at the base of the Appalachian on Jan. 1.

“For me, there’s really nothing more simple than getting on trail and walking every day,” Parell, who will turn 21 during this year’s journey, told the LA Times. “It’s kind of just a nice reminder of how simple life can be if you choose to make it.”

The men grew up hiking — Parrell from his native Florida and Potter from his parents’ home in Maine. They realize the danger and difficulty of these upcoming hikes, but they’re not deterred. Even their parents are 100 percent behind them.

“As a parent, you want nothing more for even your adult child to be just happy and content and able to take a breath,” Nora Parell, Jackson’s mother, told the LA Times. “Sometimes I think we’re going so quickly that we’re not doing that and taking care of that side of ourselves.”

Planning to Take Down the ‘Triple Crown’

The two students caught the coronavirus last year after leaving school to quarantine with friends. Being stuck indoors, watching the world pass by on their phones or on television made them long for fresh air and wide-open spaces.

“Nature isn’t different now than it was when COVID started. It’s probably the only thing that isn’t different,” Potter told the LA Times. “I’m not saying that I want to forget that or anything, but it does feel like a crazy opportunity to just get in touch with something that has been the same for hundreds of years and is doing its own thing.”

The idea for the Triple Crown built slowly in Potter’s mind. But once he’d decided to do it, he invited Parell to join him.

“It kind of became this fantasy obsession of mine over the spring,” Potter told the paper. “Eventually, I realized that if this is going to be something that I ever want to do, there is never going to be a better time to do it.”

And make no mistake, this is a rare accomplishment. Fewer than 500 people have ever completed all three trails.

To complete the journey Parell and Potter will need to hike an average of 32 miles a day, which means 10 hours of walking seven days a week. But more than that, they’ll also need to make several contingency plans. The Appalachian Trail is the shortest, but bad weather or heavy snows in the northern states could force them to abandon the trail and return to it later when things warm up.

Follow Along with Their Journey on Instagram

The men are documenting the trip on Instagram. You can follow along here.

One of their most recent posts was from the Great Smokey Mountains. It features some videos and some awe some inspiring views.

“6000 foot peaks to sub-freezing nights to meals eaten in the wind and snow – the Smokey Mountains were an adventure to say the least.

“Although the Smokies section of the AT is only 70 miles, it presents some of the most difficult terrain and weather this time of year. Still, it’s a bitter sweet goodbye – yes, the trail ahead may be more gentle… but you just can’t beat these views. #hiking #thruhike #outside #hike #nature #explore #adventure #LLBean #smokeymountains.” they posted on a series of photos.