Selfie in the mountains with sunrise in background
10.14.2021
By Roanoke College News

2021 alumna hikes Appalachian Trail

The day after she graduated from Roanoke College, Lucy Perry ‘21 was already on the way to her next adventure.

She and her mom drove down to Georgia, and a few days later, Perry marched onto the Appalachian Trail. She wound her way through 14 states and across about 2,200 miles, finishing the trail in a rapid three and a half months. The average thru-hiker takes five to seven months to finish the trail, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Perry is a stellar athlete, and her quick pace should come as no surprise. She played soccer at Roanoke, earning All-ODAC status all four years, and ran trails in her spare time. She said that her time at Roanoke helped show her how her various interests can be combined into something she loves.

“The constant balance of being on the soccer team but also finding time to go do trail runs and extra activities out in the mountains was a cool realization that you can have many different interests,” Perry said. “And being in Roanoke solidified what my overarching kind of interest was, which was merging being active and being outside.”

She said her time on the Appalachian Trail further convinced her that she wants to work outside for the rest of her life. Perry majored in environmental studies and biology and plans to move to Colorado in the coming months to pursue outdoors-related work there.

“The constant balance of being on the soccer team but also finding time to go do trail runs and extra activities out in the mountains was a cool realization that you can have many different interests. And being in Roanoke solidified what my overarching kind of interest was, which was merging being active and being outside.”

Lucy Perry '21 on how her time at Roanoke College prepared her for the Appalachian Trail

Northbound thru-hikers generally start in early spring to give themselves plenty of time to go from Georgia to Maine, but with Perry starting in early June, she was largely alone for the first portion of her hike. It wasn’t until she was at a stop in Damascus, Virginia that she met another group of thru-hikers — also 2021 college graduates.  

She joined the group, becoming close friends and travelling the rest of the way with them. The Appalachian Trail’s path through Virginia — nearly 550 miles — is notorious for testing hikers mentally, as it’s quite long and there are fewer significant stopping points to look forward to and break up the hike. Fortunately for Perry, she’s from Richmond and still has friends around the state. 

“I had a lot of friends and family come out and see me and support me,” Perry said. “So that definitely gave me something to look forward to in Virginia, since [the Appalachian Trail is] so long. It gave me little checkpoints, at least, which was good.” 

Perry said the first section of the trail was the honeymoon phase, then the daily hiking in Virginia started to feel like a job, she said. She said it started to feel like a “less desirable job” once she got to Pennsylvania, but she was able to power through and reach the end of the trail on Mount Katahdin in Maine on Sept. 14. She did the trail in about 106 days, meaning she averaged just over 20 miles of hiking per day. 

Perry grew close to her fellow hikers by spending all day, every day, in a challenging scenario with them. The group might reunite in the future to hike elsewhere, she said. 

“I was with them for three months but it feels like I've known them for five years,” Perry said. “We quickly became super close, so we stay in touch — not every day but over the phone and stuff. I think we have plans in the future to do other trails together, some West Coast trails.” 

Lucy Perry '21