North Carolina couple complete Appalachian Trail trek interrupted by pandemic

Corey Dobbins and his girlfriend Chelsea spent nearly two years preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail, a nearly 2,200-mile trek spanning fourteen states.

Earlier this year, after saving up enough money, they both quit their jobs to begin the trip.

"(Hiking the Appalachian Trail) kind of came up as a dream of mine, I guess," said Dobbins.

Twelve days in, they had to leave the trail due to the pandemic.

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"It was kind of heartbreaking to get off. But we didn't really know what was going on. So in the back of our minds, we thought it was over," said Dobbins.

After spending April in quarantine, they decided to pick up where they left off in May; they immediately noticed a difference.

"In the beginning, there was I'd say 50 people or so a day we'd see just that all started around the same time. And after we got back on, I think we went two weeks without seeing another hiker at all," said Dobbins.

To limit trips into stores and restaurants, they pre-sent food in the mail that they could pick up along the way. After starting slowly, they gained stamina as they traveled north from Georgia to Maine.

"We tried to do about 15-20 (miles) for the later half. In the beginning, we did 8-12 (miles) because that's all we could do physically. And as we got stronger, it moved up," said Dobbins.

The majority of the time they camped in tents, though they were able to find covered shelter during inclement weather.

Earlier this month, they completed the trail. Dobbins noted outside the month-long pause due to the pandemic, they were able to stay pretty close to schedule.

"It was life-changing. It was a totally different experience than anything I've ever done. It was pretty fun," said Dobbins.

The couple is now back in North Carolina.

"It's pretty surreal. Bittersweet for sure. Just being over but kind of not knowing what's going to happen next," said Dobbins. "Coming back to try to find a job amidst all of this, and just kind of get readjusted. I think it would have been difficult getting readjusted in a normal year, and now it's twice as difficult."
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