Father and Daughter Hikers Balls and Sunshine Conquer the Appalachian Trail, Celebrate Sunshine’s 12th Birthday, and Help Africans Obtain Clean Drinking Water!

What did you do this summer?!

Hitting the Trail

If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, then you’re lucky enough.  This makes me the luckiest man alive, because on top of that, I spent the last 4 months in the mountains with my oldest daughter Sunshine!  Sunshine is a very goal-driven young lady and plans to be the youngest Triple Crown Hiker at age 13.  The triple crown of hiking is the Pacific Crest Trail (2,652 miles), the Appalachian Trail (2,184 miles), and the Continental Divide Trail at (3,100 miles). We already hiked the PCT in 2011 and just finished the AT this summer in 113 days.

AT versus PCT

People continue to ask us how the two trails differ, or which we like the most. The first is a tough question; everything is different about the two trails! The PCT passes through much more wilderness lands while the AT has more towns and development nearby. This gives the AT hiker the opportunity to resupply more often and carry less food weight. However, the PCT hiker enjoys more solitude and less distraction from the modern world. The PCT allows horses, which keeps the grade less than 14% while the AT at times can be very rugged and steep. Sunshine tripped and broke her arm on the rocky Pennsylvania tread. However, on the PCT, we had many blisters and one of Sunshine’s became badly infected because of the dusty and dirty (horse poo) trail.  She recovered from both of those setbacks and bravely finished both trails with grace and determination. Both have their rewards and challenges. We love the iconic and historic AT, but as Oregonians, the PCT is home and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Finding their Stride in Darn Tough Socks

We were privileged to represent Darn Tough Vermont socks this year on the Appalachian Trail. Sunshine and I have hiked many miles now and have tried a lot of socks and footwear systems. We have worn most every hiking and running socks on the market, but have never been satisfied with either performance or longevity. That is until now! We hike between 20-36 miles a day. We just couldn’t find a sock that lasted more than 3 weeks on these long hikes. Some lasted as little as 3 days, and that just isn’t acceptable! We had several blister and rash problems with some particular socks too.

We were introduced to Darn Tough last year late on the PCT. A friend was raving about them and mentioned the unconditional lifetime guarantee. By this time I had almost given up on finding a better sock and these sounded too good to be true. Regretfully, I continued buying more replacement socks of the other brands that were better than some to finish the our first thru-hike.

While planning our 2012 AT hike, I knew more sock research was necessary.  The more I read about Darn Tough the more impressed I became. Soon we ordered our Darn Tough socks and decided to exclusively use them to really give them a fair test. As soon as I pulled them out of the package, I could immediately feel the quality difference. We began to train with them and knew we had finally found our solution to the years of foot problems we experienced.

We hiked all 2,184 miles on the AT with the same few pairs of Darn Tough socks and never once wore a hole through any of them! They managed moisture so well that our feet stayed nice and dry even in the muggy humid areas of the east coast. Our blister problems disappeared all together. Not only did they not wear through, but their overall great performance didn’t diminish a bit. We talked to every hiker on the AT that we met wearing Darn Tough socks, and they all agreed with our findings. They were all excited to talk about their superior performance and longevity. We haven’t met one person yet that has had any complaints. We were bragging them up in an outdoors store along the trail that did not carry them, and the employee was so impressed that he wrote down the web  address to order his own. Remember, this is a guy that gets half off the other brands, but apparently was never satisfied. I’m a pretty skeptical person, but Darn Tough made a believer and lifetime customer out of me.

Hiking For a Purpose

We decided that we wanted this hike to be about something more than just us enjoying another long hike. That is why we joined with the amazing charity Active Water. We are raising money to provide clean drinking water for villages in Zambia, Africa. Thousands die each year from water-born diseases there. We are committed to raising $4362 ($2 for every mile we walked) which is enough for one village well and a few family water filters.  A very generous anonymous person committed to matching all contributions up to our goal! This means we can possibly provide two villages with new wells! Currently, we have raised almost $4,000 including this match. Think of the lives we can save together!  Please see our Active Water page at:

For more Details about their AT Thru-Hike:

Balls and Sunshine’s 2012 Appalachian Trail Journal: http://www.trailjournals.com/sunshine2012AT

A Photo Journal of the AT Thru-Hike

Sunshine holding the trail register at the beginning of the AT. We custom made our own signature stamps for signing registers.

The first Blaze at the beginning of the AT.

Sunshine and our good friend Beacon. It actually snowed on us for 3 days in late April.

Sunshine loved the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands on her 12th birthday.

Balls smoked the half gallon challenge at the half-way point. It’s a long-honored tradition that he was not about to break.

We visited NYC for two days. It and DC were two of our favorite breaks.

There were wind gusts up to 73 MPH while we were on Mount Washington in NH.

Balls and Sunshine at the summit of Mt Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT.

Sunshine was thrilled with her accomplishment of hiking the 2nd of three trails to the triple crown!

3 thoughts on “Father and Daughter Hikers Balls and Sunshine Conquer the Appalachian Trail, Celebrate Sunshine’s 12th Birthday, and Help Africans Obtain Clean Drinking Water!

  1. Pingback: March 12 – Interview with Thru-Hiker Sunshine | tHInK outsidE

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