Skip to main content
Alex W AT hike

From The Blog The trail provides: Q&A with cook-turned-Appalachian Trail hiker Alex Wnorowski

Coursing over mountains, streams, and scenic valleys, the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190 mile stretch through 14 states, is one of the top long-distance hikes in the world

It’s no surprise its often on the top of many prospective hikers’ bucket lists. And yet, it’s estimated that only 20,000 people have hiked the entire trail since 1936.

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from one hiker, Alex Wnorowski, who completed the trek and loved his time in Vermont best of all… read on to learn more about his experience and why he's taking his culinary talents back to Woodstock this April 2019!

Want your own taste of the AT?

There are several access points within a short drive of downtown Woodstock! For directions:

CLICK HERE

Vermont rocks AT
Alex Wnorowski
Alex Wnorowski during table prep
Alex Wnorowski
Alex Wnorowski prepping for a meal

Q: What motivated you to hike the Appalachian Trail?

Honestly, stress.  I don’t remember what first let me to the Appalachian Trail.  I remember seeing or hearing something about it and I also remember the day after I heard about it.  At the time, I was working a job that I was not in love with and did not feel like I was thriving in life.  During this time of my life, I was lucky to get two days off a week, but the average was probably a lot closer to one day a week. 

My days off usually consisted of sleeping and resting for the next six day push.  That next day I had energy.  I went to the bookstore and spent five hours reading everything I could find about the Appalachian Trail.  I drank a coffee while reading and instantly fell in love with the idea of taking this journey.  That was March 8, 2016.  By May 18th we had quit our careers and moved in with my mom to save for this great adventure that was ahead!

Q: How did you prepare for this 2,190-mile trip?

I was completely starting over and learning a skill set that I knew absolutely nothing about.  I read every book I could find, watched countless YouTube videos, and spent quite literally every second of my free time inside REI learning about backpacking gear.  My girlfriend and I took REI classes and had a lot of fun traveling to the different REI’s in this state. 

I first read Bill Bryson’s, A Walk in the Woods and soon after watched the movie.  It was like a nostalgic bomb that exploded in my brain.  Even the music throughout that movie takes me back to the trail because I listened to those songs the during my walk.  I worked two jobs seven days a week for over four months to save up the money necessary.  Every day I would work one job 8-8 and then go straight to my other job until about 1 AM.

    AT Vermont
    Alex Wnorowski
    The AT in Vermont

    Q: As a cook by trade, how did you handle on-trail dining?

    Ah, yes! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.  I totally understand why I’m asked it but I feel sort of sneaky when I admit that by about mile 260 my girlfriend (also a professional cook) decided to send every piece of our cooking equipment home and go cook-less for the rest of the 2,000ish miles.  We find it ironic ourselves that the reason behind deciding not to cook on the trail anymore was because we were extremely impatient.  We did not want to wait 7 minutes for water to boil and we did not want to do dishes after eating. 

    We started mid-February, so it was still very cold at night in the mountains.  Imagine being exhausted, it’s freezing cold, you’re sore, it’s pitch black outside, and you still must scrub your cook pot with freezing cold water and then hang that pot up with your food before you are able to get into the tent for the night to go to sleep.  We got tired of cooking almost immediately, which is hilarious to us because in our other life we are the most disciplined and will do whatever it takes to be successful in the kitchen.  We ate candy bars, bread, peanut butter, cheese, pepperoni, and mayonnaise, nuts, dried fruit, chips, and honey buns the rest of the way.

    Q: What does the saying “the trail will provide” mean to you?

    The trail will always provide!   I love this saying.  As a hiker, I learned to understand the world around me as much as the world around me began to understand me.  There were times where, it’s hard for me to even articulate, but things would just happen and it would be incredible.  We would run into someone we had not seen in over 1,000 miles, we would get lost and wander two miles down a seriously dangerous part of the White Mountains and discover a ski lodge that was closed (but open to us!) for the season, or a random stranger would go out of their way to take care of us. 

    I learned a lot about humanity and everything that I was lacking as a person.  There are such amazing people in this world that have no desire except to help others and facilitate their success. The trail tested me to my limits, even pushing me beyond what I thought they were; but the trail did not break me.  It made me stronger and more thankful for the adversity that it put me through. 

      Alex W AT in Vermont/New Hampshire
      Alex Wnorowski

      Q: If you could boil down everything you learned on the AT, what 5 tips would you share with prospective hikers?

      1. Be patient.  The trail will come to you when you are ready to tackle it so don’t force it.  It takes a long time, and a lot of money to accomplish such a journey.  When it’s meant to happen, it will!
      2. Remember your “why”.   Remember why you are doing this and what the struggle is for, because I promise it will be a struggle.  If it was easy, more people would actually finish versus just saying they did the entire trek.
      3. Don’t ruin it for others.  Don’t be that hiker who thinks your hike is more important than the hundreds of other people trying to accomplish the exact thing you are.  Be respectful of the woods and be respectful to the journey that others are on.  Don’t leave a mess for others to clean up.
      4. Have integrity.  If you did not walk the entire trail you cannot call yourself a thru hiker.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling yourself a section hiker! These days, the title of being a thru hiker is put on a pedestal and it seems like in the hiking community thru hiking is elite.  As a purist thru hiker, I can honestly say with my heart that I walked every single inch of that trail. I had nothing to prove to anyone, other than myself, that I could do it. That does not make me better than any single person out there.  I may have chosen to take a longer walk than some, but that’s it.  I never understood why I would see groups of people skipping entire states worth of hiking and still tell everyone that they did the whole trail.
      5. The journey is the destination.  That sounds cheesy, but it was not until I got out of the southern section of trail that I fully understood what it meant.  I live in the south and grew up here.  All I could remember while I was hiking through was getting up north to a part of the country I’ve never seen before.  Once I was out of the south, I realized how truly unique and beautiful the southern Appalachian Mountains were.  When you only focus on mile 2,190 you lose track of miles 1-2,189.
      Vermont window to the AT
      Alex Wnorowski
      Vermont ski mountain AT
      Alex Wnorowski
      Alex on the AT
      Alex Wnorowski

      It was in Vermont that it felt like the trail was beginning to end but it was a definitely the beginning of a grand finale.

      Q: What was the most expectation-defying and spectacular thing you saw while hiking in Vermont?

      It’s a tie between the weather and the pine trees.  I remember the second we crossed into Vermont it started pouring on us.  We crossed over the border just as the sun fell and literally the second we found a flat-ish spot to camp it started pouring on us.  That was a rough night but every other day through Vermont was perfect.

      The weather was perfect for hiking.  It was just cool enough to not sweat a lot and thus meant a better sleep at night because we were not as sticky.  The pine trees were majestic to me.  I have two large pine trees (white blaze included) tattooed on my left arm to remind me of my favorite state.   It was in Vermont that it felt like the trail was beginning to end but it was a definitely the beginning of a grand finale.

      Trees

      Q: And now you’re returning to Vermont to host a series of pop-up dinners at Leading Fields of Woodstock! Can you tell us more about these dinners and what motivated you to  host them in Woodstock?

      When I decided to start these dinners, it was sort of a way to bridge the gap of cook, Alex, and the adventurer, Creedence.  When Amanda and I crossed the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, we stayed with an incredible family.  They picked us up, fed us pizza and ziti, let us sleep in their guest room, shower, and even made us amazing cucumber and pesto sandwiches that we ate on the trail that next morning.  Oh! They also outfitted us with trash bags because we had not received our winter or rain gear from home. 

      Essentially, the weather got too cold too fast as we got further north and we still had one more town to get through to pick that gear up; and it was of course raining out that morning.  This family put us in touch with Leading Fields and we were able to solidify a week to do these dinners!  Doing these dinners in a town so close to the trail that changed me in so many ways is big deal to me and I’m very excited to get back up!

      To register for one of the 10-12 course pop-up dinners happening at Woodstock's Leading Fields on April 5th & 6th, 2019, click here:

      RESERVE YOUR SEAT

      Food 1 Alex Wnorowski
      Alex Wnorowski
      Food 2 Alex Wnorowski
      Alex Wnorowski
      Food 3 Alex Wnorowski
      Alex Wnorowski

      Q: What's next on your hiking journey?

      I leave for a solo trek of the PCT starting in mid April!  I’m an extreme person.  I either do things at 100% or I don’t do it at all.  I’m going to do these dinners in Vermont and two or three weeks later I’ll be homeless once again and headed north to Canada.  After these dinners in Woodstock I’ve got a dinner that next weekend here in North Carolina so I don’t even have a lot of time to enjoy my time up, but I definitely plan on spending as much time as possible on trail while I’m not prepping!

       

      TO ACCESS MORE GREAT CONTENT ON OUR BLOG...

      CLICK HERE