If there’s a stereotype for the sort of hiker who sets out to walk the entire Appalachian Trail, Matt Liparulo fits it.
He left college, quit his job at Starbucks and, at 22, is searching for something in a wide-open future, and hopes to find it in the wilderness.
“I’ll probably be meeting a lot of people like me out there,” he said.
But when the Colorado Springs, Colo., man sets foot on the trail in Maine this spring, it will be only the beginning of a longer journey, one that will take him 7,000 miles through 22 states, on what is known as the Triple Crown of hiking: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.
And he plans to document these journeys online, as much as spotty Internet coverage will allow, to let people know where he is and encourage them to get outside and experience the wilderness. He also hopes to turn the experience into a book.
Liparulo has started a website for his journey. He will post updates as often as Internet coverage allows and is soliciting donations for the venture.
“It is scary,” he said of tackling the wilderness alone — particularly since his longest previous backpacking trip was two days in the Rampart Range foothills near Colorado Springs.
But armed with a solid faith, belief in himself and a sturdy pair of boots, he said it can be done.
“I’ve got passion and faith. Everything I have done, I just set my mind to and did it,” said Liparulo, who said he became a born-again Christian a year ago.
“I do support him and I think he can do it,” said his mother, Jodi Liparulo. “It’s scary and it’s a big thing, but he just has such a passion about him.”
He got into hiking with friends a few years ago and started backpacking because he “wanted to keep walking out there.”
“We realized the further we walked, the more uniqueness we would find out here,” he said.
He read books by wilderness-roving writers and photographers, and with a father for a writer, local author Robert Liparulo, he felt drawn in that direction, too. He learned about the Triple Crown online.
But without friends willing to leave their jobs for such an undertaking, he knew he would have to go it alone.
According to the American Long Distance Hiking Association West, only 155 people have ever completed all three trails.
After a spring of training, he’ll start with the Appalachian Trail in May because that’s the most-traveled, so he can meet other people and learn the ropes of long-distance hiking. He’s already learned a lot from talking to hikers online.
“You’re going to break down. You’re going to fall apart,” he was warned. But hikers also told him, “Two weeks on the trail and your body will be made for it.”
If all goes well, it will take four to five months to complete, ending in the verdant hills of north Georgia before the weather turns cold. He’ll take a few months off and in late winter of 2013 will embark on the Continental Divide Trail, hiking 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, including a long stretch through the heart of Colorado. He’ll shuttle west and pick up the Pacific Crest Trail and start the 2,600-mile journey through the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevadas and the deserts of southern California.
It will take impeccable timing — too slow and he could find himself snowbound in the northern Rockies or the Cascades. So much time alone in the woods will also take a mental toll, though with a strong faith, Liparulo welcomes the solitude.
Said his mother, “He’s been like a nomad kind of guy in general, so he’s used to being by himself.”
She’ll worry about him and check his website constantly, but she’s proud of him for following his heart.
“It’s just his tender heart and I think it’s going to keep pushing him through it,” she said. “We can’t watch over our kids all the time. They’re meant to go out and take chances and take risks and it’s part of him growing up to be the man God means him to be.”
©2012 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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