Associate Professor of Psychology Rodney Bragdon, Ph.D., is close to completing his through hike of the Appalachian Trail, which he undertook to explore questions about how such long-term hikes can change a person.
His hike is part of large survey study he and Assistant Professor of Psychology Mark Chan, Ph.D., are conducting to examine whether or not personality traits, stress and depression symptoms, and skills in recognizing the emotions of others change with time.
Bragdon set off from the trail’s beginning at Springer Mountain, Georgia in February 2016. In April, he reached the section of the trail closest to Shenandoah’s Winchester, Virginia, main campus, where he stopped to chat a bit about his experiences on the 2,190-mile-long, 14-state trail. At that time, he was just about 800 miles from reaching the trail’s end at Mt. Katahdin, Maine, and clocking an average trail speed of 20-24 miles a day. He’s traveling light on the trail: he doesn’t eat breakfast, eats meal bars along the way, breaks 20-30 minutes for lunch and completes each day of hiking around 5-6 p.m..
So far on his hike, he’s loved the series of balds along Roan Mountain in North Carolina, which he hiked in solitude. He also enjoyed Virginia’s Grayson Highlands, where he spotted some of that area’s famous “wild” ponies, which are now so tame they have been known to forage for food from visitors’ backpacks. While those moments were lovely, his time in the Great Smoky Mountains was less so, being much colder than expected; his water bottles froze while he walked and his socks and boots remained wet and cold.
The latest Bragdon is expected to complete his through-hike is in July.