Trumbull native completes 2,200-mile hike

Billy McGovern stands atop Mount Katahdin after completing the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine.
Billy McGovern stands atop Mount Katahdin after completing the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine.

After completing a four-month hike that covered nearly 2,200 miles, Trumbull resident Bill McGovern celebrated by taking a walk.

“Mount Katahdin in Maine is the end of the Appalachian Trail, but it’s really in the middle of nowhere,” McGovern said. “So after completing the trail, we stayed at the top for about a half hour, took some photos, then walked five miles back to the road.”

McGovern, a Trumbull resident, 2012 St. Joseph High graduate and Nichols Fire Dept. volunteer, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt.Katahdin in northern Maine. As many as 2,000 hikers attempt to hike the trail each year, but only about 25% of them actually complete it. The hike typically takes five months or more, but McGovern made it in just over four months, an accomplishment he attributes to his youth and relative poverty as a recent college graduate.

“Every three or four days, the trail will pass near a town and a lot of hikers will take the opportunity to spend the night at a motel or a hostel,” McGovern said. “But I was on a budget, so I would just walk into town, get some supplies, then keep walking. That saves a lot of time.”

The idea to hike the entire Appalachian Trail started two years ago, when McGovern was a computer engineering students at George Mason U. He and a fellow student spent five days hiking a 35-mile section of the trail in Virginia, and McGovern was hooked on long-distance hiking.

After a few more multi-day hikes, including a 2016 walk from Connecticut to Vermont, McGovern found himself shivering on Springer Mountain March 4, with snow still on the ground and a 30-pound pack containing a tent, a water filter and five days food supply on his back.

“I tried to keep my pack as light as possible, so I eventually started carrying just about three days of food, since you pass through towns every few days,” McGovern said.

The diet of a typical trail hiker would likely not meet with their mother’s approval, he added. With the physical exertion, hikers typically burn more than 4,500 calories a day.

“You live on freeze-dried [garbage] and junk food,” he said. “After a while, there’s just no sense in trying to eat healthy because you’re burning so many calories. You need that 680-calorie honey bun and Coke.”

Table manners also fell by the wayside fairly quickly, he said.

“Breakfast most days was a few oatmeal packets,” he said. “Open the envelope, pour some water in and eat it like that. I didn’t even bother to heat the water, because that takes time that I could be walking.”

Lunch on the trail typically consisted of a bagel with pepperoni, salami and cheese, augmented with chocolate bars, peanut butter crackers and Pop Tarts. Dinners, the only meal when most hikers bother to cook, was typically ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese and other lightweight high-calorie fare. When passing through towns, he and other hikers typically loaded up at pizza buffets and fast-food stops. Even still, McGovern ended the hike five pounds lighter, and visibly leaner, than when he started.

McGovern averaged about 18 miles a day, though like most hikers, he “found his legs” at about the 600-mile mark, when he began routinely covering more than 20 miles each day. On his longest day, he covered the same 35 miles of Virginia forests that took him five days back in 2015, in 13 hours.

Now back in Trumbull, McGovern is already planning his next trip, leaving for Virginia next week, this time in a car.

“I start my job as a software engineer next month, so that’s another adventure,” he said.

To view a video diary of McGovern’s Appalachian Trail hike visit