By TAYLOR HARTZ
The first thing you see when you enter the home of Steve and Nicole Silva is a floor-to-ceiling map of the Appalachian Trail. Around the corner, a sign hangs on the wall reading “adventure is out there”—an adventure that Steve Silva recently spent four months seeking.
Just a few months after the newlyweds married and settled into their Lawncrest Drive home, Silva set out to tackle the 2,000 mile trail. In March, Silva packed his bags and headed to Georgia, where he began the journey he had always dreamt of taking.
Though he didn’t plan to make it home until Labor Day weekend, Silva surprised friends and family—and himself—by averaging nearly 15 miles each day.
His speed and endurance allowed him to arrive back in Southington at the end of July, more than a month sooner than anyone expected.
Silva said he enjoyed tracking his progress and measuring his distance goals along the way, noting more than 30 days where he trekked over 20 miles.
“It’s a running joke with our friends that it’s hard to keep up with him,” said Nicole.
Although he started his hike in Georgia, Silva said he immediately encountered ice, snow, and low temperatures on the trail that challenged him physically.
As he moved north, the weather warmed with the changing seasons.
“I started in winter, hiked entirely through summer, and into spring,” said Silva,
“It was great to see the trees and grass go from brown to being beautiful with flowers.”
In addition to seeing his environment change, Silva enjoyed the variety of cultures he encountered as he made his way up the map. He said the one of the best parts of his hike was “to just kind of walk north and see the different people, different towns and different ways of life.”
Silva said he was inspired by the friendly people in town and welcoming hikers he met along the trail. He recalled moments of “trail magic” when strangers or residents in town offer treats to hikers, and he said that each cold can of Coke or fresh piece of fruit was like “a little slice of heaven.”
“You really do get to see the best in people,” he said.
Although he started the adventure alone, Silva quickly became close with a few other serious hikers, including three men visiting the trail from Canada.
Silva said that while he enjoyed the company of friends he made on the trail, it was difficult to maintain his speed when hiking with others. Mostly, he traveled solo.
“Sometimes when you’ve hiked 700 miles by yourself, every day, it gets boring,” he said. Along the way, he fell into a routine of hiking a steady 10-12 miles a day. “I treated it as a 9 to 5 job.”
The challenge of adjusting to life alone affected both of the newlyweds, with Nicole at home in Southington, and Steve on the trail.
Steve said support from friends and family at home played a part in his success on the journey, while his trail journal, written under his trail name “Not Yet,” kept Nicole and others at home aware of his daily routine.
His journal allowed him to track the locations of other hikers he had met, to provide those at home with his mileage and perspective of his day, and it gave Nicole the information she needed to track his daily location on the map in their doorway.
Though he is glad to be back home with his “creature comforts and familiar faces,” Silva said that reaching the end of the trail and returning home is a major adjustment.
Now proudly calling himself a “thru hiker” Silva plans to go explore local hiking spots and get back out on the trail to cope with the bittersweet end to his journey.
“I’m not on the trail anymore, but I can still have amazing experiences right in my back yard,” said Silva.
To re-trace Silva’s route, visit his blog at www.Trailjournals.com/notyet2015