Bennett ‘Jolly’ Fisher thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015. We asked him a few questions about his experience and future.
What are your greatest outdoor achievements? Thru-hikes? Jobs?
My greatest outdoor achievement would have to be my Appalachian trail thru-hike in 2015 with my dad. We completed our 2,189.2-mile hike in 165 days. My trail name is Jolly and my dad’s is Power-slide. I received mine on day nine when a fellow hiker, Flyaway, pointed out that I was always happy and the name stuck because I always carried a bag of jolly ranchers with me and handed them out to other thru hikers! My dad got his name in Maine because he always slid down the rocky trail and I would yell “power-slide!” Since my thru hike I started working at Alabama Outdoors in Homewood selling gear to awesome people going on adventures and am loving every day!
What was the most difficult part/aspect to thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail?
The hardest part of a thru-hike to me is the mental aspect. The key to being successful is having a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with a supportive group of hikers. It’s hard to wake up, talk yourself out of your nice, warm, dry, comfy, safe, wonderful, awesome sleeping bag and put on wet socks and wet shoes every day for a week, while the heavens unload a year’s worth of water upon your whole world.
While walking in the woods every day you have a lot of time to yourself to think about every single action and event that has unfolded in your life that has brought you to where you are now, and all those memories must be viewed in a positive light as a blessing that brought you out to the Appalachian Trail not as mistakes. A thru-hiker’s outlook on the day must be: “I am so lucky!! All I have to do today is walk through these beautiful woods, eat junk food, and eventually set up a tent and sleep.” And not: “Uhhggg I don’t want to walk 18 miles again today, my feet hurt, I smell awful, and all my clothes are wet.” A bad mindset will ruin the trip.
But everyone has good and bad days, it helps to be with other positive people because their bad days and yours won’t usually happen on the same day allowing you to help each other. Always listen to the wise words of Dirty Rotten Liar, “Remember that in days like these, our suffering exists to make us stronger. It was never meant to be a cake walk. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it instead of a few awesome peeps a year. Remember that the rain will pass eventually, and the sun will come out soon, and all the hard days will be 100% worth it in the end. Every day, every mile, every step forward is one step closer to accomplishing your dream. Don’t give up! You got this. Why? Because you’re a champion.”
All Thru hikers are in the same boat, same weather, same terrain, miss their family and friends, and have good and bad days and they are all wonderful people willing to help each other.
Why did you thru-hike?
I thru-hiked mainly because of my dad. He had been dreaming of a thru-hike for years. Every Christmas and birthday present had been Appalachian Trail themed for 2 years. It started for me when we were at the beach on family vacation, and my dad and I were floating in the waves when some families around us started surfing. I jokingly said to my dad, “I wish I had cool parents,”and he looked at me and said, “Well if you don’t think we are so cool how about we hike the Appalachian Trail next summer?”
So, it was set in motion, little did my dad know I was serious and soon posted our plan on social media solidifying the trip. Not long after we started planning, a coworker of my dad learned that his daughter, Julie, had Rett Syndrome, which is a neuro-muscular disorder that disrupts communication from the brain to the rest of the body. She began to lose the ability to crawl and talk at 18 months and continued to digress, losing purposeful use of her hands and required constant care. When we learned of Julie and the disease we wanted to do something to help, and Hike for Julie was born.
We turned our journey of 2,189.2 miles into something bigger than ourselves and we hiked because she can’t. Along the way we raised awareness and were blown away by the generosity of people, helping us raise $25,000 toward research of the disease.
Favorite AT meal?
After being on the trail for four months and eating ramen noodles almost every night and countless pop tarts, I was introduced to hiker Pad Thai. It consists of 2 packages of chicken ramen, a spoonful of peanut butter, tuna, and Siracha. The meal is so good I looked forward to it every day for a week straight and had it every night. Other than that, I enjoyed all the junk food, Twinkies, Little Debbie’s, snickers, and sprees. All were a nice treat every day.
Top 3 pieces of gear you used on the Trail?
My favorite piece of gear by far was my Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow. Hikers would poke fun at me because of the extra weight of my pillow until I made them try if for themselves. It’s a trail changing experience. If you can sleep well, your trip goes well; and I slept well on that two-ounce pillow! I also enjoyed my buff and my GoPro, a piece of gear that is universal on your head and something to capture all the awesomeness that is the AT.
You have hiked the Appalachian Trail and still have a thirst for more. What’s next for Bennett Fisher?
After hiking the Appalachian Trail, your life is changed forever. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about some part of my hike. The AT lit a backpacking spark in me and now William “Cola,” who you all heard from earlier this month, and I are planning Hike for Julie part II on the Pacific Crest Trail. We are going to be hiking this summer 2017 starting in May raising money and awareness again for the fight against Rett Syndrome and Julie.
How can others keep in touch with you and your adventures?
I would love for all of you to follow us on our journey! Follow my Instagram account @bennettfisher for updates and photos. Look forward to what is in store on this adventure. See y’all there!