Walking Into Twenty Twenty Four

Guest author: Shelly Mozlin


These boot were made for hiking

I keep a log of my mileage. In 2023, I walked/hiked 360 miles. This number is from a technology-dependent manual accounting system. Every time I go out walking, I record the mileage using either my iPhone or the AllTrails app to determine the mileage accrued. As an aside, my iPhone logged 540 miles. So, in addition to 360 purposeful walking and hiking miles, I logged an additional 180 miles. That may sound like an abundance of miles, but it is only ½ mile per day. I probably accrued most of this mileage walking up and down the aisles of Harris-Teeter. If you believe in the physical and mental health benefits of walking, this would be insufficient. Hence the need for “purposeful walking.”

Actually, 360 miles is not super impressive for a yearly total, but I will declare it a good number and one in which I will take pride. More impressive is the total elevation over those 360 miles. I climbed 28,000 feet in 1 year. Allow me to consider these numbers and try to put them into some sort of perspective.

AT in NC

The Appalachian Trail is 2,178 miles long. I walked a distance equivalent to 16% of the AT. If I started at the southern terminus in Georgia, I would have made it through Georgia and most of North Carolina. I would be in Cherry Gap, NC which is 3 miles from the Tennessee line. Through-hikers average about 6 months to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. Don’t forget they have to carry much more than themselves on their journey.

A few months ago, my friend Maurice walked the 500 miles of the Camino Frances. My mileage amounted to 71% of his journey. My journey took 365 days, his took 35 days. And again, he had to carry 15 pounds on his back. Side-bar: have you heard about rucking, the latest craze from fitness gurus? You go hiking with an additional 10 or 15 pounds in your backpack. This is not to get ready for an epic hiking adventure, it is to increase strength, endurance, cardiovascular and mental health. It also benefits the bottom line of corporations and athletic trainers that want to sell you special equipment and consultations. I wonder if Maurice knows that he went rucking across Spain?

A little closer to home is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) which is a 1,175 mile route across the entire state of North Carolina. I would have covered 30% of the MST, ending up at the Devils Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is pretty much the middle of nowhere.


I think it is much more interesting to consider the elevation-28,000 feet. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is Mt. Everest with its summit at 29,031 feet. If I started at sea level, I almost would have made it to the summit of the world’s highest mountain. When I think about this more deeply, I am forced to admit that is ludicrous for 2 reasons. First, I would have started in Kathmandu which is at 4,600 feet. I would have summited with about 3,500 feet to spare (in case I had to backtrack to find something I dropped like my oxygen mask). Second, and even more important, I would be dead if I tried to climb Mt. Everest, even if given a year to do so. Another sidebar: Did you know there is a thing called “everesting” on a bicycle? Crazy insane cyclists find a hill and ride up and down the hill in an attempt to climb 29,000 feet IN ONE DAY. Currently the record belongs to Ronan McLaughlin of Ireland, who completed this in under 7 hours (6:40:54 to be exact).

How about something more accessible and more likely to foster survival? Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet. The most traveled routes begin at 6,890 feet, leaving a mere 12,451 feet of elevation gain. I could have climbed Kilimanjaro in 6 months and had some elevation to spare. FYI, most treks up Kilimanjaro take about a week, not 6 months. A third sidebar: Mt. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano with 3 volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The glacial ice is receding and it is estimated that at the current rate of global warming, most of the ice on Kilimanjaro will be gone by 2040. I recommend booking your Mt. Kilimanjaro trekking vacation very soon.

Closer to home I should definitely consider Mt. Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, it is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. I could have summited Mt. Mitchell 4 times this year! In fact, I can think about Mt. Mitchell options in real time, since it is practically in my backyard, and the MST takes you there. I have been to the summit in my car but never via the MST. There are many options for starting this adventure. From the Folk Art Center, it is 32.7 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain. For a 1-day adventure (for 2 people as a shuttle hike), I could start 5 miles and 1,284 feet away….. which brings me to 2024.

Lake Powhatan

On January 2, I logged my first hiking miles for 2024; a beautiful and moderately challenging 4.5 miles in Bent Creek which started on the Shut-In Trail. Here is an opportunity for yet another sidebar. The Shut-In Trail was built by George Vanderbilt to get from the Biltmore Estate to Buck Springs, his hunting lodge on Mt. Pisgah. It is called the Shut-In Trail because it climbs the ridge which separates and “shuts in” the Bent Creek Valley from the French Broad River Valley. While climbing the Shut-In Trail, I got to thinking about, among other things, miles and goals. I log my mileage, not because I have a goal of x miles for the year or because I have something to prove to myself. I do it because it does keep me motivated to go outside, and revel in the beauty of this place I call home. For a brief moment I thought, maybe I should resolve to walk to the summit of Mt. Mitchell in 2024. But that would be a stupid resolution, and I don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions anyway. In 2024, I will keep walking and hiking and keeping track of the miles and elevation, mostly because I am just a hiking nerd. I might even find myself climbing Mt. Mitchell. More important, I do believe in reflecting on the year past and reaffirming my commitment to doing the things I love with the people I love. Who wants to go on a hike?

Note: Shelly is an avid hiker and cyclist who also likes to write about her adventures. There’s no doubt she’ll summit Mt. Mitchell in the coming year.


  1. Right now, I’m learning to walk again (ha-new knees=new legs=new improved muscles .

    By the end of March I’m foreseeing being able to walk the neighborhood thanks to new knees.

  2. I aim for 10 steps a day via my old lady watch

  3. Hi Shelly, well done! Very interesting essay. Yes, I have heard of Rucking but never tried backpacking with weight just for exercise. And 28,000 feet of elevation gain is a lot! Enjoy your hikes. Mt. Mitchell is not that hard if you choose your route carefully.

  4. Kristi Ann Wagner

    I used to fill my water reservoir (100oz, so about 6 lbs) to add weight to my small daypack, to encourage better bone health while walking. I also added PT/weight training in Jan 2020 to keep my neck and torso muscles pumped up, to alleviate neck nerve pain. It worked, so I continue to do it.
    My bone density scans have leveled since then, no longer following the decreasing curve for women my age. Yay for me and my bones!

  5. You are inspiring Shelly. I miss hiking. Since my dog got too old I stopped. Think I should go back and hike while holding the beautiful memories I have of past trails and companions, and once again appreciate the quiet and beauty of the mountains, flora and fauna surrounding me in the present. Looking forward to the future inspiration nature shares. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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