Couple hiking the Appalachian Trail with infant daughter
DALEVILLE, VA. | If anyone is qualified to hike nearly 2,200 miles while carrying a baby, it’s probably Bekah and Derrick Quirin.
Both 25, the Quirins have accumulated lengthy backcountry resumes: Both have degrees in outdoor leadership and years of trail experience, both led weeklong hikes in Washington and managed recreation programs in South Carolina, and both trained as wilderness first responders.
But none of the Blue Ridge couple’s adventures have been quite like the one they began Monday: tackling the 2,190mile length of the Appalachian Trail while carrying their 1-year-old daughter, Ellie. They plan to post pictures and descriptions of their trek — and plug their sponsors — online at their EllieOnTheAT Instagram account and at EllieOnTheAT. com.
Both Quirins grew up near the trail — Derrick Quirin in Botetourt County, where his father is associate pastor of Bonsack Baptist Church, and Bekah Quirin in Blue Ridge, where her father is lead pastor at Fellowship Community Church.
Having dated since high school and completed North Greenville University’s outdoor leadership program together, the Quirins said they had dreamed about taking on the Appalachian Trail for years.
But when college ended, they both had full-time job offers. The trail would have to wait.
“We did the responsible thing,” Derrick Quirin said.
“We didn’t have quite enough saved up,” Bekah Quirin added.
Having a child lent a new urgency to the adventure. For one thing, they figured they had a brief window before Ellie became too heavy to carry for such a distance.
Taking a longer-term perspective, the Quirins said they are all too aware of the pressures on wilderness areas across the country. They wanted Ellie to have at least some of the experience they’d had in undeveloped forests and mountains.
“I don’t want her to miss that. And I don’t know where it’ll be when she’s old enough” to hike and camp on her own, Derrick Quirin said.
If the Quirins complete the trail in a year from their start date, they will qualify as through-hikers. And while Ellie won’t be the youngest through-hiker — “She’s not hiking,” Derrick Quirin is quick to point out — the Quirins think that she will be the youngest person to travel the trail’s 2,190 miles.
The three Quirins set off Monday from the McAfee Knob parking lot in Roanoke County. But instead of heading north toward the much-photographed overlook, the Quirins plan to walk south, opposite the seasonal direction taken by most through-hikers.
When they reach the trail’s southern end in Georgia, they will drive to Maine, the other end of the 14-state pathway, and start south again. The Quirins hope to average 12 miles per day, a pace that would have them completing the entire trail in six months.