‘I needed to live life today’: Reston woman hikes entire Appalachian Trail

Cris Howard, a resident of Reston, Virginia, recently completed the grueling 2,190-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail. Despite initially doubting her ability to complete the journey, Howard discovered that she could achieve anything she set her mind to. She embarked on the hike while at a crossroads in her career and battling a back injury and melanoma diagnosis. Howard was instantly drawn to the idea of hiking the trail after seeing a map at a friend's house. Though she had no previous experience with outdoor survival, Howard quickly learned from fellow hikers along the way. She encountered various challenges, including close encounters with bears and dealing with extreme weather conditions and relentless insects. Despite the difficulties, Howard found joy in the process and took pride in the small victories along the way. Only a small percentage of people who attempt the hike each year actually complete it, and Howard is now recognized as a 2,000-miler. She reached Mount Katahdin, the trail's end, after enduring treacherous terrain and physical exhaustion. Howard reflected on the transformative nature of her hike, stripping away the unnecessary luxuries and facing her vulnerabilities. She plans to return to work after taking some time to recover, but the lessons learned on the Appalachian Trail will stay with her forever.