By Van Mitchell
The COVID-19 pandemic changed many people’s lives personally and professionally.
For Ali Sylvester, the pandemic provided an opportunity to achieve her goal of traveling to new places, and meeting new friends along the way.
The 2014 Mustang High School graduate is walking the Appalachian Trail which extends 14 states from Georgia to Maine, and is over 2,000 miles long. She expected to finish her journey late this month.
“I have always been goal-oriented, and I wanted to explore,” Sylvester said. “I started fantasizing about places I could go and hike. COVID hit in 2020 and I thought what better time than now. I quit my job in February and told my parents I was going.”
Sylvester is the daughter of Allen Sylvester, a Musang firefighter, and DeAnna Moore.
After saving her money, Sylvester quit her job and began the cross-country trek with her father to Georgia, where she began hiking in March.
Sylvester said her parents are supportive of her and have even joined her on several legs of her journey.
“They have been incredibly supportive,” she said. “They have gone all in and supported me.”
Sylvester is currently in Maine where she has less than 200 miles to finish. She says she averages about 17 miles today, but some days are longer, including a 21-mile trek last weekend.
She posts videos about her journey on her YouTube page.
“We persevere and keep going even though I don’t have it,” she said the day of her 21-mile hike. “We give it what we have and somehow it will be enough to get me where I am going.”
Sylvester says she travels as light as possible because she burns 3,500 to 4,000 calories a day.
“I am definitely eating a ton (to maintain health),” she said.
Sylvester has camped along the trail, stayed at hostels, as well as nearby hotels during her hike. She says she restocks supplies every four days.
Sylvester has hiked solo, as well as with small groups of people.
“The people are what make the trail,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. The cool thing about these relationships is you spend every day in the woods with these people. Everybody out here is authentic. There is a vast array of the type of people you will find out here.”
Sylvester said she isn’t ready for her trip to end, but adds there are more adventures in the future.
“I definitely don’t want it to be over,” she said. “I realize I will go home and close this chapter of my life. It is very really bittersweet. I have grown from it. I have a lot of options, and I am definitely not done adventuring.”