He doesn’t say so, but one can easily imagine why the Sarasota born and bred Steve Matosky found the Appalachian Trail alluring when he first read an article about it long ago. Winding through 14 states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range, the Appalachian Trail was a world away from the flat sands of Siesta Key. The third oldest of nine children, Steve has six brothers and two sisters. Yet, he was the only one who dreamed of hiking the Trail.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length from the southern point at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern tip at Katahdin, Maine.
Known as the “A.T.,” it has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike”, meaning they try to hike the entire trail in one season.
“I am a section hiker who does 1 or 2 sections on the AT a year,” says Steve. “I have hiked at least one section a year since 1992. The only year I missed hiking was 1995.” For an exact number, Steve has set out on the Appalachian Trail 27 different times in the past 23 years. His goal is to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.
“My shortest hike was a 14 miler where I filled in a gap,” he adds. “My longest hike was in 2014. It was 137 miles long in Pennsylvania. I have hiked a little over 1700 miles of the Trail, and have just a little over 400 miles left to do.”
Steve started this quest with three years of hiking with the Riverview-Booker Junior ROTC units as a chaperone. During those three years of hiking with thirty high school boys and girls, they covered the segments from Springer Mountain, Georgia north to the entrance to the Smoky Mountains. He and up to four other chaperones enjoyed the company of “an interesting mix” of young people. We can guess they had their hands full!
For most of the other years of hiking Steve was accompanied by his buddies from the Sarasota Sheriff’s office where they all worked until retirement. Together with Rob Crane, Doug Glaser, Pete Berkery, Steve tells of being spooked by the occasional bear and almost stepping on a sizable rattlesnake…twice.
Steve admits to the classic falling off stepping stones into the stream at least twice and hard hiking days when he doubted he could do it again the next day. But the most memorable experiences were short meetings with hikers he would never meet again who had their own stories of why they were on the Trail and the long talks with his friends.
Steve retired from the Sheriff’s Department after 33 years of service and joined the security team at Plymouth Harbor four years ago where he enjoys helping the residents. He and his buddies still hike the Appalachian Trail. Steve only have four more segments to hike, approximately 452 miles, to have completed the entire A.T.
Here is his list: Lehigh Gap, PA to Culvers Gap, NJ (66 miles), Lee, MA to VT 11/30 (48 miles), Rutland VT to Hanover, NH (98 miles), and Gorham, NH to midpoint of 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine on AT (240 miles).
Short on words, Steve admits that the unforgettable vistas, sunrises, and sunsets in the mountains are something that the majority of people will never experience. Even then, he says, that “feeling of the Trail” is different for everyone.
“As the guidebooks say, ‘hike your own hike,’ and that is what I have done!”