Retired Kissimmee firefighter hikes Appalachian Trail

Retired Kissimmee firefighter Alan Taylor hiked the entire 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

Even at the age of 54, Alan Taylor wasn’t afraid of an adventure.

Taylor, a retired Kissimmee Fire Department firefighter, recently hiked the entire 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mt. Katahdin, Maine, between March 11 and Aug. 26.

There were days that were breathtakingly beautiful and others that were cold and miserable, but Taylor didn’t give up.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I like challenges and adventure. I like being in the wilderness and away from people.”

Taylor preferred to hike on his own during the day, but would sometimes meet up with other hikers at night, where they would find a shelter or set up their tents. With just a lightweight backpack, he carried everything he needed as well as his 15.5-ounce waterproof tent.

“I carried absolutely the bare minimum,” he said.

He slept in his tent about 40 nights. When he wasn’t hanging around one of the towns, the others were spent in shelters scattered amongst the trail. The shelters are free and up to 12 miles apart. They include an elevated floor and roof to shield hikers from the elements.

The most difficult part of the hike, he said, were the White Mountains in New Hampshire with steep climbs and giant rocks. The 100-mile wilderness in Maine was also a challenge.

“It is very desolate with nothing around,” he said.

Taylor also experienced every kind of weather condition you could imagine from snow and ice to tornadoes and high heat.

“In the Smokies, it was 8 degrees. I was cold and miserable, but I expected it,” he said.

Kissimmee Fire Chief Jim Walls said Taylor has always been the adventurous type and they weren’t surprised that he decided to hike the entire trail.

“He was known for his hiking and camping when he was here,” said Walls. “He was a long-time, well-trained firefighter.”

Taylor has no spouse or children and likes it that way. After retiring in 2015, he was trying to find something to do.

“I had heard of the trail, watched videos and decided I could do it,” he said. “I can do whatever I want for as long as I want and that’s the way I like it.”

Back in 2016, Taylor actually hiked part of the trail for four days in Georgia. He took notes and then went back for a longer hike a couple of months later. However, Walls says Taylor attempted a longer trek the following year, but had to stop due to an injury.

 “We knew he had been wanting to do this for some time now,” said Walls.

During his five-month trek, Taylor took 1,250 pictures and nine hours of video on his phone to document his adventure. While hiking, he saw five bears, deer, porcupines, beavers, venomous snakes and even wild ponies.

The “field trips” were his favorite thing about the experience. In hiking lingo, a field trip means going into town. His favorite was Hot Springs, N.C. The Appalachian Trail goes right through it and he could get a hot shower at a hostile or hotel and grab some good food. He also enjoyed Monson, Maine, a town right before he entered the 100-mile wilderness.

“Maine was beautiful. The trees are totally different ,and when you are on top of the mountain, you can look out for miles and miles,” he recalled.

 For him, the easiest part of the trip was Connecticut and Massachusetts, which is relatively flat with some rolling hills.

Would he do it again? He hopes to do another long-distance hike, possibly the Pacific Crest, which goes from Mexico all the way to Canada. Taylor said he really connected with a few fellow hikers and was given the name “Fireplug.”

“Everyone is given a trail name and that’s how we know each other. It’s fun,” he says. “It’s a community out there.”