Freeport, ME, December 27, 2020
Local Mainer Takes on 8,000 Mile Journey
This year, we saw people turn to the outdoors more than ever, and with enthusiasm. It seemed that while everyone was seeking ways to responsibly socialize outside, a significant subset were also seeking adventure in the great outdoors. Over the next few months, we’ll share some of our favorite tales from customers and employees that have dusted off hobbies of bygone years, set off on new and grand explorations, or just simply discovered newfound meaning in spending time outside.
Sammy Potter (Left) and Jackson Parell (Right)
Twenty-one year old Sammy Potter grew up in Maine, spending time at Rangeley Lake on the fringe of the Appalachian Trail. Mesmerized by the well-weathered hikers devouring burgers at a local pub, he soon took to hiking parts of the AT himself. Through those treks, including the 100-mile wilderness through Maine, notably one of the more arduous sections of the trail, Potter’s love for the outdoors set in hard and fast.
Moving to the West coast to attend Stanford, his passion for the outdoors took hold in a new landscape until earlier this year, when the pandemic struck and life moved to screens. Like many, Potter found himself dissatisfied with the monotonous rhythm of online courses and socializing sessions on Zoom. When the university eventually asked students to leave campus, Potter saw it as an opportunity to reset.
“I realized that what truly makes me feel alive is making the most of the natural world, testing my physical and mental limits, and getting rid of distractions to feel a deep sense of purpose. There’s no better place to combine these three goals than on our country’s Three Long Trails,” said Potter.
That realization turned into the pursuit of hiking the Triple Crown in a calendar year.
Potter with his mom and sister on a hike in Maine
As if The Triple Crown of Hiking, which requires completing the Appalachian Trail (2,190 miles), the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles) and the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles) weren’t ambitious enough, Potter is looking to complete it in just nine months before school resumes. To date, fewer than 500 people have completed the Triple Crown – including one L.L.Bean associate, Elysha Dyer – and fewer than a dozen people have completed the Triple Crown in a calendar year. Potter, and his hiking partner Jackson Parell, would be the youngest to ever do so.
“This year has been tough. Being inside all the time and seeing everything going on in the world is like a slow burn that starts to get to you. This excursion is all about punching outside of the box to break that mindset,” says Potter.
Parell grew up in Florida but moved to New Hampshire for school. He and Potter bonded over their appreciation for hiking and spending time in the outdoors. Over the summer, while hiking Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains, Parell offered to accompany Potter on the Calendar Year Triple Crown.
“I was glad I could find someone as crazy as me,” said Potter.
For the last several months, Potter and Parell have been preparing through extensive training, dehydrating food to ship to themselves along the way, figuring out trail logistics, and getting mentally prepared for the task at hand.
As they prepare, the challenges that are top-of-mind for Potter are fairly centered on a few specific challenges. The first is weather, particularly as they hike through Smokey Mountain National Park which is at its most volatile as they plan to pass through. While there is no controlling the weather, Potter was keen to have gear that provided warmth, particularly at night, while not adding weight. L.L.Bean was happy to help Potter and Parell dial in what would best suit their needs throughout the entire journey, particularly upper layers that could be shed as needed in more temperate months.
“We’re not going ultralight but still keeping our weight as light as possible since at times we’ll have to carry lots of water. High quality gear that is light but that provides warmth is what L.L.Bean is all about and we were thrilled when the team reached out to outfit us with the best of the best,” noted Potter.
In addition to weather, foot health is critical and foot issues have foiled expeditions for even the greatest in the world like Andrew Skurka. A rest day is planned for every 17 or 18 days which is crucial to staying healthy.
Finally, spending every moment of nine months with someone is no small feat, particularly when life and death decisions must be made in real-time. Potter says, “It’s not something I’m nervous about since Jackson and I are great friends, but it is certainly something to confront and discuss before hitting the trail.”
Potter testing out a piece of equipment for training
Potter and Parell are setting out on January 1st and hope to finish by mid-September. “We’re not going for speed, even though our schedule certainly requires us to move quickly. But we want to enjoy this experience at the deepest level,” said Potter. “There’s a particular stretch along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierras that is so beautiful it’s otherworldly. We want to be able to slow down and drink that in. I’m also particularly excited about the Maine portion of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve winter-camped a fair amount, but I’ve never trudged through the 200 or so miles of snow in Western and Northern Maine in March, so it will be a whole new way of experiencing my home state for me.”
Follow Potter along his journey on Instagram @sammyhpotter.