Two hikers defied lockdown to become the first to complete the Appalachian Trail in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic – but are blasted for putting their ‘personal needs before’ everyone else.
Andrew Underwood, 38, and Douglas Stevenson, 19, separately completed the iconic 2,200 mile trail across eastern America as they admitted to refusing to comply with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders put in place to save lives from the deadly virus.
Underwood, a psychology graduate from Colorado, boasted to Outside Online that he ‘just didn’t think about’ the possibility he may have contracted and spread COVID-19 as he traveled through 14 states from Georgia to Maine from February through June.
‘I just didn’t think about that stuff. I was so focused on mileage goals to get it done in four months or less. That’s all I cared about all day long,’ he said.
‘Everything else I never thought about too much.’
Andrew Underwood, 38, (pictured) completed the iconic 2,200 mile trail across eastern America amid the pandemic
The seasoned hiker said he only thought about the pandemic as an obstacle preventing him from achieving his goal.
He admitted to Outside Online that he repeatedly evaded law enforcement, broke the law and lied to cops along the route so he could continue with his adventure – despite saying he is a Donald Trump supporter because of the president’s ‘support for police departments and law and order’.
Underwood said he slept in shuttered shelters and trespassed on trails and through national and state parks closed to slow the spread of the virus.
At one point when authorities shuttered Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park before he could complete that part of the trail, he said he hid from rangers by trekking off the trail through the dense woods.
In New Jersey’s High Point State Park, Underwood said he waited an hour for an officer to leave their post before he passed through in order to avoid detection.
The hikers defied lockdown to become the first to complete the Appalachian Trail (pictured) in 2020 – but have been blasted for putting their ‘personal needs before a greater societal mission’
He recounted another time where he directly lied to a female cop in Glasgow, Virginia, after she questioned him in a convenience store over whether he was a thru-hiker flouting the state executive orders.
He told her he was going to rent a car and head home that day, he said, before he headed back to the trail.
On June 17, as he made his way back down Mount Katahdin in Maine having completed the final leg of the hike, he said he was caught by a park employee who reminded him the route was closed.
Underwood said he also dismissed criticism leveled at him on social media over his decision to flout the rules.
‘It seemed like a pointless debate,’ he told Outside Online. ‘But I get it – it was a different year, a different hike.’
Stevenson, an Eagle Scout from outside Boston, also admitted to Outside Online that he flouted lockdown rules across states to became the first to complete the trail this year.
Underwood (pictured) said he repeatedly evaded law enforcement, broke the law and lied to cop along the route so he could continue with his adventure – despite saying he is a Donald Trump supporter because of the president’s ‘support for police departments and law and order’
He said he was confronted by cops in New York who turned him away from the trail as he crossed the Hudson River but offered him friendly advice.
Stevenson said he then left the cops and made his way back to the trail another way.
He brushed off the fact that stay-at-home orders were necessary to saving lives and said he didn’t want to stop his hike because he would have been bored with nothing else to do, Outside Online reported.
‘There are two ways to deal with the unknown. One is to fear it so much that you close everything down. The other is to just be concerned,’ said Stevenson.
‘Until we know more, why should we change so much about life?’
Around three million people typically hike along part of the Appalachian Trail each year which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine
Sandi Marra, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s president and CEO, blasted the two men for taking the attitude that ‘my personal needs and desires outweigh a greater societal mission’.
‘By hiking now, you have created a narrative that says, ‘My personal needs and desires outweigh a greater societal mission. At the end of the day, what’s really important is what I want,’ Marra told Outside Online.
‘We have to start taking responsibility for something outside of our own immediate desires.’
Around three million people typically hike along part of the Appalachian Trail each year which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.