A native of Kansas City conquered the longest trails in the country and earned the “Triple Crown” for hikers | KCUR 89.3

It wasn’t until Leawood, Kansas-born Charlie Janssen was completely alone in a remote piece of Northern California along the Pacific Crest Trail that he felt nauseous.

“As a public education teacher, I somehow managed to stay COVID-free for two years,” Jassen said. “But somehow I picked it up in the remoteness of Northern California.”

Janssen had been immersed in a lifelong dream for more than four months and thousands of miles: He hiked all 7,800 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail in one calendar year.

Earlier this month, Janssen achieved that goal and qualified for the Triple Crown of Hiking Award. He joins an elite group of fewer than 15 people who made it in one year.

Though he no longer lives in the Kansas City area, he says his hometown has always been on his mind.

“I feel like doing something of this extreme length is really foreign to people in the Midwest,” Janssen told KCUR’s Up To Date Wednesday. “I really wanted to represent Kansas City and my Pittsburgh alma mater. I also wanted to show my students that anything is possible.”

Janssen is a history teacher and cross country coach at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colorado. He formerly taught at Girard and Russell, Kansas.

A winding journey

After years of planning, Janssen took time off work in December 2021 to start preparing the hikes.

He began his journey on the Appalachian Trail on February 3rd – his 34th birthday. The trail begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and extends north to Katahdin, Maine.

Janssen hiked for 71 days until he encountered a major roadblock.

“I was about 390 miles from the finish,” he said, “but I ran into impassable snow.”

Unable to continue, Jassen packed up and flew across the country to start the Pacific Crest Trail, stopping briefly in Kansas City to change his gear.

He began the Pacific Crest Trail on April 17 and traveled north for 56 days before deciding to return to New Hampshire to complete the final leg of the Appalachian Trail in warmer weather. He finished this trail on June 29th.

Two days later he was back on the Pacific Crest Trail, which he completed in 42 days despite an enforced quarantine break due to COVID.

Janssen started the third and final trail on August 16 at the north end of the Continental Divide Trail. After 91 days of hiking what some consider the most difficult of the three trails, Janssen finished November 15 and completed a complete Triple Crown attempt in just 285 days.

Janssen can now apply to have his efforts officially recognized by the American Long-Distance Hiking Association, a non-profit organization that has awarded the prize since 1994.

He didn’t say if he would make an official application at the June opening, but Janssen said he was grateful he had the chance to live his dream and reconnect with the world around him.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Jassen said. “But the great thing about wandering through is that you find the absolute best in nature and the absolute best in humanity. … In such a socially turbulent time, that’s just very refreshing.”