MINT HILL, NC – On April 5, competing teams from Mint Hill-based companies Blue Dot Readi-Mix and Griffin Masonry embarked on a challenge to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.
Well, not really. The teams will be competing to walk 2,200 miles, but they won’t actually be on the Trail. “It’s one thing to start a walking challenge, but I thought it would be cool to tie it in to an actual route,” says Brian Haislip, Director of Safety and Wellness at Griffin Masonry. “Rather than say we’re going to walk 2,200 miles, we’ve built this map to pretend we’re walking the Appalachian Trail and we ‘go’ to different towns.”
To execute the challenge, both teams rely on the Espresa App, which pulls in data from Google Fit (on an Android phone) and the Heart App (on an iPhone) and converts steps into points. One thousand steps in a day earns you five points; 4000 steps earns you an extra 10, 7000 an extra 15, and 10,000 an extra 20 and so on. The points accumulate, so someone who walks 13,000+ steps in a day will earn 75 points. Ultimately, the team earns the average of the points accumulated by its members in a day.
Haislip then converts those points to miles to approximate how far they’ve made it on the Appalachian Trail. Relying on the conversion of 2000 steps per mile, Haislip plotted out how many points would get the teams to ten different towns located along the Trail. “Departing” from Springer Mountain, GA, their first “destination” lay 270 miles away in Hot Springs, NC. Team Blue Dot was the first to “arrive” in Hot Springs, located 40 minutes north of Asheville at the junction of the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River, by accumulating 250 points.
For Haislip, it’s a chance to share his love of the Appalachian Trail with his coworkers. “I’ve always loved the Appalachian Trail,” says Haislip, who emails weekly updates to everyone participating in the challenge. “I’ve done some backpacking on it, so it’s kind of my way of educating everyone on the team about the Trail.” Haislip’s quirky weekly updates include fun facts from wherever the teams “are” on the trail and even spin creative yarns about the teams’ escapades “on the trail” complete with photos.
“What an exciting weekend for everyone on the trail,” Haislip wrote on April 27. “Both teams made it to Damascus, VA. TEAM Blue Dot made it yesterday afternoon, and TEAM Griffin made it late Sunday morning. With those times, it seems that TEAM Blue Dot is about 100 miles ahead. Let’s talk about what TEAM Blue Dot did while they were in Damascus,” he continues. ‘They all decided to go out to dinner together. The closest restaurant from the AT in Damascus is Damascus Dinner. What would you order if you have been on the actual trail and this was the first restaurant you have seen in weeks? Rumor has it that Ray Filz ordered the popular Thru Hiker off the menu. He ate every bite, but he had to eat it outside. He was washing his only shirt in the creek next to the restaurant, and the restaurant has a standard: ‘No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.’”
Hiking the Appalachian Trail in real life is a physically demanding challenge that involves traveling upwards of 20 miles a day carrying 30-35 lbs on one’s back. The 2,200 mile journey from Springer Mountain, GA, to Mount Katahdin, ME takes hikers through 14 states. The Blue Dot/Griffin Masonry team challenge has more modest goals: encouraging people to stay active at a time when many found themselves increasingly isolated and sedentary. “Everyone talks about the ‘COVID 20’” he continues, “so our company was proactive and thought, ‘We don’t want to put on 20 lbs! What can we do to keep our employees healthy?’” says Haislip. “Ultimately, it’s about getting out and being healthy.”
Far from packing on pounds, many of the challenge participants have already lost weight! “We’ve got some great success stories,” says Haislip. “One guy was bragging this morning that he’s lost 10 lbs! Another guy, he’s lost 8.” Even those who haven’t experienced dramatic weight loss have made impressive improvements in a short time. Some participants are thinking of quitting smoking; others have encouraged their spouses to walk with them. “We have a couple of older folks on our team; they’re not going to get 13,000 steps a day,” Haislip continues. “But at the start, some were getting 1000 steps a day, and now they’re up to 4000. They may not be the top walkers in the group, but they are getting more points than when they started. This challenge has motivated them because they don’t want to let their teammates down.”
Walking the real Appalachian Trail takes about six months. Blue Dot Readi Mix and Griffin Masonry hope to finish their AT Challenge in about 60 days, at which point the losing team will treat the winning team to lunch. At this point, they’re more than halfway through, having “passed” Harpers Ferry, WV. Haislip hopes the challenge has been a fun way for both teams to get out and move more, and he hopes it inspires others to do the same!