Kilt Trip

Farragut man does 10,000-mile U.S. hike in special, ethnic attire

  • Farragut resident Nicholas “The Wandering Kiltsman” Cornett stands on the ledge at McFee Knob, a part of the Appalachian Trail, in Virginia. - Photos submitted

  • Farragut resident Nicholas “The Wandering Kiltsman” Cornett - Photos submitted

  • Farragut resident Nicholas “The Wandering Kiltsman” Cornett checks out the scenery at Kearsarge Pass as he enters King’s Canyon National Park in California. - Photos submitted

Farragut resident Nicholas “The Wandering Kiltsman,” Cornett, 35, recently completed the American Triple Crown trail systems — the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail — becoming one of less than 500 to achieve that goal.

Cornett hiked 10,000 miles in three years on some of the most difficult and remote terrain in the United States.

“I’m glad that I was able to finish what I started,” Cornett said. “Now I just need to figure out the next step to take.”

Along with that three-trail feat, he did it all wearing a kilt.

“I always wear a kilt,” said Cornett, a Farragut High School Class of 2004 graduate, filmmaker and former Navy Corpsman. “It’s the only way to live.”

While his paternal grandmother has the Scottish genes — “she traced her lineage of the MacDonald clan back to the 1600s” — he was introduced to wearing the kilt while attending the Scottish Highland Festival in July 2016 in Los Angeles.

“I was given a kilt by my ex-sister-in-law,” he recalled. “I wore it all weekend and then came home and threw away all of my pants because I decided I was only going to wear a kilt.

“It’s more comfortable, it’s an automatic conversation starter; people become a lot less shy around you,” Cornett added. “It’s amazing what people will come up and ask you.”

He added the kilt also is cleaner than slacks, more convenient and more practical for hiking.

“For me, as a hiker, sweating is an issue,” he said. “People complain about chafing. I don’t. And, they stay cleaner longer, especially if they are made from real wool.”

While living in Los Angeles and going through a divorce in 2018, Cornett said he decided he needed to change up things.

“That gave me the opportunity to go and do this hike I’ve been thinking about since I was in middle school,” he said. “I had learned about the Appalachian Trail, but I hadn’t learned about the Triple Crown until I started hiking the Appalachian Trail.

He started his hikes with the Appalachian Trail on April 27, 2019, at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and walked to Baxter State Park in Maine, where he summited Mount Katahdin. Cornett said it took six months to complete the first leg of that journey. He lost 80 pounds over the AT hike, so he spent two months eating ice cream and recovering before returning to his quest.

Cornett headed south to the Florida National Scenic Trail, walking 585 miles before he was stalled by COVID and “people got a little crazy, so I left.”

He also had hiked a section of the Pinhote trail along parts of Alabama and Georgia.

“Then I went to the Continental Divide Trail. From the Canadian border in Montana to the Mexican border in New Mexico, he said the CDT “was the longest, most strenuous hike of the three,” but “my personal favorite.”

Still, “the Continental Divide is a weird one because you pick your own trail because it’s not one solid trail,” Cornett said. “It’s like a spider web that goes down, so it can be anywhere from 2,500 miles to 3,000 miles.”

That hike took five months. After taking four months to recover afterward, he took on the Pacific Crest Trail, the third and final hike, in April 2021 and finished in late August. That trail took Cornett from Mexico, through California, Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border.

“The Pacific Crest Trail — the entire time — I was racing against fall fires that were happening in Colorado, Oregon and Washington,” he recalled. “You could see it a little earlier than most people, and there are updates and trail networks.

“The focus of the PCT being to finish, there was not much time for luxury or slowing down to smell the roses, Cornett added.

Now, Cornett is setting his sights on walking the Te Araroa — The Long Pathway — in New Zealand, a 3,000-mile route stretching from Cape Reinga in the north of New Zealand to Bluff in the south. He also is considering walking through Europe.