Appalachian Trail Trek Completed
My brother, Richard and his wife, Carol, have just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail,
all 2,179 miles of it ( 5,000,000 steps appox.). They began last March 17 at Springer Mountain, Ga and ended October 5, climbing Mount Katadhin in Baxter State Park in Maine. This was a remarkable feat for a couple of people in their mid 60's. They were often the oldest on the trail although they were occasionally inspired by someone older they met along the way.
There's was a thru hike, taking the most direct and often challenging route. They resisted detours that would be easier or assists in moving forward. They carried their packs all the way never having them taken forward to the next stopping place by anyone else. There's was a test of their character and fitness.
They had both been long distant runners in their younger days. I can remember Carol when she lived in Mississauga, getting off the streetcar in Toronto and running home the last 15 miles so she could get in her daily run. This after working a 12 hour shift at the Hospital for Sick Children. She found running relatively easy. Richard on the other hand was not a natural runner. He was determined and worked hard at it entering many marathons and even some longer runs. He paid the price when he got older. He hiked the trail with an artificial knee and and a artifical hip. A couple of years before the trek he lost 50 pounds, determined to get back to his running weight.
He and Carol spend the year before the trek getting into shape and planning. They were well prepared for the challenge.
Richard and Carol, at Hog Pen Gap, Georgia, early in the adventure.
Here Carol is sitting with Carolyn, a trail angel. Carolyn is a blogging friend of mine who lives close to the Appalachian trail in Tennessee. She wanted very much to meet up with the Canadian Geese, ( the trail name earned by Richard and Carol). She thought she had missed them due to some missed communication. She took a chance and managed to intecept them where the trial crossed a local road. She has been among the keenest of followers of their adventure.
It is traditional along the trail for local people, individuals, families, church groups, former hikers of the trail ,to offer assistance to current hikers: hence, known as trail angels. They most often offered food and drinks to the hiking strangers passing through. Carolyn supplied a lovely spread for Richard and Carol and several other hikers passing by. Sometimes angels left food and drink at point on the trail anonymously. Most often, people enjoyed the brief encounter with strangers and learned of their lives, where they began and how far they were going.
My brother often wrote in his Trail Journal how much he enjoyed the people on the trail, the fellow hikers and the trail angels. He feels he discovered the real America where strangers are welcomed, offered sustainance, accepted and enjoyed. (even if they often smelled bad). He more than once wrote about this.
Here is a memorial to the WWII war hero, and actor, Audie Murphy, who died in a plane crash near this spot. The trail has lots of historic sites and monuments along the way. There were other surprises as well. One that impressed me were the wild feral ponies along the trail in Virginia.
Richard and Carol in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.
The trail is a series of mountains to climb above the tree line and then down again into a valley, a gap, in the range. The highest mountain was Lingman's Dome in Tennessee, 6,625 ft while the lowest spot was in New York state at 124 ft above sea level.
On thing that surprised me is that the trail is quite rugged, while it has been cleared and marked there are many places where the ground is very rough and rock climbing is required. Accidents can happen. Richard on more than one occasion over extended his artificial knee which was painful. He fell on a few occasions. At one point he cut his head. Luckily, his nurse was with him.
The Trail Journal they kept can be read here. It is an interesting and personal read. In the side margin you can click on "photos" and see some of their many photos. Also in the side margin you can click on "List" and locate a particular section of the trail.
I am very pleased for my brother and sister in law for their accomplishment. They will have years of memories to share between themselves and with their family. They made friendships along the way which might endure. They have every right to feel a deep sense of satisfaction on their accomplishment.
I have followed Richard and Carol adventure faithfully. I think it is possible to see the Appalachain Trail as a metaphor for Life, a life journey. It began with a vision,. . . . . to do the thru hike. Iftrequired planning, training, mustering resources and deciding to actually do it and to see it through to the end. Along the way, as in the Canterbury Tales, there were encounters with people and stories to be shared as well as miles shared together. There were also historic sites to see. And of course, there was nature, close and occasionally wild and raw. They saw the flora and fauna, in deep forest., open field,, alpine meadows and rocky outcrops. They also had to cross many a river, some by scenic bridges but many crossed on makeshift logs or hopping stone to stone. Some required just wading through.
The trek had wonderful sunny day with great vistas to behold. But there were days of dark and wet conditions that required great determination to continue. Some stops along the way allowed for comfort in an inn with lovely food but at other times it was a rude shelter or tent and cold and basic food before falling to sleep exhausted. Such is life.
In the end, Richard and Carol, accomplished what the set out to do. There final test was to climb Mount Katahdin and look out over the vast Maine landscape. It was an emotional moment to be relished.
Now is their time for rest and reflection. May that enjoy these moments of deep satisfaction in theire accomplishment, they so much deserve.