The Appalachian Trail is a formidable challenge to hikers but I did it. It extends a rugged 2,178 miles north to south from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. The concept of a great trail from Maine to Georgia was given birth in 1921 by Benton MacKaye and it grew with several surrogate parents over the next 20 years to its current length.
I decided to hike the trail. I laid out my plan and carried it through to the end. Records show that fewer than 20 percent of the hikers complete the entire trail in one season. I did it. Most hikers begin in Georgia in the early spring when the weather permits and end in Maine in later summer or early fall. It usually takes five to seven months.
I made the decision to trek the trail when we were visiting our daughter and son-in-law who lived in Bristol, Tenn., at the time. We visited a site along the trail near where they lived and the fancy of trekking the trail struck me and nagged at me like your tongue plays with a broken tooth. The idea kept coming back to me like a belch from a bad onion. It would not release me.
My wife pleaded, "But you don't know anything about hiking and you don't have the right kind of equipment. Outrageous? Besides that you are too old."
"Ha," I rejoindered, "The oldest hiker to complete the trail was 84 years old. So there. Are you saying he was too old?"
"But," she said, "How are you going to carry all of the food you need, plus a tent, plus medical supplies, plus bedding, plus water and all of the other things?"
"Well, you will have to mail food to post offices on the way or I will just have to go into the small towns and buy things as they are needed."
"What if you get there after closing time on Friday and those places aren't open until Monday morning?"
"What are the chances of that? Most places are open on Saturday until late and then may be closed on Sunday."
"Do you realize the kinds of critters that plague hikers -- bears, mice, mosquitoes, ticks and Lyme Disease and black flies and snakes?"
"What do you mean?"
"What are you going to do when it rains really hard up on top of those mountains? It can rain for days at a time. So how are you going to walk and carry your stuff and stay dry?"
"Well I am taking a slicker and I will be carrying a tent."
"How are you going to take a bath? Have you thought about that? Are there showers or aroma spas along the trail?"
"I do not know. I am still going."
And I did. I trekked the trail with no major problems and as soon as I got to the end I turned around and hiked right back. The truth is I hiked the Appalachian Trail from east to west. It took me nearly three ... minutes.
Larry Vandeventer grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School. He lives in Plainfield and can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168. He has written five books.