Multiple Hikes of the Appalachian Trail

HikeItForward-Final-MediumHas anyone hiked the entire Appalachian Trail more than once? How about three thru-hikes?

I am still researching the complete answer to these questions, but let’s begin with the statistics from this century (from 2000-2014). In the past fifteen years, one hundred and thirty-two different individuals have hiked the trail two or more times. Out of those 132, fourteen have made the entire journey three times!

Two hikers have completed the trail four times. Jim Eagleton (trail name “Rambler”) from Pennsylvania made thru-hikes in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2011. L.A. “Jack” Tarlin (trail name “Baltimore Jack”) from New Hampshire (not Maryland like his trail name might suggest) accomplished the same milestone but he made hikes in four consecutive years: 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Two hikers have thru-hiked the trail six complete times. Greg Key, “The Traveler,” registered thru-hikes in 2005, three in 2007, 2012, and 2013. When I saw that he registered three hikes in the same year, I thought there was a mistake and he had accidentally registered three times for the same hike. Then I found a discussion board online,, claiming that Greg Key was the first person to hike the A.T four consecutive times. He started in 1988 went from Georgia to Maine, turned around and hiked back from Maine to Georgia, turned around again and trekked back from Georgia to Maine, then finished his four-legged thru-hike from Katahdin to Springer Mountain in Dec 1989. Greg called it the Quad Hike. If this claim in the 1980s is legitimate, then his recording of three hikes in 2007 is within the realm of possibility.

Mark Suiters 3The other thru-hiker reporting six thru-hikes this century is Mark S. Suiters (Stumpknocker) from Florida. He registered thru-hikes in 2002, 2004, 2005(2), 2006, and 2008. Mark as well registered what has become known as a yo-yo (back to back thru-hikes) in 2005. I could not find the back-story of Mark but I did find two pictures of him on the Backcountry website taken in 2004. The photo posted here can be located at

And two hikers have made the circuit seven times in the 15 year period! James W. Byrd, “Jaybird,” is one of these two adventurers.   His seven thru-hikes occurred in the following years: 2005(2), 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. The hikes in 2005, 2006, 2007 indicate that he was living in Texas, but he registered as living in Georgia for the final three thru-hikes (maybe because he had not been home since 2005). I originally thought that maybe I had two different men with the same birth name that chose the same trail name. Then I found this interesting quote from “Trust Me,” another thru-hiker’s 2008 online journal,

“Once we finally did wake up, we went into the main house to meet 65, London, and Jay Bird, also known as Weapon of Mouse Destruction. All were former thru hikers except for Weapon of Mouse Destruction, who had hiked the trail a total of seven times, including a northbound trip, a southbound trip, a yo-yo (hiking the AT round – trip), and a winter thru hike. He got his name from his obsession with trapping and killing mice in the shelters after a mouse chewed through his Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. I have no idea what profession allows for so much time off, but you could tell that he wasn’t completely used to social interaction after so many days on the trail.”

The second hiker to have completed seven thru-hikes in the past fifteen years is Brian K. Jolley, “No Pain,” from Virginia. A 2007 newspaper article shares that Brian was born in Washington, D.C. but Jolley registered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as a resident of Virginia. The August 6, 2007 newspaper goes on to state,

“An Army veteran, No Pain has hiked the entire trail six times. Last year, he followed his Appalachian Trail hike with a 2,650 mile trek on the Pacific Coast trail. ‘I don’t know how I got into this,’ he said of hiking. ‘Maybe it’s 22 years of walking for Uncle Sam.’”

Have people hiked the trail more than once? Absolutely! Several have done it multiple times. I guess a better question to ask is “why?” or maybe “how do they find the time?” or “how can they afford it?” And I feel certain that the answers to all of these questions are as unique as the individual hiker.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Georgia, Hiking, Maine, Maryland, Mount Katahdin, Multiple Hikes, Pennsylvania, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Greatest Thru-hiker State

HikeItForward-Final-SmallIt makes sense that most of the thru-hikers would live close to the trail. The residents of fourteen states that “own” the trail and provide the path for this incredible adventure have greater opportunity to grow up with the culture and catch the fever of the thru-hiker.

After returning from my thru-hike I began to research the home state of the successful thru-hikers of the class of 2014. There were only two states in the top ten that came from locations not among the fourteen trail states: Florida which had the fourth highest number of thru-hikers in 2014 and Ohio which ranked number nine. Virginia was ranked one followed by North Carolina and the third spot was held by Pennsylvania. After Florida came Tennessee, Massachusetts, Georgia, and New York. Ohio was number nine followed by Maine.

I became curious if this was a normal distribution or if my class was unusual in some way. I jumped into a statistical adventure and pulled records from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for last 15 years (2000-2014). During the 21st century, the trail states have indeed dominated the top number of thru-hikers. The only states outside of the Big Fourteen to manage to break into the top ten are Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. Both Florida and Ohio have been in the top ten fourteen out of the fifteen years. Michigan reached the elite states only three out of the fifteen years researched.

The trail state of Maryland hit the top ten list 4 times in 15 years, New Jersey was ranked in the top ten twice, New Hampshire appeared once as did Connecticut. So over the last fifteen years what state has provided the most successful thru-hikers?

North Carolina 1Number one is North Carolina with 650 recorded successful thru-hikes.

Number two is Virginia with 641 completions (only 9 hikers behind).

Three is Pennsylvania sending 613 hikers all the way.

Fourth place goes to Georgia with 602.

The fifth spot is held down by the Gators of Florida with 508 (quite a gap between fourth and fifth spot)

Number six, with 495 thru-hikers goes to Massachusetts.

Ranked number seven is New York represented with 485 hikers.

The eighth spot is the state of Ohio with 419 completed hikes.

Tennessee came in number nine sending 414 hikers that traveled all 14 states.

And the tenth spot goes to Maine with 359 victorious journeys.

As I reflected over these numbers, I found my mind going to the population of each state and the number of potential hikers living there. For example, Virginia has 8.326 million people and sent 641 hikers, while Massachusetts had 495 thru-hikers but only boasts 6.745 million in population. So I did a quick “percentage of thru-hikers by state population” and found some interesting insights. Maine (ranked number 10 in actual hikers) sent 0.027% of their population (that’s 27 out of every 100,000 people) while North Carolina, ranked number 1, was represented by only 0.007% of its population, or 7 out of every 100,000 people. Looking at this statistic, the top ten appears quite different. The number in parentheses is the number of hikers per every 100,000 people.

1. Maine (27)

2.  Virginia (8)

3. Massachusetts (7)

4. North Carolina (7)

5. Tennessee (6)

6. Georgia (6)

7. Pennsylvania (5)

8. Ohio (4)

9. Florida (2.5)

10. New York (2)

Maine 1My respect for the hikers from Maine increased dramatically as I realized the percentage of pilgrims from Maine was over three times higher than any other state and ten times higher than either Florida or New York. Maine not only contains Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus, the climactic climb of the NOBO experience, but also some of the most active hikers in the country. Hats off to the Pine Tree State!

North Carolina Photo:

Maine Photo:


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Popular Trail Names

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI enjoy trail names and the practice of adopting a new name on the trail adds to the culture and the adventure of the journey. Within the cloak of mystery and sometimes the mask of humor, the trail name makes introductions interesting and hikers easier to remember. Because we are all outside our normal circle of influence, our jobs and bank balances; the type of car we drive and size home we live in; our past successes and failure are relatively unimportant and are not the initial topics of conversations. The playing field is pretty flat and your background can be as hidden as you desire. For most hikers I met along my thru-hike, I knew their trail name and maybe their home state and how far they were headed that day. Then there were a few that became friends and deeper insights and information were shared as relationships developed and plans to stay in touch after the hike became real.

Well, there are duplicate names to be found on the trail. I met several rabbits, a few turtles, and two tiggers on my journey. So what are the common names on the Appalachian Trail? I reviewed the data on the self-reported successful thru-hikers during the past 15 years I have discovered the most popular trail names of this century. Of the 9, 760 thru-hikers from 2000 to 2014, 170 individuals did not have a trail name at all (just under 2% of the thru-hikers).

In order to make the top 20 list, the alias had to be used more than eight times. So let’s take a look at the top 20 and see the names that surfaced the most along the AT.

There were four trail names that were used nine times by thru-hikers: PATCHES, RABBIT, SPOON and TUMBLEWEED. Of these four, I was a little surprised by Tumbleweed. Then I remembered that hikers come from all over the US and the world, so I figured that some of the western hikers picked a common picture of the footloose, blown-by-the-wind traveler. Wrong! Those with this trail name came from North Carolina (2), Massachusetts (2), Missouri, New Hampshire, Michigan, West Virginia, and Florida. Maybe they took regular tumbles and were blown off the trail by a gust of wind.

moses 1Six names were used ten times by thru-hikers: MOSES, ROCKY, SPARKY, TIMBER, TURTLE, and WALKABOUT. Each time a name is given or selected there is a unique back-story connected to it. Unfortunately, we are unable to know those stories. Is Moses selected because of the Biblical leader of the nation of Israel, the receiver of the Law from God, Himself, a famous bearded man, or the phrase, “Slow as Moses” as he wandered in the wilderness for 40 years? The rate of speed and yet the dogged determination could be behind the name of Turtle (via Aesop’s Tortoise and the Hare). Rocky could be a play on Rocky Balboa and the Rocks of Pennsylvania.

Five names have been utilized eleven times this century: BLUE, JAYBIRD, PROFESSOR, STRIDER, sunshineand SUNSHINE. I love the name Sunshine because it is probably assigned to those optimistic people that add light and faith to the trail. I also like the trail name Strider and wonder how many are using the walking concept of the Stride along with the Lord of the Rings character, Aragorn, called Strider in the Fellowship of the Rings. The cast of the LOR were hidden all over the trail: I met Frodo, Hobbit, Gandalf and Bilbo on my trek.

And now for the Top Five Trail Names:

Number Five With 12 Hikers – TINMAN (we are off to see the Emerald City)

Number Four With 13 Uses – SHERPA  (honoring those who carry huge loads on Mt.Everest)

Number Three also with 13  – DOC (maybe a profession or just the guy/gal with the band aides)

Number Two embraced by 14 hikers is the trail name – STRETCH (possibly a daily routine before starting the hike)

And the Number One trail name used in the past 15 years along the Appalachian Trail carried by 15 successful thru-hikers – MOOSE! (I came to the conclusion that you have a better chance of meeting a hiker named “Moose” than you do of actually seeing the animal in the woods)

P.S. In the past 15 years there have only been two hikers named “Rowdy,” and both of us hiked in 2014 – go figure.


Moses Photo:

Sunshine Photo:

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Celebrity Status

HikeItForward-Final-MediumThere are lots of records in the history books of the Appalachian Trail – fastest assisted thru-hike, fastest unassisted thru-hike, oldest and youngest thru-hiker, first woman, first man, first repeat thru-hike, most thru-hikes by one individual, and the fastest thru-hike by an administrator at Dayton Christian School System.

But one record that doesn’t see much press is the prestige of hikers from a particular state. For example, there are only five successful thru-hikes recorded this century by individuals from Wyoming. If you lived in that state, you would be one out of every 116,830 residents to have your 2,000 miler certificate. Although there have been 19 hikers from Nevada that have hiked from GA to ME their ratio to state’s population is even more significant: 1 out of every 149,321 Nevadans have made the journey. Other states with less than 20 thru-hikers in the 21st century are: South Dakota (11), North Dakota (11), Hawaii (12), Nebraska (13), and Idaho (19).

Those are pretty impressive numbers and all deserve recognition and applause, but international hikers are superstars in this area. The one hiker from Barbados is 1 in 284,644; the solo thru-hiker from the Bahamas is 1 in 377,374; the lone Swede, Jonas Dahlstrum is better than one in a million (check out his 2011 video  He is 1 in 9.593 million! But wait…. the one Hungarian thru-hiker is 1 in 9.897 million. But it doesn’t stop there. There are single participants from Chile – 1 in 17.62 million; Romania – 1 in 19.96 million; Taiwan – 1 in 23.46 million.



But that is not the top! Second place highlights a single thru-hiker from South Korea named Yoon Eun Jung, trail name: Mt. Love – 1 out of 50.22 million.

And the most significant international spot goes to a solo hiker, a Catholic priest from the Philippines: Nestor Isagni P Aviuante (trail name Parypinoy) who is 1 in 98.39 million.


Photo of Parypinoy o

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Eugene M. Espy: Thru-hike in 1951

HikeItForward-Final-MediumIn 1951 a twenty-four year old young man named Gene Espy successfully completed the second known thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Gene came from Cordele, Georgia and in these early years the trail was untested but shouting for hikers to conquer its challenges rugged terrain. The demand of human endurance and the unknown adventures awaiting those early and brave hikers were unanswered questions yet to be explored.

Gene Espy was no ordinary young man. He was an Eagle Scout, In fact he was the first Eagle Scout from his hometown of Cordele. At age 16, he hopped on a bicycle and rode 740 miles through three states. He also navigated a homemade sailboat along a 125-mile stretch of the Ocmulgee River.

Gene Espy.Museum

Museum Display of Gene Espy

Prior to his hike, he had graduated from Georgia Tech University. According to Ed Grisamore in an article written for the Macon Telegraph, Gene hitchhiked from Georgia Tech to St. Louis and back in just two days, “…. just to prove it could be done. Wearing a coat and tie, he thumbed a late-night ride with a sleepy trucker carrying a load of dynamite. On the trip home, he slept on a window ledge of a closed service station in Blytheville, Ark. He spent only $2.35 on the entire trip and was back in time for classes Monday morning.”

His dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail came from a teacher. His seventh-grade teacher discussed it in class and the adventure was born. He took a week in 1945 to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains and his goal to thru-hike was sealed. He began his AT trek May 31, 1951, a month after his 24th birthday. The only person who knew of his plans was his girlfriend, Eugenia. Gene later married Eugenia and as noted in an article written in 2011 they had celebrated 57 years together. He didn’t tell his parents about the hike because his mom was quite a worrier. He carried a backpack weighing in at about 45 pounds and a carried a walking stick he had carved as a 12-year-old Boy Scout.

Espy began his journey at Mount Oglethorpe in north Georgia and completed the 123-day-trek at the northern terminus at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Gene averaged 16.5 miles each day, lost 28 pounds, killed 15 rattlesnakes and wore out three pairs of boots.

During my 2014 thru-hike, I was able to visit the Appalachian Trail museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania. At the museum, there is a bust and a photo of Espy, along with an exhibit featuring his hiking boots, socks, lantern, shirt and some gear from 63 years ago. My hat is off to this pioneer and adventurer.

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John Laming – First European to Hike the Appalachian Trail

HikeItForward-Final-MediumAccording to the Bangor Daily News, on Sunday, September 16, 1973, six thru-hikers arrived at the summit of Mount Katahdin. Robert Bell from St. Louis; John Silva from Cranston, Rhode Island; Daniel Welch from Kansas City, Kansas; Michael DiNuzio and Frederick Elliot from Binghamton, NY; and the first man outside of the United States to complete a thru-hike, John Laming from Hertford, England.

The White Mountain, NH

The White Mountain, NH

Robert Bell and John Laming both began in Georgia just a few days apart but did not connect until they reached New Hampshire and the challenges of the White Mountains. Once they began to hike together they teamed up all the way to the brown sign atop the finish line in Maine. In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, John shared that the Presidential Range in the Whites was the most interesting and inspiring of the entire journey. He paid a high respect for the wilderness of Maine and pointed to the fording of the Kennebec River as the most hazardous undertaking of the fourteen-state trek. At the time of John’s hike there was no ferry ride across this dangerous river and the ford was treacherous when the water was high.


Laming on the Right

Although growing up in rainy England, Laming shared that he had never experienced as much rain as he did on his walk along the Appalachian Trail. In addition to the early rains along the path, he was also impressed (and maybe even depressed) with the summer heat waves. By the time they reached the mountains of Maine he thoroughly enjoyed the cool fall temperatures. When asked about his most pleasant memories of his thru-hike, John recounted the incredible sunsets and listening to the loons on the ponds in New England.
John Laming was only nineteen years old in 1973 during his Appalachian Trail adventure in the US. He returned to England with plans to enroll in an agricultural college with the goal of becoming a national park warden. In the picture, copied from the Bangor News article, Robert Bell is on the left and the young blond Laming is on the right. This invasion from the other side of the ocean was successful for the blue-blood from the UK.,1758058&hl=en

Categories: Appalachian Trail, England, Georgia, John Laming, Kennebec River, Maine, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inchworm Update


In October of 2013, I posted a blog about a lost hiker, Gerry Largay. The 66-year-old woman from Brentwood, Tennessee was an experienced hiker, who went by the trail name, “Inchworm.” Gerry came up missing in July of 2013 while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine close to Sugarloaf Mountain. On October 14an independent contractor doing a forestry survey found the remains of a human body along with some of Gerry’s belongings about 300 yards off the trail. The Medical Examiner’s Office began an investigation to identify the skeletal remains and attempt to determine the cause and manner of death. Foul play was not suspected. A few days ago, the Maine Warden Service announced the results of the state medical examiner’s inquiry, which also used DNA to confirm Largay’s identity. According to the autopsy Inchworm died of exposure and lack of food and water.

The body was found in a densely wooded area. Largay was discovered in Redington Township, approximately 3,000 feet off the trail in an area within the boundaries of a US Navy survival school. Because of the location, the clothing and other belongings found at the scene, authorities were very confident that the woman is Gerry Largay.

Largay Inchworm“Inchworm” was a retired nurse and had already hiked 1,000 miles of the AT. She and a close friend, Jane Lee, had begun their hike together in Harpers Ferry, WV in April. A family crisis had required Lee to leave the trail in New Hampshire, but Inchworm was determined to continue alone. The warden service in Maine launched one of the most extensive searches in its history, but was unable to find her. Three canine teams had combed the area nearby and it is believed that some search crews had come as close as 100 yards to the site.

Gerry set out on July 22, 2013, from Poplar Lean-to, with plans to meet her husband at a trailhead about 22 miles away the following day. It appears that she wandered off the trail approximately two and a half miles north of the shelter in an area used by the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School. The area is clearly marked as Navy property and public access is prohibited. However, because of the location of her remains, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent worked alongside the warden service on the investigation.


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Gerry Largay, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Inchworm, Maine, Trail Name, West Virginia | 8 Comments

Killington Peak, Vermont

Gov Clement Shelter 1

Gov. Clement Shelter

You would think that after hiking the Appalachian Trail for one hundred and ten days there would be some sort of wisdom or maturity to be found within the trail experience. For some that may be true, but for me I still can’t quite believe my decision making blunders in Vermont. I had started my day at mile marker 1672 of the AT (at Greenwall Shelter) with a goal of hiking about nineteen miles to the top of Killington Mountain and Cooper Lodge Shelter. The day started well as I climbed over Bear Mountain (without seeing a bear) and down into Clarendon Gorge and across the suspension bridge at the bottom.

Climbing out of the gorge, the rain began to fall and by 2:00 I was drenched. I arrived at Governor Clement Shelter about 4:00 and had a decision to make. Get out of the rain, dry off, get some dinner and call it a day… or truck on and push through the rain to Cooper. Governor C. Shelter was a small shelter, designed to sleep six while Cooper promised a dozen spots. Cooper was 4.3 miles beyond Governor involving a 1,950 foot climb up to Killington Peak.

Gov Clement Shelter 2

Inside Gov. Clement Shelter

When I arrived at Governor Clement Shelter, I found four other hikers spread out and trying to dry out their wet clothes. It was only 4:00, there were three good hours of daylight left, and I was already mostly wet. I took one look at the dark accommodations and decided to hike on. Within 100 yards north of the shelter, the heavens opened up with a down pour of liquid weather. The rain began to pelt the ground and the wind picked up, bending the sheets of precipitation right in my face. The cold rain whipped by the gusts of wind began to chill my shirt and pants.

I wasn’t doing too badly. I reminded myself of my motto, No Adversity…No Adventure. But then I heard the thunder and saw my first flash of lightning. I wondered if Davy Crockett was dumb enough to climb to the top of a mountain in a thunder storm? Then, I remembered the name of the peak that I was straining toward – Killing-ton Peak. What an appropriate place to be the end of my career as a thru-hiker wanna-be.

In addition to the windy and cold conditions and the ominous sounds of thunder, the elevation became steep and rooty and slick. I found myself becoming clumsy, even more than usual. I felt fatigued, more than I thought I should. I even became sleepy. When I started to shiver and my teeth began to chatter, I thought I might be in trouble. I knew hypothermia had interesting symptoms like this, but I kept moving trying to keep focused on the trail. I continued to laugh at my missteps and increased my prayers for safety as I suffered the consequences of my decision at the foot of the mountain.

Cooper Lodge 2

Cooper Lodge Shelter

When I finally arrived at Cooper, the shelter has packed. The hut was fantastic in that it had four walls (with large open windows on one side) and a haven against the driving storm of the trail. Fifteen of us shared the cabin and I was the last to arrive. I was not welcomed with high fives, but the thru-hiker philosophy of “there’s always room for one more” was embraced by the occupants.

Those who had arrived before me had covered all the windows to keep out the steady wind-whipped rain and they kept the door closed to maintain some warmth in the shelter so it was fairly dark inside. Wet clothes were hanging up on communal makeshift clotheslines and I knew mine needed to join the laundry as soon as possible. Getting out of my cold rain-soaked outfit and into my sleeping clothes and warm sleeping bag was the first and only order of business. I totally skipped dinner that night in preference for warmth and a good night’s sleep. The last climb of the day provided enough adventure for the day…and the week…, but I was safe and sound and warm.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Cooper Lodge Shelter, Gov. Clement Shelter, Killington Peak, Shelter, Thru-Hike, Trail, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bismarck Follow-up


A few months ago I shared a blog post about a hiker that I had met in New Hampshire whose trail name was Bismarck. Bismarck was a friendly hiker with a big smile and outgoing personality. To my surprise a national news story broke several months after I had completed my hike and returned to Ohio. Bismarck was not from North Dakota but a resident of Milwaukee.

His real name was James T. Hammes and he had been on the run from the FBI for six years. He was wanted by authorities on suspicion of embezzlement … to the tune of $8 million dollars from a Cincinnati-based Pepsi bottler. A fellow thru-hiker recognized Bismarck as Hammes on a rerun of the TV show American Greed.  Bismarck was arrested in Virginia in May during the annual Trail Days Festival held in the small community of Damascus.

BismarckJames Hammes, 53, pleaded guilty in court to a wire fraud count and agreed to pay back money embezzled in an $8.7 million case. By pleading guilty to the embezzlement the authorities agreed to drop 74 other counts of wire fraud and money laundering against him. Under this agreement Hammes will explain what happened to the millions diverted from his employer in an operation that may have begun17 years ago.

After asking Hammes a series of questions, U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott accepted his guilty plea.  She asked him if he was pleading guilty because he is, “in fact, guilty.” James T Hammons replied, “Yes, I am,” Dlott said she would sentence him only after reviewing results of a presentencing investigation which could take several months. The judge warned Hammes that the court could still impose the maximum sentence of twenty years, despite his deal with the government. He said he understood.

James-Hammes-Courtesy-of-CNBC-300x220According to a ABC news story, “Hammes’ hair was long, but his beard was trimmed neatly Friday when he was led into the courtroom, hands and legs shackled and wearing an orange-and-white jail jumpsuit. He told Dlott during questioning that he was taking medication for depression.”

The AT certainly lends itself to disappearing. With a new trail name, a huge bushy beard, new traveling companions all the time, and constantly being on the move, true identity can be repressed for a long time. On the other hand trying to enjoy $8 million while living in a tent and eating trail food is not the best of plans.  I will keep my ears to the ground and my eyes peeled for the final decision of the judge.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bismarck, Damascus, Hiking, James Hammes, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Ida Sainsbury – First Canadian to Hike the Appalachian Trail

Ida in Background, Mary up front

Ida in Background, Mary up front

Ida Sainsbury from Toronto, Canada was the first woman outside of the United States to complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  It was a section hike that bridged four years. Ida traveled to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania in May of 1970 to attend a weekend convention of the Appalachian Trail Conference. On the last day of the conference, she met Mary Years of Newark, New York, who had been looking for a hiking partner for three years. The match seemed to be ordained. They began the journey as perfect strangers but soon became life-time friends.

Although Ida had minimal backpacking experience, she and her husband were long time mountain climbers belonging to the Bruce Trail Club of Canada. The two ladies, both in their 50s, began their adventure the hard way. The tackled their first leg of the journey by hiking 300 miles through Maine. The thirty-day trek involved some of the most difficult terrain of the entire trail. They entered the trail with 37 pound packs and lots of enthusiasm. Despite a struggle with a serious water shortage, the women successfully completed their first exposure to the AT.

A four day adventure over Easter, 1971, allowed Mary and Ida to hike through Maryland and West Virginia. In August of 1971, they completed phase two of the plan covering 430 miles in five weeks beginning in New Hampshire and trekking south through Connecticut. 1972 brought the third phase taking on New York and moving southward once again through the rocks of Pennsylvania. Mary and Ida kept a regimen on the trail. Their typical day began a dawn with the goal of stepping onto the trail by 7 am. They hoped to hike 10-15 miles per day and make camp around 4:30.


Bruce Trail in Canada

Before completing the final phase of the AT, Ida was selected to lead a hike on the Bruce Trail in her homeland. According to The Canadian Champion, on January 17, 1973, she was to lead the Moonlight to Midnight hike from Crawford Lake to Rattlesnake Point. Returning to America, Ida and Mary completed their trek in 1973.

Ida returned to Toronto having conquered the White Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains of America. She served for 20 years with the Canadian Cancer Society but managed to walk the Bruce Trail at least three times. In 1984, at age 70, Ida climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The Ottawa Citizen in 1986 tipped their hats to this amazing woman of the trail that challenged the myths and stereotypes on aging. Ida was part of a learning series on aging called The Best Years, which aired on TVOntario in 1986.,4692482&hl=en

Photo of Mary Years and Ida Sainsbury (Mary foreground, Ida background)  The Geneva Times 1971

Map and more info regarding the Bruce trail found at

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bruce Trail, Canada, Connecticut, GSMNP, Ida Sainsbury, Mary Years, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, The Whites, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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