Sandra and Larry Tyler (trail names RoadRunner and Will) make their home in Arizona but decided to travel to Georgia and attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail during 2016. Will has recently retired from the medical field and Road Runner works as an ultrasound technician. They have one grandson, William, and one Black Lab, Jedi.
The couple is not new to the long distance hiking adventure. They have been involved in long trail experiences since 2005. The hiked the John Muir Trail in 2005, The PCT in 2006 and 2013, The Arizona Trail in 2011, the Colorado Trail in 2012 and the Great Divide Trail in 2015. As they contemplated the AT in 2016, they were only able to commit to a four month window to accomplish it, from March 1 to July 1. This is a very aggressive agenda, but Team Tyler had the experience to understand the mileage needed and the physical ability to hike long distances.
I was rather surprised and disappointed for this Arizonan couple to see them pull off the trail at the 2,000 mile point just 190 miles short of Katahdin. It was day 112 of their adventure, June 18, 2016. Looking back over their journal, it was evident that RoadRunner had a rough go of it from the beginning. She broke out with poison ivy, contracted cellulitis, experienced a pulled calf muscle, took multiple falls, and on day 96 fell directly on her right knee. Despite a hefty pain killer and a regular dose of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), her constant leg pain brought serious limping and discouraging progress.
RoadRunner and Will stopped in Rangely, Maine, on June 14 to buy some new shoes for Sandra. The new shoes were a big help but RoadRunner was still moving at half speed and it became evident that the couple was not able to make it to Katahdin before their deadline. Their last journal entry was written from Stratton, Maine. RoadRunner pens these sad words describing their decision to end their attempted thru-hike:
“When Will woke up I had to break the news. You can imagine I was weeping as I did so. To be within 190 miles of finishing and then to have to abruptly end your hike is agonizing. We tried to think of ways that he could continue and finish. We were out of spare days. The chipmunks cheeks were empty so we couldn’t just lay low and see if the knee would get better. If he went forward and I couldn’t hike, that left me hanging out at Shaws for somewhere for like 9 days which he was not willing to do…. He was a bit shell shocked by my announcement, and then a bit down. But he rallied and took care of getting our flights home and researching getting us to the airport. ”
Team Tyler are great veteran hikers with a ton of determination and grit. Maybe another season will permit a return trip to the east and a completion of the 200 miles left in Maine.
Photo on Saddleback Mountain: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1040124
Photo in woods: http://www.alexperkinsshoots.com/the-appalachian-trail-high-in-the-smokies/