The Appalachian Trail was completed and became a continuous footpath in 1937. One year later, a 15-year-old Boy Scout from New Jersey, Lee Barry, took his first steps on the trail. He, along with other scouts, embarked on a 100-mile hike on the AT. Lee fashioned his own backpack from ash, hickory and old army web belts. He also made the troop’s waterproof tent from white muslin dipped alum and paraffin.
Sixty-six years later (2004), Barry, now living in Shelby, NC, returned for his last long hike on the Appalachian Trail. With shuttles provided by his wife, Lois, he started his thru-hike on Jan. 2 at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia. He would hike for three weeks and then return home for monthly church council meetings. He completed his hike on November 20 at the age of 81, then the oldest thru-hiker, based on the records kept by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Lee Barry’s trail name was “Easy One.” The late Earl Shaffer, the first person (1948) to make a thru-hike, completed his third and final thru-hike in 1998, finishing just before his 80th birthday. Easy One said he was unaware of the age record until partway through the trek.
Easy One (I could not find a photo of him anywhere) finished his first thru-hike in 1996 and completed the distance a second time – section by section from the late 1980s to 2000. Easy One spent much of his first four and half years of retirement climbing mountains and fording rivers on the AT.
Lee served in the Navy during World War II, then worked as an engineer in New York. He continued to hike and climb. He conquered the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1974, he moved to North Carolina to become the general manager of a local industrial plant. The Blue Ridge Mountains were nearby so he joined the Carolina Mountain Club in Asheville. He climbed the forty mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee that are 6,000 feet and higher,
In 2004, Easy One averaged 10 miles a day during his 220 day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, on Aug. 10th, while ending his flip-flop hike in Sugar Grove, Va, on November 20th.
Easy One only carried the essentials. He took no books, no radio, not even a cell phone. He ate typical trail food prepared with boiling water but he ate no snacks, no cookies, no Snickers (what a boring diet). He didn’t get sick and only suffered a sprain to his right wrist during his entire time on the trail.
What an amazing journey for a man his age. But there is always someone out there ready to break any record. Thirteen years after Easy One’s amazing hike, came Dale, Grey Beard, Sanders from Tennessee. His story is the subject of my next blog.