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64 Year Old Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Memories of beautiful views and scenery will always be with Adams County resident Ron Birt, who recently completed a 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. (Provided photo)
Memories of beautiful views and scenery will always be with Adams County resident Ron Birt, who recently completed a 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. (Provided photo)

WEST UNION, Ohio — Every year thousands of people hike the Appalachian Trail, but only a few hundred will complete the full length of the roughly 2,200 miles of trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Those who finish the entire trail in 12 months or less are called “thru-hikers”.

This year, Ron Birt from the West Union area was one of them.

Setting off from Springer Mountain on Feb. 24, Birt arrived at the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine five months and one week later on Aug. 1.

Weeks ahead of schedule, he became one of the approximately 19,000 people who have “thru-hiked” the trail since it was established in 1937.

64 Year Old Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Every year, more than two million people hike the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – one of the most famous and longest hiking trails in America. Referred to as the “Appalachian Trail” or the “AT”, the route is approximately 2,181 miles long – making it the longest continuously marked footpath in the world.

As it follows the Appalachian Mountain range, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Virginia boasts the most miles of trail – about 550 miles, while West Virginia claims the least with only four miles.

While maps are useful for trekking the AT, according to Birt, hikers can follow the trail simply by keeping an eye out for marks on trees and stones called “paint blazes”.

A former Bellefontaine police officer, 64-year-old Birt and his wife Denise moved to Adams County shortly after his retirement in 2013.

Looking for a challenge, he attempted to thru-hike the AT at that time, but was turned back when he developed a blister on his foot.

“I only made it half way,” he says. “But I learned from my mistakes and this time I knew how to prevent blisters so I was able to make it the whole way.”

To prepare himself physically for the trek, Birt trained on a treadmill and spent weeks packing a backpack on extended walks near his home.

“You can’t just jump up off the couch and start walking the AT,” he says. “As much training as I did, when I got out there, I decided to take it slow in the beginning, so I was able to increase my miles per day as the weeks went by.”

Starting out, Birt carried a 30-pound backpack filled with heavier winter supplies, a tent, a sleeping bag, cook stove, blow-up air pad for sleeping, one change of clothes, hiking poles, a water filter, and a four-day supply of food. When summer arrived, he lightened his load by sending his winter supplies home.

He never allowed the enormity of what he was attempting to discourage him.

“I didn’t think about that,” he says. “I took it one week at a time and always kept my goal simple – reach the next town.”

Trekking up and down unfamiliar mountainous territory isn’t without its dangers.

Hikers must be wary not only of the terrain, but also of the wildlife they’re likely to meet.

“I ran into four different bears, but they didn’t pay much attention to me. I saw rattlesnakes and copperheads, but they didn’t try to at strike me,” says Birt. “There was all kinds of wildlife, but I had no problems at all from that.”

The greatest danger Birt would face came not from animals, but from the weather. He awakened one morning in the Smokey Mountains to find himself buried under a heavy blanket of snow.

“I woke up in my tent, and it was completely dark. I thought it was night time, but in fact, it was daylight,” he says. “I dug myself out and hiked to the nearest cross roads through thigh-high snow until I got to New Found Gap where I called to have a shuttle come pick me up, but it was so bad, the roads were closed, nobody could get in or out.”

Birt, another “thru-hiker”, and a family of eight who were also hiking the trail, were forced to find shelter for the night.

“There was a heated restroom at the Gap which was unlocked, so we took refuge there and the next day, I tried to walk into Gatlinburg,” he said. “I got about six miles down the road then a snow plow picked me up and took me the rest of the way in.”

While most people who hike the AT start out alone, they don’t remain by themselves for long. During his trek, Birt met a young couple from Alabama.

“I began hiking up with them, and we ended up summitting together, even though they started after I did.”

All hikers on the AT earn unique trail names – Birt’s was Buckeye, and his two companions were called Pickles and Blueberry.

He says the hike is somewhat easier when it’s shared with others.

“You look out for one another, even though you don’t necessarily hike together,” he says. “It’s like a trail family. At the end of the day, it’s not unusual for 10-15 hikers to stop at the same spot. Some sleeping in shelters, some sleeping in tents, but you’re all in the same area because you try to camp together where there’s water spots.”

Passing through the southern states hikers come across multiple towns where they can rest and refresh their supplies.

However, in the northern states, the towns appear less frequently.

“Once you get into new Hampshire and Maine, the towns become more sparse,” says Birt. “You have to travel a lot further before you can resupply.”

Especially trying is the “100-Mile Wilderness” section of the trail which runs through the state of Maine.

Birt and his companions could only carry enough to last through half the trek.

“We had to make arrangements for the remainder of the trail,” he says. “When we got half way, we had a hostel drop off food to re-supply us for the second half.”

A group known as the Trail Angels also look out for the hikers. Along the trail they leave supplies for hikers known as “Trail Magic”.

“Sometimes they’ll even set up a tent and cook hamburgers and hotdogs to feed the hikers,” says Birt.“ They’re really a great bunch of people.”

Birt says his most awe-inspiring moment along the trail came when he reached the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he climbed the AT’s highest point at Mount Washington, elevation 6,000 feet plus.

“It was magnificent,” he says. “Once I got on the ridges above the tree line, I just sat and spent a couple hours enjoying the view.”

Birt says the best things he took away from his AT experience were a sense of accomplishment and the friendships he formed along the way.

“The last four or five days on the trail you’re anticipating that’s it’s coming to an end, and part of you wants to get it done because you’ve been away from home for five months,” he says. “On the other hand, I was sorry to say goodbye to the young couple I was hiking with. It was bittersweet, but I was glad to be going home.”
64-year old former police officer walks 2,000 miles in five months

Patricia Beech  [source]

Champion Media

Maine Governor to allow road signs pointing out national monument

PORTLAND, Maine — Road signs directing motorists to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument are going to be installed — eventually — now that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has relented in his opposition to the signs on Interstate 95 and state roads leading to the Mount Katahdin region.

The Maine Department of Transportation will allow signs to be manufactured and installed now that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended keeping the monument and a renewed request has been submitted by the superintendent for the federal land, the governor’s office said.

“This is fantastic news. This is what I’ve been waiting to hear,” Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land, said Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the signs would be installed, however.

The Maine DOT is still sorting out placement, size and costs, and there’s no timetable for erecting the signs, Ted Talbot, Maine DOT spokesman, said Tuesday.

The request made by Katahdin Woods and Waters Superintendent Tim Hudson, first reported by Maine Public, seeks six signs on Interstate 95 and 11 additional signs on major state roads.

The largest of the signs is roughly 8-by-22 feet and typically cost between $10,000 and $15,000, he said Tuesday.

The wooded wilderness includes a 17-mile loop road with stunning views of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, along with trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling, and paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.

But motorists would be hard-pressed to find it without a map. There are no official signs, and a homemade sign was removed by state officials.

St. Clair said he’s heard from many people who’ve inquired about which exit to take on I-95 or reported that they got lost.

Last year, the LePage administration balked at the signs pending completion of a review by the Trump administration. But Zinke has since visited the land, described it as “beautiful country” and recommended no changes to the 87,500-acre (137-square-mile) property.

Supporters of the federal land managed by the National Park Service said the lack of signs hurt the ability to draw visitors to the economically troubled Katahdin region.

Katahdin Woods and Waters was visited by at least 15,000 people in its first year, and the number doubles when snowmobiles are added to the mix.

*photo – FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2017, file photo, motorists travel on Rte. 11 south of Patten, Maine, near the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Road signs directing motorists to the national monument are going to be installed now that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has relented in his opposition to the signs on Interstate 95 and state roads leading to the Mount Katahdin region. The Maine Department of Transportation will allow signs to be manufactured and installed now that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended keeping the monument and a renewed request has been submitted by the superintendent for the federal land, the governor’s office said. Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Our Latest Cover Photo – Maine Snowmobiling

Here is a photo of Mount Katahdin in the background as two snowmobilers pass.  It was a crystal clear day and very cold.  Perfect for taking this great shot!  Thanks to Rick LeVasseur from 5 Lakes Lodge for the great photo and Maine-Snowmobiling.com for showing it to the world!  Oh, and thanks for letting us share it, too!

Parkway Scenic Loop Trail
Parkway Scenic Loop Trail

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DjD - Keith Dionne, DJ in East Millinocket, Maine
DjD – Keith Dionne, DJ in East Millinocket, Maine

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DjD - Keith Dionne, DJ in East Millinocket, Maine
DjD – Keith Dionne, DJ in East Millinocket, Maine