SHERMAN — A Proclaimers song states: “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more.”
Sherman resident Harold Reynolds decided to walk a little further than that.
From April 25, 2021 to July 15, 2021, Reynolds hiked 1,170 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to Baxter State Park in Maine. He was 59 when he started and celebrated his 60th birthday in hiking.
Reynolds said he was inspired to take the trip by two books he read, one as a teenager and the other as an adult. The first won the Newberry Award “My Side of the Mountain” which tells the story of a teenager who spent a winter alone on a mountain.
“These kinds of aspirations have stayed in my head all my life” said Reynolds.
The second book, “Blind Courage” is the autobiography of Bill Irwin, the first blind person to complete the entire Appalachian Trail in a single hike.
“I was captivated by this blind man who had hiked the Appalachian Trail”, said Reynolds.
Reynolds had planned to hike the trail at the age of 55 with his son, but that plan fell through. “At 58, I decided I was going to retire and hit the trail,” he said.
The trip, however, was delayed for another year by the pandemic.
“In 2020, I was ready to hit the trails” he said. “Then COVID came along and they were asking people to get off the track.”
Instead, Reynolds used a year to research and plan his trek. Timing was key, he said. Considerations included dealing with the Georgia mountain cold at the start of the hike, avoiding mud season in Vermont, as well as black fly season in Maine.
On a hike like this, he noted, it’s extremely important to plan what you’ll pack. “My big four were a backpack, a tent, a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag,” he said.
Beyond that, Reynolds said he took a cooking kit, a change of clothes, trail running shoes, woolen socks, shorts, t-shirt, hat, shirt moisture wicking long sleeves, thin pants, raincoat, puffy jacket. , a hat and woolen gloves. Additional equipment included trekking poles, an inflatable mattress and three to five days’ worth of food, a pot/stove combo and fuel canister, headlamp, first aid kit and simple personal hygiene items.
“All my gear weighed about 22 pounds,” he said. “So I was carrying about 32 pounds with food and water.”
Reynolds advises keeping the load light, but taking the things that will make the hike the most comfortable.
“The lighter the load you carry, the better off you are”, said Reynolds. “But make concessions – take things that will comfort you.”
In his research, Reynolds found that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy offered alternate hiking plans that would still be considered a complete hike. One is called a flip, when a hiker starts in the middle and continues in one direction until the end, then returns to the middle and continues in the opposite direction.
Reynolds said he plans to walk the northern half, then take some time off, then walk the southern half.
“If I started in April, I could start somewhere in the middle and avoid the mud in Vermont and the black flies in Maine,” he said.
Although Reynolds was delayed in the second half of his trip, the first half went extremely well, he said.
“The first half worked like a textbook for me. There were no heavy rains, it was very dry in Vermont and I only encountered a few black flies in Maine,” he said.
Reynolds’ journey took a total of 81 days. He hiked 68 of them and the rest were dead days to rest or wait out storms, he said. He averaged 17 miles a day, but some days he only rode 4-6 miles and other days he rode 25-27 miles.
“I figured if I walked 1,170 miles that was an average of 2,340,000 steps in 81 days or the equivalent of 45 marathons,” said Reynolds. “It was a lot of ups and downs.”
To complicate matters, Reynolds suffered from plantar fasciitis for the duration of his hike. Somewhere around Cannon, Pennsylvania, he developed shin splints.
“I wanted to stop on a daily basis” he said. “But there’s a saying, ‘Never give up on your hike on a good day, wait for a horrible day’, and there’s never been a horrible day.”
Of course, there were also small injuries. Reynolds said he fell several times and hit his head and experienced the usual hiking mishaps.
“Bent knees and sprained ankles don’t really count,” he said. “You just take Tylenol and soak your feet when you can.”
Other hikers encourage many to keep going, Reynolds said. He got a lot of support from a family of seven he met while waiting for a food truck.
“I didn’t leave them for 650 miles”, he said. “We would meet at night and make a plan for the next day. They knew I was struggling and said, “This is where we’re going to stop. Can you go there? After a while, the kids started introducing me as their adoptive grandfather.
Reynolds said he had actually heard of this family, the Trouts, from Tennessee, before he met them.
“People used to say, ‘Watch out for the trout – they’ll take up the whole lean-to shelter as there are seven of them'” he said.
He has stayed in touch with them since the hike and said he hopes when he finishes the second half of his hike that one or more of them can come and meet him at the end so he can meet them. see again.
Reynolds said there were very few nights he camped totally alone as there were usually other hikers in the tent sites or lean-to shelters, but the day was different.
“You would often be alone during the day and thoughts would arise,” he said. “Some days you were caught between laughing and crying. The euphoria was so great.
Reynolds ended his hike the same way he started: alone, as he scaled the summit of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine. At 5,269 feet, the summit of the mountain is a plateau more than a mile wide from which you can “see forever” said Reynolds.
“I was on my own and started laughing and crying. … The next two days were amazing. I felt on top of the world.
Reynolds offers simple advice to anyone considering embarking on such a hike: “Make a plan, do some research. Go for it, don’t give up, be brave and don’t worry about being alone. The community you will encounter is unlike any other you will ever find.