Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Hiker Charles Rohrbacher stands atop Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, it is the highest peak along the Appalachian Trail.

Three pairs of boots, nine years and 2,175 miles later, Charles Rohrbacher did it; he finally finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hiking segments on the trail during six summers, Rohrbacher finally stood atop Mount Katahdin in Maine on July 14 this year and claimed victory. "I had enjoyed hiking during my 19 years with the Boy Scouts and what inspired me to finish the trail was when a former student, Ryan Schmit, completed it in 2006," Rohrbacher said. Rohrbacher, who is a High School business teacher, only had time to hike during some summers when he first started his odyssey in 1998 from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Hot Springs, N.C. The idea for a national hiking trail was first conceived in 1921 and was finally completed in 1938 with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Appalachian Trail stretches through 14 states, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Rohrbacher hit the trail again during the summers of 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Averaging approximately 10-15 miles a day, he found the last 100 miles were the most remote, had difficult terrain and weather and it was harder to find a place to sleep. "There are shelters every 8-10 miles but some are small and primitive. I’d check my trail guide and if there was a town close, I’d hitchhike and find a laundry, groceries, and place to shower and sleep," he said. Obviously not able to pack food for three weeks in an already stuffed 30-to-40-pound backpack, Rohrbacher also relied on family and friends who mailed food packages for him to post offices along his hiking route. And then there were the "trail angels," local friendly residents who would bring trail hikers cookies and other goodies to brighten their day. Rohrbacher saw quite a bit of history during his hike; Harper’s Ferry, a 300-year-old stone monument to George Washington, the site where Audie Murphy’s plane crashed, the nation’s largest tree in girth and Dartmouth College where the trail goes right through the campus. He also saw his fair share of deer, moose and bears but didn’t have encounters with any. "In the Smokey Mountains they have chain-link fencing around the shelters so the bears can’t get in," he explained. Rohrbacher said the north portion of the Trail through New Hampshire and Maine is the most arduous. "There are warnings of the dangers for inexperienced hikers. There are also some rivers that have to be crossed and a marker at one place requires hikers to be ferried across by canoe," he explained. On a lighter note he mentioned a remote restaurant on an island that could only be reached by boat. "There is an air horn on the dock and when you sound it, they send a boat to pick you up. Some people complained about the food prices but it was good and it was the only place to eat for miles," he laughed. After finally achieving his hiking goal, would he do it again? Rohrbacher simply said, "I’m glad I did it and I would do it again."

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