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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Clint Galbraith holds a sign for the camera while walking the Appalachian Trail. He bought a disposable camera and had another hiker take the shot to send to his parents.

With caveman hair, a full bushy beard and weighing 50 pounds less than when he started, Clint Galbraith was all smiles as he talked about the walk of his life. On Aug. 23, after five and a half long, grueling months, the 28-year-old Brazil native had completed hiking the 2,160 mile Appalachian Trail.

The trail is a foot path that goes through 14 states, from Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Ga. It was designed, constructed and marked by volunteer hiking clubs joined together by the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC). The trail was officially completed Aug. 14, 1937.

One of Clint's college friends had hiked the trail and talked about it often.

"It sounded like a neat way to see America, get in shape and get in touch with nature," Clint said. He was visiting in Brazil with his parents, Ron and Floy Galbraith.

His friend's stories of the Appalachian Trail, kept returning to Clint. He had finished his schooling, had no romantic commitments and though unemployed, he had accumulated some savings so his finances were adequate for a while.

Fascinated with the idea of walking the trail, he thought this may be the only time he would have the desire, the resources and the freedom to attempt this journey.

He prepared for the trip as best as he could without having had any previous hiking or camping experience. His backpack weighed about 45 pounds when he started his quest on March 6.

He figured out quickly that he didn't need a lot of what he'd brought and eventually discarded 13 pounds of supplies. He got rid of his snake bite kit, a portion of the first aid kit and cell phone. He also decreased his clothing supplies and the amount of food and water he carried.

Clint started the walk by himself but met as many as eight other hikers at a time along the way.

In the beginning, he averaged 8-10 miles a day. Later, he would walk 20-25 miles a day. About half the time he slept in the one-man tent he carried. He frequently sought refuge in a trail shelter or lean-to with dirt floor available about every 10-12 miles. About 10 percent of his nights were spent in a hostel, a room in the home of one of the locals who lived within a mile of the trail. Usually no food was offered, just bed and bath for $5 to $10 a night. On rare occasions, Clint stayed in a hotel. The trail ran through some small towns with such accommodations. And the path crossed over highways where a walker could hitchhike to a town 5-10 miles away with hotels and grocery stores.

"You plan on carrying three to four days of food," Clint said.

A hiker needs to take food which is relatively light in weight, high in calories and nutrition and durable. Eggs will keep for three to four days on the trail. Block cheeses can last five days to a week.

Besides the cheese and eggs, Clint's favorites included peanut butter and burrito wraps used for sandwiches.

He cooked on a stove made from a pop can fueled with denatured alcohol.

Hiking usually began about an hour after sunrise.

"You hike until you can't hike anymore or when everyone agrees on a good place to stop, if you're with a group," Clint said.

Hikers follow white blazes. The 2-6-inch white markings are painted on trees in the woods and telephone poles in town or on whatever objects are available, about every 100 yards.

"My feet got lots of blisters," Clint said. "They swelled and turned red. I thought this would be a fun way to get in shape. But when you stress your body past reason, it gets angry at you. The first month your body is trying to figure out what you're doing to it. My feet hurt. I had shin splints and just ached somewhere all the time.

Tomorrow: Clint thinks about quitting.

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