By Jessica Spencer
Over rivers and through woods, from the top of Blood Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, hikers from all over the world come together to hike the Appalachian Trail. One of these hikers is one of Eastern’s own, retired professor Al Patrick. Patrick worked as the dean of the College of Business and Technology. In 1998, after 33 years at Eastern, Patrick retired and began hiking in 1999. Patrick spoke about his experiences on the trail at the EKU Retirees Association meeting at King Buffet on Thursday.
“My wife is very supportive of my hiking hobby,” said Patrick. “The only day she refuses to let me hike is June 22, which is Naked Hiking Day.”
Patrick said 1,500 to 2,000 people begin the hike, but only 15 percent finish. Of those, 25 percent are men and fifteen percent are women.
The trail is a 2,175-mile hike through pastures and swamps, wading through streams and over several mountains. The highest point of the trail is Clingmans Dome, a 6,643-foot mountain that stretches for 371 miles from Tennessee to North Carolina.
Patrick said that the average hiker finishes the trail in 5 or 6 months.
“Trails such as these require hikers to be physically fit in order to complete the trail,” Patrick said.
To train for the Appalachian Hike, Patrick said he went to Berea and hiked up Indian Fork Mountain.
“Hikers build a lot of muscle on this trail and usually burn 5,000 calories per day.” Patrick said. “I lost 14 pounds overall.” Patrick explained the dangerous conditions hikers are put in over the course of the trail. In many cases hikers are injured due to the conditions.
“Hikers only have the resources they carry with them in their back pack,” Patrick said “But hikers don’t want to have too much weight on their backs, so all a person really has are the necessities.”
Patrick said hikers usually carry a lot of tuna and mac and cheese as well as energy bars to keep them going through the day.
Other than food, hikers carry only a small tent or tarp to sleep under. Because of conditions like these, Patrick said hikers bring an abundance of vitamins, especially “Vitamin I”, IBU-Profin. “I think hikers take more IBU-Profin than any other group in the world.” Patrick said. At one point in the trail, Patrick said he fell, but it was not until two days later that he realized he had broken his hip. He was taken to the hospital, but he did not let it stop him from later finishing the trail.
In 2006, Patrick completed the trail. “The last part of the trail is the most difficult,” Patrick said. The trail ends at the highest point in Maine, Mount Katahdin, which is a five-mile hike up the side of the mountain. “It was really hard, but it was a great feeling to reach the top and finish the hike,” Patrick said.