I mentioned in the
last entry that one of the greatest joys this
journal has brought us is new friends. Two who have become close are Eric and
Lynn Rathbun, who live in a small town in Maine.
Eric first wrote to us about six weeks after we finished our Appalachian Trail
Adventure Run in 2005. He had been searching the internet for information about
AT hikes and stumbled on our website. He had already hiked a number of miles of
the Trail in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine when he realized
he could probably finish the entire 2,175 miles during vacations from work over
the next five to seven years.
Lynn and Eric on the AT in the Virginia Highlands (5-6-07)
Because of chronic back problems, Eric had no intention of back-packing the
entire AT. When he saw the way I ran and hiked the trail with Jim's crewing
assistance, sleeping in our camper each night and trekking the Trail by day, he
knew he'd found kindred spirits and the inspiration he needed to begin his
quest. Lynn was equally enthusiastic about Eric's goal, and volunteered to crew
him until he reached his goal.
Since then we have had frequent contact with each other. Eric is a "habitual
hiker," getting out into the woods and mountains in northern New England nearly
every weekend of the year. He loves hiking in the winter as much as in warm
weather and has gained many friends in the process. In addition to his quest to
finish the entire Appalachian Trail, he has added other challenging goals such
as hiking the high point in as many states as possible, hiking all the peaks
over 4,000 feet in New England, and hiking each of the 48 peaks over 4,000 feet
in the White Mountains of New Hampshire each month for a year ("The Grid:
48 X 12").
Eric on the AT near Mt. Rogers in Virginia (5-6-07)
Two years ago Eric bravely joined Jim and me in his first footrace of any
length, the Capon Valley 50K in West Virginia. He had just finished hiking
about 200 miles of the AT in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina and was on
his way back home with Lynn. I'm not sure if we first encouraged Eric to
run/hike the race or if he asked us if we thought he could do it. Either way,
we knew he was such a strong hiker that he could finish the race without
running a step.
Eric DID run some of the race, finished in a good time, had fun -- and decided
he liked hiking better than running! As addictive as ultras are, however, we
figured he'd eventually do another one. Although he's been very busy working on
several different hiking goals, he did (finally) sign up for a trail 50K near
his home this coming Memorial Weekend. We knew he'd be back.
Jim and Eric with one of the "wild" ponies in Grayson
Highlands State Park (5-6-07)
Eric is not only a fast and strong hiker, he is also a determined one. In only
three and a half years since he first contacted us, he has accomplished his
dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail a section at a time. Much of
northern New England he was able to hike on weekends or during one-week forays
from his home in Maine. He finished longer sections from Georgia to southern
New England on longer, two- and three-week vacations.
We enjoyed hosting Eric and Lynn at
our house several times when they were passing through Virginia on their way to
or from sections of the AT in the southern states. We also had the privilege of
hiking with him twice on the AT, near Roanoke and in the Virginia Highlands. The most recent visit we had with Eric and
Lynn was a couple of weeks ago.
Section-hiking has its advantages but it is also more difficult than a
thru-hike in some ways. It takes a lot of patience, time, and tenacity to
accomplish this goal over a period of several years. But Eric happily finished all 2,175 miles of the AT at
Springer Mountain, GA, the southern terminus of the Trail, on April 14, 2009 --
two or three years faster than he originally predicted.
As he quipped, he's been searching for that last white blaze for a long time!
And there it is:
'Way to go, Eric!!!!! Welcome to the "2,000-Miler Club."
Lynn deserves major congratulations, too. Crewing someone on any long trail is
tough work! Just ask Jim.
Eric has a great
website with well-written journal accounts of all of his AT hikes,
as well as many of the other trails he's hiked in New England and other areas.
His site is easy to navigate, full of interesting stories, humor, and beautiful
photos, and very inspiring. Check it out!
Next entry: Sue faces a new physical challenge
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil