A 199-day journey

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Hess returns from 2,190 mile trek along Appalachian Trail

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From a goal six years in the making, Fredericksburg resident Lorrie Hess recently completed a 199-day journey of mastering 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

She began March 21 in Springer Mountain, Georgia and summited Mount Katahdin, Maine on Oct. 5.

“I am not sure why I wanted to accomplish this goal but once it got into my head, it just stayed and I decided I needed to do it,” Hess said. “Your first few months on the trail, that is all people ask you and most people had a significant reason why they were doing it, but for me, it was just a goal.”

 

Along for the long-haul

Walking along the Appalachian Trail for six or seven months (March 21-Oct. 5) is daunting and a challenge.

“There is this turning point about three months in that forces you to decide if this is something you really want to do,” she said.

One of the hardest challenges Hess faced was the weather, as the trail experienced record rainfall and cold temperatures.

“There were plenty of times when we were wet, muddy and just miserable, but we were reminded that it was going to get better and that we could do it,” she said.

 Hess said only one in four hikers on the trail are women and that only 20-25 percent of the people who start the trail finish the trail.

Each day is much the same, waking up with the sun, walking along the trail, trying to consume enough calories and crawling into a tent as the sun goes down.

She preselected her path and depending on weather, would hike all day or take many breaks.

She carried three to four days worth of food, consisting of high protein, high fats and foods with instant fuel like Snickers and dry sausage, dry fruits and trail mix.

“You aim for 3,000-5,000 calories a day but you can’t get all that,” Hess said. “I can tell you that I am very sick of protein bars and dehydrated meals.”

She is now enjoying plenty of Tex-Mex, fresh bakery items and no more instant coffee.

 

Kindness of strangers

Hess explained there was a certain culture that revolves around time spent on the Appalachian Trail.

All hikers are given a nickname that they are known by, Hess became known as Easy Bake, as she developed an easy way to bake muffins and oatmeal and other sweet treats using camping supplies.

She began her journey with Fredericksburger Karen Kuhlmann, but from the beginning knew they would be on different paces.

“This ended up being so much more about the people and a lot less about the trail itself,” Hess said.

She said unique parts of this community are the trail angels and trail magic.

Trail angels are specific people who do favors for hikers along their way.

Hess experienced the generosity of the trail angel when she and her partner “Wingman”, who is from the Michigan/Wisconsin border, were going to miss a shuttle to their shelter for the night and a man waited until they arrived at the trail head.

She also had the opportunity to go skydiving, eat dinner with complete strangers and spend time at churches that had missions geared toward people hiking on the trail.

Trail magic refers to people who leave ice chests of snacks and drinks for hikers to take as much as they want and go about their hike.

“Things that might prevent you from being friends off the trail — like politics or religion — wasn’t talked about,” Hess said. “It was all focused on the trail and the kindness of complete strangers.”

 

Life back home

Now that she has returned home, Hess is adjusting back to life in Fredericksburg.

She is eager to participate in community activities that she missed while gone, like the Stonewall Peach JAMboree and the Fourth of July Parade.

She also enjoys not having to worry about hitting her head on a tent when she wakes up and sitting in a chair with a back to eat a meal, rather than sitting on a rock.

She has even gone on her first hike since her return and may plan to do the Pacific Crest Trail in the future.

 

Cost --- $7,000

Miles --- 2,190

Days ---- 199

Shoes ---- 4 pairs

Tents---- 2