An Epic Ending to Our Long Journey

We finished at Springer Mountain on Nov. 11 at 10:15 p.m. after hiking 30 miles in 15 hours. We wanted to end big and we did!  We started our journey on May 20, summiting Katahdin on Aug. 27, then flying back to Harpers Ferry, WV, to finish south. The flip-flop was the best decision we made. We had amazing weather, for the most part. We did run into issues with Hurricane Florence in the Shenandoahs, but to be honest, we only hiked about 15 days or so in the rain. That’s amazing!

So Many Memories

We met so many amazing people on the trail who will be in our lives forever because of the impact they made on our lives.  I cannot begin to thank them enough and do not want to start listing names because I would definitely leave someone out. It has been exciting for us to see as they post photos on their final summit whether it was at Katahdin or Springer. We did see some have to get off trail for various reasons and we’ve supported those decisions because we know how hard it is to have to leave a lifelong dream. Nigel and I were very blessed with good health; although he did have to have two ingrown toenails cut out and he also battled a couple of colds. For me—I did have a trip to the emergency room because of a knee injury. I thought for sure I had torn a ligament in my knee, but thankfully I just broke some scar tissue loose. I had to leave the trail for a few days and take steroids, but was good to go after that.

Hiking Post-Bariatric Surgery

I had bariatric surgery two years ago and doing the thru-hike was a bit of a challenge because I had to eat 60-75 grams of protein every single day. I ate just about every two hours because I can only eat six to eight ounces at a time. I’m not sure if I’m the only thru-hiker who has hiked after having the sleeve procedure and losing right at 125 pounds, but I may be. That surgery did change my life and learning how to eat on the trail was something I learned dry early in the hike. I never felt tired or sluggish and had plenty of energy throughout the day. The weight loss really helped with my osteoarthritis in my lower back, hips, and knees.  As long as my pack weight stayed below 25 pounds I had no issues with the arthritis at all, but when I crept up over 30, my knees hurt some.

What’s Ahead

I thought so much about what was in the future for me and I will continue teaching, but my goal is to establish a nonprofit that will help women believe in themselves again. I want to help women realize that through hiking on the AT they are stronger both physically and mentally than they perceive themselves to be. That will be my focus after the first of the year; I want to give back and help as many struggling woman as I can reach. I know just how much hiking has helped me heal. I’m thinking of naming it Hike 2 Heal, but it’s not definite just yet.

Nigel will be going to look into a possible career in a karate school. He met a man who told him about his son’s schools and they talked for several hours around the fire and at the end of the conversation the man told him he was just the type of guy his son was looking for. So Nigel has been in contact with the owner and will go out the first of December to spend a week looking at the school to see if it’s something he’s interested in doing.

So Very Thankful

I am so very blessed to have a husband who was willing to shoulder the burden of running the house and continuing to work to pay the bills while I followed my dream. I cannot even begin to express just how thankful I am for him. My family also had to do without me, and while we no longer have children in the home, they do count on me to watch the grandchildren from time to time. My husband and I are leaving Thanksgiving Day for vacation. We are going to spend a few days in Miami and then seven nights on a cruise to the Caribbean. Again, I am so very loved by my husband and very thankful he’s in my life.

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Comments 9

  • Detail : Nov 20th


  • Laurie Potteiger : Nov 20th

    This is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Mike S : Nov 20th

    Bravo Zulu, on the hike. What is the common way into/out of Maine, to start or finish the trail?

    • Julie Wilson-Freeman : Nov 20th

      Most people, including us, just used the AT Hiker hostel in Millinocket. They drove us to a town (for the life of me I can’t remember the name but it’s in all the guide books) where we caught a bus to Portland, ME where we took a plane to Baltimore, MD and then you can either take the train back to Harpers Ferry or in our case, my husband drove out and got us.

  • Michele Jordan : Jun 17th

    This is very encouraging and inspiring. My husband has wanted to hike the APT for some time but due to my weight I never thought it was possible. I am 75 pounds down and not at goal yet but heading that way. I now believe that this hike is something that I can do. I was concerned about the dietary part but based on what you said it seems that this is doable. I intend to talk to my dietician so that I can plan and do it safely. Thank you for letting us know that all things are possible.

  • Samantha M : Feb 8th

    I am so glad that you were able to accomplish this post-bariatric surgery. Food intake is a major concern for me because I would read that people would stuff their face to load up on their calories and we can’t do that. You are the first person (that I know of) to have done this. Very cool.

  • Johanna : Aug 15th

    Hi, my boyfriend just had surgery and is terribly scared that he will never be able to do a thruhike. He has problems with drinking plain water. Did you have the same and how did you handle drinking on the trail?

  • Hanna : Aug 15th

    Hi, my boyfriend just had surgery and is terribly scared that he will never be able to do a thruhike. He has problems with drinking plain water. Did you have the same and how did you handle drinking on the trail?

  • Kelly J. : Jul 31st

    Congratulations on going all the way! My husband and I are contemplating the PCT in a few years. I had bariatric surgery nearly 20 years ago this far out I do have to diet occasionally after holidays and such but still can’t eat a lot at once. Thank you for coming forward and talking about that! I’d love to hear what your menu looked like. I can eat normal backpacking meals, like mountain house but theyre expensive and a constant diet of candy bars and the like won’t work with my insides. 😄


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