It was May 13th, 2003, my wife, Connie and I were hiking to Mount LeConte in the Smokey Mountains where we ran across a thru hiker on the A.T. portion of the trail. I was aware of the Appalachian Trail that it ran across the Smokies, but I was not aware that it was continuous from Georgia to Maine, or that hikers spent months of theirs lives hiking it. We never exchanged names with this A.T. thru hiker, but we did inquire about his hike. It was apparent he was different, extreme.
Everything about him was extreme. He looked rough, disheveled, content with his massive pack. Most intriguing was his pilgrimage from Georgia on his way to Maine. I wasn’t sure how far Maine was as he told us of his plans, I knew it was way up there. Hiking in the Smokies for years, I was very aware of the weather difficulties any prolonged hike would present. And that we had bad weather just a few days before, which he had to have experienced. My admiration for him was growing by the moment as the discussion focused on the beauty of the Trail. He had planted a seed.
After spending a few nights on Mount LeConte, I started my research on the Appalachian Trail. The more I studied, the more the dream grew. My 2001 edition of “Hiking Trails of the Smokies”, stated that the A.T. was 2143 miles, of which 71.4 was in the Smokies. My dream of one day hiking the A.T. was implanted. While obligations, and responsibilities were apparent, the dream was there.
As the years wore on, Connie and I continued to Hike the Smokies; Alums Cave, Rainbow Falls, Ramsay Cascades, Abrams Falls, Chimney Tops. We were fortunate to be able to spend weeks at a time in the Smokies hiking and enjoying all that natures gives us. But I didn’t have months to spend. However, the dream never wavered. Every hike brought the dream back to life, …..one day.
Almost 18 years after that meeting on the A.T. the dream is about to become a reality. Gear acquired, Section hike taken, arrangements made I am ready. My name is Orville Story III, and I plan to share my journey. Hopefully, I will be planting a seed for others like the 2003 thru hiker did for me.
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Good Luck. It’s taken a long time for you to get here but remember: “Last one to Katahdin wins”. Take your time, stay present in the moment, and relish the journey.
I’ll look for more updates as you start! I have done a number of section hikes since October and plan to do a flip flop in 2022, when I will be 61. When you get up to Northern VA and MD I can help with resupply and shuttles!
Nice to meet you, Orville! I hope our paths cross this season. I’ll be out there too. Happy trails – Kelly