Meet 74-Year Old “Drag’n Fly”: Oldest Female Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

Badass. There is no other way to describe a 74 year-old who thru hikes the Appalachian Trail. “For me the fun is in the camping and the camaraderie  at the camping areas,” the recent record-breaker said in her Trail Journal.

Nan “Drag’n Fly” Reisinger finished her hike on October 19, becoming the oldest woman to thru hike the AT. She now joins the fame of Grandma Gatewood,who was not only the first woman to finish a solo thru hike, but was 67 at the time. Drag’n Fly hails from Camp Hill, in Cumberland County PA. She finished her hike right near home, saving some miles after Katahdin so that she could complete her hike (!) – and then walk back to her house. Beginning on March 30, she and a friend, 67 year-old Carolyn “Freckles” Banjak started walking from Springer Mountain.

The power-duo called themselves Fire and Ice. Freckles (the red-head) was fire, while Drag’n Fly (white hair) picked up the ice. Drag’n Fly has started the AT three times – third time surely was the charm! “Drag’n Fly has been using her name for years. She thinks she is drag’n her feet, but trust me, she doesn’t,” Freckles writes of her friend.

(Drag'n Fly and Freckles at the summit, ℅ TrailJournals)

Drag’n Fly (left) and Freckles (right) at the summit, ℅ TrailJournals

Of course, it’s not a thru hike without a few fun mishaps. Early on in the hike, Freckles was awaiting a package with a rain jacket in it, as the set of rain gear she’d bought arrived with two pants, and no jacket. So, when they get to Neels Gap, a package is waiting. Then, as they note in their TrailJournal, “when Freckles opened the box she discovered had bought her another pair of rain pants. Now she had 3 pair of rain pants and no jacket. Maybe we can cut the crotch out of one of the pants and she could put her head thru the crotch and her arms in the leg openings.”

They also got some taste of thru hiker celebrity status, as Drag’n Fly wrote of a shop in Hanover, NH: “The manager also gave us each a free lemon bar because he was so impressed with what two old ladies could do. He also took our picture. We have had a lot of that.”

And the grand finale? Well, Drag’n Fly signed into Baxter State Park as #774. On October 4, they summited Big K. Their entry for that day reads:

Up at 5:00 a.m. to be on the trail by 6:15 for the climb and grand finale to our hike. It was misty in the morning and we had hoped it would burn off but that did not happen. As we climbed, we saw some patches of blue but the higher that we got, the worse the weather got. Anyway, we made it to the top dripping wet, blown to and fro by the wind, with no view. But, hooray, we did it!!!!!!!!!!!! The summit was crowded with people, some thru hikers, some groups from schools, and some just out for the day. The summit looked about the same as when I went up in 2010–gray and foggy. It was still a great feeling and Freckles and I felt very proud that we had finished. We are ready to head south in a car! We will have a stop in New Hampshire to finish a section that we skipped. We will then hike the final miles in PA with some friends ending up at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

On October 19, Fire and Ice gathered with friends and family to complete the last miles of the AT in Drag’n Fly’s home state. Rock on, ladies. Rock on.

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Comments 15

  • Dominick San Angelo : Nov 20th

    It is inspiring reading about people who do this hike. I really think they are something. One day hopefully I will be able to do this hike. It is certainly the number one thing in my bucket list.

    Reply
    • Nancu : Nov 21st

      I too will be walking as a first time through hiker. It’s been on my bucket list for years, however, being 60+ worries me. I WILL do this and make it!

      Reply
  • Lena Maddux : Nov 21st

    Awesome. I am a 70Something and was bitten by the AT Bug in 2014. I too wish to thru-hike and this posting just ups the ante! Congrats to Drag’n’fly, yahoooo!!!!!

    Reply
    • Mary Simotics : Aug 25th

      Lena, thats my grandmothers name, lol. I am 60 and wish to hike the appalacian trail. I am seeking a hiking partner for spring of 2017. Contact me if interested. [email protected]. I live in NC and so want to hike it even if it takes me forever, one step at a time.

      Reply
      • Michelle : Jan 18th

        Hi Mary
        Did u and Lena connect to do the AT? I am still trying to figure out a plan for 2018.
        Tx michelle

        Reply
  • Clair Dakota Underhill : Nov 22nd

    Proud of you, Drag n Fly & Freckles…. Thanx for being such outstanding examples of woman power!!!

    Reply
  • Megan Dale Segar : Dec 4th

    I am in my seventies and planning a thru hike. Been section hiking for awhile.
    Would love to talk to Dragn’fly. Anyone out there planning to thru hike? Get in touch with me.

    Reply
    • Deb S : Dec 12th

      Hi Megan, I’ just starting to plan my GA leg of the AT! I plan to do my one state at a time because of work schedules! Would like to get some ideas from you !

      Reply
  • Lunch : Dec 13th

    “camaraderie” is spelled correctly in the first paragraph of this article. There is no need for the [sic].

    Reply
  • Donna Saufley : Dec 24th

    According to Wikipedia, Grandma Gatewood completed her third AT thru-hike at 75. Really surprised no one noted this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Gatewood

    Reply
    • Kim : Sep 27th

      I just finished reading grandma gatewood and was thinking she was older on her last hike and was going to check. Her last hike however was in sections not a through hike.

      Reply
  • Leanne Martinez : Mar 3rd

    Nicely done ladies. Impressive & inspiring

    Reply

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