Hiking the Appalachian Trail
October 18, 2000
Moderator: Davinder Khanna
months to the day he left Springer Mountain, Georgia, Perry McKay completed
his quest to hike the Appalachian Trail. On Thursday, October 5 at
12:00 noon he reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin, Maine, the
northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
More on Perry's Quest
HOST TRAVEL Park: We are pleased to welcome you to our chat series "Parks & People Live." Tonight's chat is on "Hiking the Appalachian Trail." Our guest speaker,
Perry McKay, has just completed his quest to hike the 2,160-mile Trail (From Georgia to Maine). Perry will share with us his 7-month experience of being on the Trail.
Special thanks to Paul Pritchard for introducing Perry McKay to us. Mr. Pritchard is the president of the National Park Trust and was the first executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conference, which builds and maintains Appalachian National Trail which is part of the National Park System.
Before we begin, I would like to thank Susan Hawley, Judi Ritchie, and Carol Dean-Porter (HOST TRAVEL Jump) for their assistance in tonight's chat.
Susan Hawley is typing for Perry.
So, let us welcome our guest, and begin our session.
Perry McKay, thanks for being our guest tonight and sharing your experience and knowledge of our Appalachian Trail.
Mazter OF Pupetz: WHAT WERE SOME OF THE ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU
TOOK WITH YOU?
PERRY: Food, water, and shelter. A tarp for shelter and to lay on.
PritchardP: PERRY, EVERY ONE WANTS TO HIKE THE AT. WHO SHOULD
TAKE IT ON?
PERRY: Very determined people. It does not matter what shape you are in as long as you have determination.
PritchardP: WHAT WAS THE CONDITION OF THE TRAIL?l
PERRY: Rocky with a lot of exposed roots.
Mazter OF Pupetz: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO COMPLETE YOUR
PERRY: Seven months to the Day - March 5 to October 5.
Mazter OF Pupetz: WOW!
PERRY: I stretched it out for the fall colors. it was originally planned for 5-6 months.
JRitc41846: WHAT WAS THE SINGLE MOST EXPERIENCE THAT YOU ENCOUNTERED THAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND?
PERRY: The summit of Mt. Katahdin. But...there were so many it is hard to pick just one.
NPTWRO: HOW DOES SOMEONE PROVE TO OTHERS THAT THEY HAVE HIKED
THE ENTIRE TRAIL?
PERRY: A good question.
They have register at all the shelters but they are not really official they are left by the hikers. When they get full they are supposed to be sent to b e replace but at Katahdin they did give me a sheet to prove
that I was a 2,000 miler.
PritchardP: MANY HIKERS SAY THEY FOUND IT WAS THE SOUL OF THE TRAIL
(I.E., THE PEOPLE, THE EXPERIENCE) THAT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HIKE, WHAT DO YOU THINK
PERRY: The trail is considers to be the most social trail of all trails. but, having time to reflect on your life and having solitude is
just as important.
Parkslands: ON YOUR JOURNEY, DID YOU PASS ANY AREAS WITH
PERRY: yes, let me think :)
Pennsylvania - the gypsy moth made the forest look like it was the middle of winter yet is was only June. The leaves would crunch as I walked over them.
NPTWRO: IN THE EVENT OF AN ACCIDENT OR INJURY, HOW WERE YOU
PREPARED TO SEEK HELP?
PERRY: I carried a whistle and I planned on using what clothes I had to make bandages or splints because I did not have a first aid kit. My
minor is college was emergency medical services and I am an EMT.
PritchardP: DID THE TRAIL CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
PERRY: Sure it did - I know now that I can only do the best I can and the rest will take care of itself which happened
a lot on the trail.
There is something called trail magic that I experienced many times. Examples are: People along the road with coolers of fruit and water. Folks would leave coolers in the woods for hikers that were full of food and water. Always
lots of water.
THERE LOTS OF PEOPLE ON THE TRAIL OR ONLY A FEW?
PERRY: It started out in GA with a lot of people a lot of full shelters. I had to camp outside. As time went on I would show up to a shelter and there would be less and less people. Many who started to hike the AT realized in beginning that it wasn't just a weekend hike :-)
Towards the end there were only a few and I knew most of them as we had been hiking the trail about the same time.
HOST TRAVEL Park: HOW MANY INDIVIDUALS HAVE COMPLETED THE TRAIL SO FAR IF THERE IS A RECORD KEPT? DO YOU KNOW THE NAME OF THE FIRST PERSON? AND, WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE THIS JOURNEY?
PERRY: There have been about 4,000 who have complete the trail -0 I guess.
The first person top hike the trail was Earl Shaffer in 1938. I was inspired to take this journey because I was searching for my personal legend. Katahdin was a milestone because life is a journey not a destination.
JRitc41846: WAS THE TRAIL YOU HIKED PRIMARILY ALONG THE
PRESCRIBED TRAIL OR DID YOU GO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK ON SOME OCCASIONS?
PERRY: The AT is marked by white slashes on trees and rocks. They relocate the trail year to year so it does not take such a toll on
the environment. The trail I hiked was not necessarily the same trail that Earl Shaffer hiked.
PritchardP: DID YOU RUN INTO ANY PROBLEMS WITH PRIVATE OWNERS OF
PERRY: I did not blue blaze. I was a purist. I crossed a lot of farmland but did not encounter problems. I did hear a rumor that some land got bought from local owners who had hung fish hooks from line about eye level to discourage hiking
on their land. The land is now open for all hikes to enjoy.
Parkslands: WHAT WERE THE MOST NOTABLE INTRUSIONS FROM
"CIVILIZATION" ON THE TRAIL?
PERRY: Think you are secluded in the woods and you suddenly
hear a car go by 50 yards away. In the New England I heard the big logging trucks racing down the dirt
Slidetaker: I ASKED SOMEONE WHO HIKED THE TRAIL, WHICH WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL. HE SAID MAINE, AGREE?
PERRY: Most definitely. Maine has beautiful lakes with sandy beaches that I camped out on as many as I could. The views breathtaking every day.
PMring1: DOES THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE TAKE CARE OF ALL THE
TRAIL OR IS IT LEFT TO THE STATES?
PERRY: The trail is maintained by volunteers and organized clubs. There are 32 clubs that take of the trail It is a national park. four feet wide by 21,60 miles but individual clubs maintain it and manage it. Some areas are well managed and some are not.
Like in NJ and NY. Where I picked about 5 ticks off per day because I had to bush wack my way through the
PritchardP: DID YOU HIKE WITH THE SAME FOLKS MOST OF THE TIME
PERRY: Off and on - due to different mail drops and others schedules we seemed to part ways and then come across one another from time to time. I couldn't believe it was such a
small world on the trail.
PritchardP: WHY WAS IT A SMALL WORLD
PERRY: I kept running into the same people - three guys in particular - who I ended up
summiting Mt. Katahdin with. Frito from Texas, Hoagie Dreamer from PA and Bean from Maine.
HOST TRAVEL Park: DOES EVERY THRU HIKER WHO ATTEMPTED ALWAYS
STARTS FROM GEORGIA AND GOES TO MAINE?
PERRY: Most do but some people do what is called flip-flopping
HOST TRAVEL Park: ANY PARTICULAR REASON?
PERRY: they hike one way for awhile then flip and hike the other way to avoid weather They do not have to face the elements of hot summer or cold winter. There are also section hikers who hike different sections of the trail at
different times over a period of time then they add them all together and consider themselves a thru hiker.
Slidetaker: I WAS ON THE TRAIL, HARRIMAN ST PK, NY, JUST AFTER A BLIND MAN WHO HIKED THE TRAIL PASSED THROUGH. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
PERRY: This was just a couple of years ago
PERRY: The mans name was Bill and his dogs name was Oreo. Yes it possible with a good dog and a lot of faith. They called it "Blind Faith" There is a poster of these two hiking the trail. The AT Conference Center has them.
NPTWRO: DO YOU PLAN TO HIKE THE TRAIL AGAIN SOMEDAY OR MAY BE
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL?
PERRY: The Pacific Crest Trail will be the next. I have already discussed it with Frito, Hoagie and Bean They are up for it and so am I. Maybe in the
2-5 years. But first I would like to finish the long trail from VT to
Canada which the AT connects to.
JRitc41846: AND CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY "BLUE BLAZE" THAT YOU REFERRED TO
A WHILE BACK?
PERRY: Blue Blazing is a side trail that will take you around a mountain where the AT goes over it. Many hikers do this to cut miles off the hike.
HOST TRAVEL Park: MR. PRITCHARD, WOULD YOU BE CONSIDERED SECTION HIKER OR FLIP-FLOPPING?
PritchardP: I AM A SECTION HIKER. PERRY IS 6'5" HE HIKES FASTER THAN ME.
PERRY: I only carried a AT data book and the AT companion where I only followed the White blaze -because I knew it would lead me to Mt.
Paul - I am 6'6" <jk>.
Yes I have a big stride - I was about to get the trail name of Stride Rite but opted for "Buck"
PritchardP: YOU ARE 8% FASTER THAN ME.
NPTWRO: LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU DO THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL AND I
WILL JOIN YOU THROUGH OREGON!
PERRY: Is that the John Muir Trail? I will let you know when I get out that way :-)
PERRY: I hear the John Muir Trail is the most beautiful part of the
Pacific Trail and you should be prepared to carry 17 pounds of water because of the distance between water sources.
HOST TRAVEL Park: Well friends, the scheduled time with our guest is coming to an end. We will take the last one or two more questions now.
Parkslands: THERE IS A PROPOSAL TO ESTABLISH A MAINE NORTH
WOODS NATIONAL PARK. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
PERRY: I think it would be a wonderful idea because there are a lot of logging areas in Maine where I was more logging truck than I have ever seen in my life. Maine is
one of those places where everywhere you look - except the logging areas- is beauty and this should not be taken away future generations.
JRitc41846: HOW MANY MILES DID YOU HIKE IN A DAYS TIME?
PERRY: IN the beginning I was hiking up to 20 miles per day and I even did 32 miles in one day - That was the most I ever did but
-- when I cam to my senses and appreciated the trail for what it was I did 10 - 12 miles per day and even as low as 2 on
some days near the end I was trying to make the hike last as long as possible so I slowed down to enjoy the beauty of the New England Fall colors.
HOST TRAVEL Park: PERRY, WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? GOING FOR ANOTHER HIKE OR UP FOR ANY CAREER?
PERRY: I am thinking about becoming a high school teacher my 12th grade
government teacher really touched my life and I hope to give back what she
gave to me to others She always told me to believe in myself and gave me courage and taught me to believe in myself I hope to be able to teach/give that to others. I want to give back what has given so much to me. Education and Athletics.
PritchardP: WHAT CAN FOLKS DO TO PROTECT THE TRAIL FOR OTHERS TO HIKE.
PERRY: Join you local AT club to help maintain the trail. Get involved on a local or national level I helped raise awareness for all national parks by hiking for the National Park Trust and talking to people along the trail about the Trust and what they do.
If all people get involved - the world and our parks would be a much better place :-)
Slidetaker: HOW COULD YOU TELL WHERE YOU WERE EACH DAY?
PERRY: The AT Data book told me where water was and the shelters and trail had markers that show when you cross from one state to another. Shelters all have names that are listed in the data book so I had a good idea where I was on any given day.
HOST TRAVEL Park: Our sincere thanks to Perry McKay for taking the time to join us tonight. Good luck with your future endeavors! Hope we will have another opportunity to interact online.
My thanks also go to Susan Hawley for her assistance in making tonight's chat possible.
PritchardP: PERRY, YOU ARE A REAL INSPIRATION. THANKS FOR SHARING WITH US.
HOST TRAVEL Park: Last but not least, we thank every one in the audience for
Remember, the Keyword on AOL is PARKS.
PERRY: Thank you everyone
HOST TRAVEL Jump: Thank you Perry!
HOST TRAVEL Park: Visit the web site for more information....www.parktrust.org
PHorstrans: That was great Information, thank you
HOST TRAVEL Park: Good night, every one!