Appalachian hiker is 65 " but quite alive |

Appalachian hiker is 65 " but quite alive

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Not many people would choose to take a 2,176-mile hike to celebrate their 65th birthday, but that’s what longtime Aspenite Mary Lynn Munro is doing.

Munro, whose birthday was Jan. 24, is leaving home on St. Patrick’s Day to embark on her journey, and doesn’t expect to come back to Colorado until some time in October.

Over the intervening six-plus months, she will be hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia to the northern end at Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.

The trail, which is part of the U.S. National Parks system, follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains through 14 states. The lowest elevation along the route is 124 feet above sea level, and the highest is at 6,625 feet above sea level. It has been estimated that it takes about 5 million strides to walk the entire length of the trail.

Along the way, she said, she will be joined periodically by friends and by two of her children. Plus her husband ” Sandy Munro of Great Divide Music Store fame ” will hook up with her twice along the trail and at the end.

Munro, a musician and artist with a background in bookkeeping and other talents, has been an avid hiker and backpacker in her 40-plus years in the Roaring Fork Valley, and long has been known by her trail name, “Ravon.”

She said the idea for hiking the “A.T.” ” as it is known among aficionados ” came to her as she was casting about for something significant to do for her special birthday.

“About a year ago, I thought, ‘I’m turning 65. What can I do to celebrate it?’ And this just came to mind,” she said.

She has been training for the effort for a year or so, and is eagerly anticipating the sojourn.

She admitted, however, that when she tells friends about the trip, the most common response is whether she is at all afraid of being alone for vast stretches of time in the wild.

“You know, I’m really not,” she said. “You don’t want to go with that attitude. I’m not going in fear. I’ve read enough about the trail networking system. … People look after each other.”

Plus, she noted, she hardly will be alone.

For one thing, the trail is maintained by more than 30 different clubs and volunteer organizations, and “each year, thousands of people maintain, patrol and monitor the footpath and its surrounding lands,” according to the official Appalachian Trail website.

Then there are the hundreds of hikers who strike out along the trail every summer, whether they are “thru hikers” determined to walk for the entire length, or day hikers aiming to complete a certain section. Munro said there might be 2,000 hikers or so who use the trail every summer, and of those who head out to do the entire thing, “they say it’s lucky if 10 to 15 percent actually finish.

“You hike with a community, kind of,” she continued, “and there is an amazing network of thru hikers ” that’s what I am.” In addition, there are “trail angels” who leave stashes of munchies or soft drinks along the trail, and there is a monitoring system of “trail runners” who regularly jog the trail to make sure no one is in trouble or in need of assistance.

And, as mentioned, she will be joined periodically by family and friends.

Still, she conceded, “There are places where there’s not much” in the way of human contact.

She plans to carry about five pounds of food at a time, at the most, and has arranged for food drops along her route, sometimes at a country post office or inn located close to the trail.

And she plans to take a “no mileage day” every so often, to give herself a break and see some of the local color in the form of small towns and villages along the way.

But for the most part, she will be hiking up to 13 miles a day (that’s on a big day ” normally the count of miles will be lower), over terrain that will range from flat and easy to hilly, rocky and rugged. It is not, she emphasized, just a walk in the park.

“They have not made it easy,” she noted. “There’s places where you literally are going through a boulder field, with boulders the size of cars, houses. And it’s not only physical, it’s mental. Just being out there all the time, outside 24-7, enduring everything mother nature’s going to throw at you.”

She is taking a mid-sized backpack that holds roughly 35 pounds of gear and supplies, with a lightweight but sturdy Henry Shires tarptent, backcountry ski poles for balance and support, and a pair of Crocs for fording streams.

“They’re like the new Tevas,” she explained, only lighter yet providing a bit more support.

“I’ve heard this described as the poor man’s extreme sport,” Munro joked. “Think about it ” six months, no telephone, no nothing … all you’re doing is taking care of yourself.”

As for her husband, who will be on his own while she is hiking, she said he’ll do fine, and the two will be in regular contact ” “he’ll be my support.

“He’s going to learn how to cook, for one thing,” she added with a smile, and how to take care of the household’s cats.

Readers can learn more about the trail at the website, and follow Munro’s progress on the Web at on the Internet.


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