Couple to Hike Appalachian Trail
Leaving from Georgia on Monday, planning to be in Maine by September.
For many, a hike means a walk through the woods, or even a day-long trek along trails. But Shawn McCarton and Karl Weiss give new meaning to hiking. The couple will be leaving on Monday morning to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ending at Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine. They expect that the 2,180 mile trip will take them approximately six months.
The couple discovered a common love of the outdoors when they met through friends almost three years ago.
“So much of what we do together is based on the outdoors—hiking, kayaking, snowboarding—that this trip just seemed like the next step,” said Jefferson High graduate McCarton. She has never hiked the entire trail before, while Weiss has done it once, in 2007.
“After I did it the first time, I just knew that this was something I wanted to do every five years of my life,” he said.
This trip will be special for Weiss as he will be spreading the ashes of his friend, Ken Johnsen, Jr., in every state along the way. Johnsen was a hiking friend of Weiss’ who died of cancer.
“We’re very honored that his parents are allowing us to do this,” Weiss said.
Both McCarton and Weiss have spent the past couple of years saving money for a six-month lack of work. Weiss, an engineer at Picatinny Arsenal, was able to take an unpaid leave of absence. McCarton had to leave her job at Canfield Scientific.
“Quitting work is a risk I’m willing to take, because this is the experience of a lifetime,” she said. “My boss was very understanding and told me that if there is a position open when I get back, I’ll have it.”
McCarton is also a personal trainer and fitness instructor. She teachs kickboxing at Oak Ridge Martial Arts, a job she can also return to when she finishes the trip.
The couple prepared for the trip by shipping their gear to Weiss’ friend in Georgia. McCarton’s cousin will drop the pair off at the trail, where their journey will begin.
Weiss explained that the best way to think of the trip is as a series of three-day hikes. They plan to cover about 10-12 miles per day, and they estimate reaching a town every three days. They will either hitchhike from the trail to the town, or count on one of the “trail angels,” people who live near or drive by the trail, to give them a lift into town.
“When we get to towns, we’ll restock our food supply, take showers and do laundry,” McCarton said.
On the other nights, however, they will camp on the trail, which has many lean-to shelters along the way. Trail etiquette, according to Weiss, dictates that hikers don’t camp within 100 feet of a road or water source, but other than that, anywhere on the trail is fair game. In fact, he said, they will try to stay away from shelters as often as possible.
“They can get mice infested, and the mice will chew through gear,” he said.
If all goes according to schedule, the couple plans to be in New Jersey in June around Father’s Day. Then they will take what’s termed a “zero day,” where they won’t hike but will instead visit with family and friends.
McCarton and Weiss plan to complete the trip on or about Sept. 15 and then get back to New Jersey, hopefully in time to visit McCarton’s new niece or nephew, who is expected around Sept. 23.
They will be keeping a blog throughout the trip. Jefferson Patch will be following their journey by reprinting their blog.