By CECIL PERGRAM
Darrell and Alicia Brimberry
On February 24 Powell County native Alicia Brimberry started hiking the Appalachian Trail the longest hiking-only trail in the world and takes almost six months to complete.
The Appalachian Trail was first conceived by a forester named Benton MacKaye in 1921. MacKaye’s idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work study camps for city-dwellers. His dreams came true when the Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937.
The trail is managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The Appalachian Trail is approximately 2,190 miles long and runs through 14 states including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is also commonly called the Appalachian Trail and is a continuous footpath extending from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Brimberry will be accompanied on the trial by her husband Darrell Brimberry who recently retired from the United States Army after 36 years of service.
Alicia Brimberry is the daughter of Tom and Billie Caudill of Cat Creek and she is a graduate of Powell County High School Class of 1984.
The Brimberry’s have spent the past two years preparing for the hike by researching websites to find the best gear and equipment, reading books and journals of others hikers experiences on the trail and getting their bodies into condition to make the hike.
“This has been a dream of mine for almost 30 years before I went into the Army,” Darrell Brimberry said. “Alicia and I always loved hiking together we went on a backpacking trip 10 or 12 years ago and ever since then she’s she been wanting to do it.”
Darrell Brimberry said that the biggest part of preparing for the hike has been focusing on getting themselves conditioned for the hike.
“I was in the Army so I ran quite a lot but in the last two years I’ve only ran 10-20 miles a week and Alicia would walk around 30-40 miles a week,” Darrell Brimberry said. “A lot of that was just four or six miles here and there around the neighborhood but we always tried to get out to the mountains once a week or every other week to do a hike. Honestly, everything that I’ve read says that you really can’t prepare for it and you just kind of get in shape on the trail as long as you don’t overdue it early on because one thing we haven’t done yet is put consecutive days of backpacking together.”
The Brimberry;s say that they plan to start their hike by keeping their mileage down to make sure their ligaments, muscles are in good shape first by only hiking 8-10 miles a day and bumming up the pace from there.
The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions travels through towns, roads and farms. The trail is marked with 2×6 inch white blazes, painted at close intervals, on trees, boulders, and posts.
The terrain is often rugged, with steep ascents and descents. The cumulative elevation gain of the Appalachian Trail is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times.
“There is a big mental aspect to this. It is hard to do anything for six months and when you got all types of weather conditions and different terrain it can be rough,” Darrell Brimberry said.
“It’s just funny when you hear other people saying I wish that I had done that and we’re actually going to get to do it so we feel very blessed,” Alicia Brimberry said.
“We have had a lot of support that you can see on our guestbook some of them are our friends and others are strangers who are reaching out to us and want to help us out along the way,” Darrell Brimberry said.
“Hopefully we are just a good example to our kids and family to live out your dreams,” Alicia Brimberry said.
“Alicia and I have this motto in our marriage of anywhere together and I think the fact that we are doing together but most people are individuals doing it and I think just being able to share the experience together is going to very special to me,” Darrell Brimberry said. “I’ve always visualized myself on Mount Katahdin raising my arms in the air but to see Alicia do that will mean a lot to me because I know it’s a huge undertaking for her she’s done a lot of things and is very fit but this will be a big experience for her.”
It is estimated that more than two million people set foot on the trail each year.
The nearly 3,000 individuals who attempt to hike the entire trail in a single season are referred to as “thru-hikers” like the Brimberry’s.
It is said that less than one out of every four hikers that set out to thru-hike the trail complete their goal but Darrell Brimberry says that he’s not concerned about failing his goal.
“Every journal and book I’ve read says that the trail transforms people and we’re just looking towards letting that happen for us, we’re Christians so were also wanting to get some glimpses of God out there and to just be able to marvel at his creation and just kind of let it be a spiritual thing for us as well,” Darrell Brimberry said. “I think if we can just get out there and get this thing going were going to figure out because were not quitters and barring injury or tragic event we will be out there and see this through until the end.”