Veterans Find Peace While Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail

By: Cindy Ross

When long-distance hikers reach Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail, they are usually at a psychologically low point.

Because the elevation map in this area reads like a cruising trail with little or no elevation change, except for an occasional water gap break, the unsuspecting hiker expects to motor through the miles. But the Tuscarora sandstone rocks exposed on the long spiny Blue Mountain will trip up the test of hikers. The heat and humidity also soar in July, when most trail end-to-enders come through our fair state, and the denuded oak trees on the ridges, with the leaves eaten by gypsy moth larvae, provide little shade from the oppressive sun.

The halfway point of this 2,100-mile national scenic trail is in central Pennsylvania. One thousand miles is a nice chunk of trail to have on your boots, so quitting at this point can sound pretty darn attractive. This is the time when support and encouragement are most needed to conquer the Pennsylvania hump and continue the long push toward Mount Katahdin at the end of the line in Maine.

Rob Carmel takes in the experience of the journey while on top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Carl Steven Clendenning Jr. navigates a rocky portion of the trail. Steve and Adam Bautz take turns sharing stories while holding the “talking” stick. The Warrior Hike was possible because of the support of the veterans groups along the trail’s route, including the Wagner Good Post #216 in Hamburg.

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