By Liz Nolan,Contributing Writer
Northborough – Northborough father and son George and Ian Brenckle started their trek on the Appalachian Trail May 24 at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Their sendoff team included a group of Boy Scouts from Northborough Troop 1 who hiked to the starting point with George, their Scoutmaster. After 177 days and hiking 2,189 miles, the father and son team arrived at Springer Mountain in Georgia Dec. 4.
Ian was 11 years old when he had the idea to hike the Appalachian Trail. In 2010, when hiking with Boy Scouts to Mount Katahdin, Ian and his father witnessed two hikers finishing the trail and the idea was revived.
Ian, now 23, graduated from college in May and George recently retired, so the timing was perfect as they both had the desire and the window of opportunity to make the journey.
George explained that most people hike the trail Northbound from Georgia to Maine. He and Ian decided on the southbound route to avoid northern weather in November.
Ian and George had different trip-planning philosophies. George was the planner and the list maker. He read everything about the trail he could and compiled a binder filled with all the information they would need. Ian was a bit more casual about planning. After a few days on
the trail, they both realized that the rigid plan didn’t work and flexibility was needed.
They averaged about 15 miles per day and between the two of them wore out five pairs of hiking shoes. Along the way they encountered obstacles that slowed them down. The terrain in Maine and New Hampshire was the toughest and weather presented issues as well. George sprained his ankle while on a stretch of trail in the north called the 100-Mile Wilderness. In September, they experienced a week of solid rain when hiking through Virginia due to Hurricane Joaquin.
“Even though every day was similar – you wake up, walk, and then sleep – every section had its own character and I enjoyed its own merits,” Ian said. “I learned to focus on the now and made sure to enjoy what was around at the moment.”
George agreed that it was important to enjoy things when they occurred.
“Maine and New Hampshire were the most challenging but the most rewarding,” he said. “The payoff was the views.”
After typical meals each day of Raman noodles, peanut butter, Spam, oatmeal and tuna, it’s not surprising that Ian was obsessed with wanting cheap Chinese food after a few weeks. In certain areas along the trail, they had access to towns and it was important for them to stock up on food high in calories.
“When you are burning 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day, it is hard to find foods with the calorie intake you need,” said Ian.
George lost 40 pounds during his journey and said he is back to his college weight and in the best shape ever.
The Brenckles were able to meet up with friends and family along the way. During these meetups they were able to swap seasonal clothing and pack other essentials. George admitted that once past Pennsylvania that was difficult to do.
There were days that would go by without seeing anyone else so it was easy to lose track of time and what day it was. It was a delight to find a hostel with a shower and bed.
“Having hot water was heaven,” George said.
One of their favorite towns was Monson, Maine.
“It is a wonderful town. They were welcoming, friendly and catered to us. We felt like a part of their community,” said George.
Another obstacle George faced when hiking through Virginia that surprised him was that he became very homesick and had a difficult period of missing his wife Linda.
The trip was a bonding experience for father and son. According to George’s blog, they had disagreements but they learned a lot from one another and were a source of encouragement and support when needed.
“I couldn’t have done this by myself,” George noted.
After arriving at Springer Mountain and meeting his wife, George and Ian flew to Florida to visit family and drove to Disney World, they said, because there were two mountains left – Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.
All the details about their adventure can be read on George’s blog at http://appalachiantrials.com/author/george-brenckle.