John Wigington is planning to take a long walk this summer. The 59-year-old Fairfield Glade resident is intent on fulfilling a boyhood ambition to walk the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. He plans to use the event to also help raise funds for Crossville’s House of Hope.
To prepare for the trek, Wigington is working out several days a week at the Cumberland Medical Center Wellness Complex at Fairfield Glade.
“I’m doing four days a week of aerobic training. I add weight training two of the days and also work in some serious stretching,” the ex-Air Force officer explained.
The part of his training that gets the most attention from other Fairfield Glade Wellness Complex members and staff is his 45-minute workout, five feet off the ground on a stepmill carrying a 35-to-40 pound backpack that simulates the weight he will carry on his trip along the Appalachian Trail.
A stepmill is a moving escalator that can reach 3.5 miles an hour. It is a fast-paced walk up stairs.
“I work up a pretty good sweat using it,” Wigington said.
He will need the stamina and strength the stepmill workout provides. The Appalachian Trail measures 2,181 miles along ridgelines and up and down mountains, some of which reach an altitude of more than 6,000 feet. He expects to take between five and six months to cover the distance, if he can average 15 miles a day. The timetable includes a stop to visit friends and relatives along the way.
Wigington’s wife, Susan, plans to meet him several times during the hike to bring additional food for the walk as well as replenishing other hiking necessities.
Before he leaves, Wigington will prepackage much of the food he will need. Some of it will be sent, along with additional clothing supplies, to post offices near the Trail.
“I expect to burn 3,500 to 4,000 calories per day. Some walkers on the Trail report losing 25 percent of their body weight during the trip,” he said. “I plan to have pre-packaged grains for breakfast, snacks along the way and noodles or mashed potatoes with prepackaged protein for main meals,” he explained. His backpack will include a small cook stove, eating utensils, change of clothes, soap, towels, shaving gear, a knife, a sleeping bag, but no tent. He plans to sleep in a covered hammock. “Good foot health is one of the most important requirements of the hike,” he said. Wigington is currently breaking in a second pair of hiking boots that his wife can send him, if needed.
The Appalachian Trail is a public footpath that begins at Springer Mountain in northeast Georgia. It is approximately 70 miles east of Chattanooga, Tennessee, near Amicalola Falls State. Along the way to Maine, it crisscrosses several Interstate highways and well-known rivers.
Conceived in 1921, it was completed in 1937. It will be 75 years old next year. Since it opened, approximately 12,000 persons have walked the Trail, nearly half since 2000. In recent years, the average has been between 500 and 600 per year.
“Being a Boy Scout and growing up in north Georgia, I thought about hiking the Trail many times,” Wigington said. “Now it will become a reality,” he said.
The Trail meanders through or near small towns in 14 states including Wesser and Hot Springs, North Carolina; Damascus, Crandon and Linden, Virginia; Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Boiling Springs, Port Clinton and Wind Gap, Pennsylvania; Unionville and Pawling, New York; Falls Village, Connecticut; Dalton and Cheshire, Massachusetts; and Hanover, New Hampshire, the home of Dartmouth College.
Trail walkers often stop in restaurants in these towns to get large cooked meals, Wigington says.
Wigington plans to start his trip on March 31. A group of Fairfield Glade hikers will travel to Georgia with him to see him off so he won’t be alone when he starts. Wigington and his wife are members of the Fairfield Glade Hiking Club and the Tennessee Trails Association.
“This time of year, more than 1,000 persons start the hike along the Trail, although only about 25 percent of that group will complete it,” Wigington explained. “I expect to have some companions at various times along the way.” Before Wigington begins, he is leading the effort to raise funds for Crossville’s House of Hope on Saturday, March 26. House of Hope is a temporary housing and immediate need facility for children whose circumstances require they be removed from their home.
Called “Hiking for House of Hope,” the event will include a two-mile-walk at the Cumberland Mountain State Park. Wigington has designed the walk to simulate a small portion of the Appalachian Trail hike.
What Wigington can’t simulate at the fund-raising walk, however, are the mountain peaks that dot the Appalachian Trail. The highest is Clingmans’s Dome east of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, at 6,643 feet in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Other peaks include Mt. Guyot in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6,621 feet and Roan High Knob on the Tennessee and North Carolina border which reaches 6,285 feet. From there, the route will be below 6,000 feet until he arrives at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire at 6,288 feet. The trek ends on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine at 5,267 feet. The trip’s physical challenge is why Wigington is training at the CMC Wellness Complex. He and his wife joined the facility within months of moving into Fairfield Glade.
“It’s as good as the military fitness facilities I used while in the Air Force,” he said.
A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wigington spent 27 years on active duty. After retiring, he spent the next seven years as an executive with a defense contracting firm in Huntsville, Alabama. He and his wife moved to Fairfield Glade about three and a half years ago. Besides hiking, he plays in two golf leagues a week. He walks the Fairfield Glade courses when he plays.
CAPTION: John Wigington trains with a 35-pound backpack on a stepmill at the Cumberland Medical Center Wellness Complex at Fairfield Glade four times a week to prepare for his hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Post a Response
You must be logged in to post a comment.