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SavageLlama
05-09-2004, 17:00
Interesting article on 2 hiker chics..


Two women again ready to take on Appalachian Trail


By KARA CHILDERS
April 28, 2004
The Kansas City Star (http://mail.yahoo.com/config/login?/_javascript:NewWindow( 'FIISrcDetails','?from=article&ids=kcst');void(0);)
"I work for my hiking habits. It's in my blood. I can't get it out of there."

-- Rebecca Brown of Roeland Park Trudging through snowstorms, showering every five days, surviving on power bars and rice Denise Cooper and Rebecca Brown can't get enough.

The two Roeland Park women laugh as they flip through pictures from their first attempt at the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail. After three months of hiking, 21 days of uninterrupted rain and 700 miles, they headed home.

"It's pretty grueling at times," Cooper said, telling a handful of traumatic tales.

"We've definitely had times where we've cried."

But even though the women groan when describing blistered feet and black bears, they smile and point to their already-packed bags, bulging with cooking utensils and clean socks.

They're going for it again.

On May 9, Cooper and Brown will begin where they left off last year mile marker 704 in Virginia with plans to finish the 1,400 miles left on the treacherous trail to Maine.

"We got addicted to it," said Brown, 27.

"It's pure addiction."

During the four-month journey, the women will sleep in tents, carry 30-pound backpacks and long for steak dinners. They'll also learn more about nature, make lifelong friends and raise money for Vital Ground, a nonprofit in Utah that buys land for grizzly bears.

"Environmental causes are so up our alley," said Cooper, 29.

Friends and family are pledging donations some based on how many miles they complete and all the money goes to the grizzly bears.

"It's really inspiring to us," Cooper said. "It gives our hike more meaning."

Finding meaning is what drew the women to the Appalachian Trail in the first place.

"We weren't happy with how our lives were going," Cooper said. "We weren't feeling fulfilled in our lives."

Cooper is a foot reflexologist and Brown is a registered nurse, but both are just jobs to the women. Hiking has become their passion.

"I work for my hiking habits," Brown said. "It's in my blood. I can't get it out of there."

Roger Cooper, a Roeland Park city councilman, said his daughter has always been adventurous. She picked up and moved to Alaska for six months to drive a tour bus, he explained.

Family camping and canoeing trips fueled her love of adventure, Cooper added.

Brown, too, has always been athletic and an avid fan of the outdoors.

Both would like to combine their love of hiking and the environment with a career, but for now they're content to save money half the year and hike the other half.

"I'm getting more an education on life out there," Brown said.

Besides learning to cook over an open fire and warding off hypothermia in freezing temperatures the women were stuck in two snowstorms last year they've also learned who they are and whom they hope to become.

"We're helping ourselves grow as people," Cooper said.

Brown added: "You don't worry about materialistic items. You worry about basic things. You have a whole new perspective."

The women feel empowered knowing they can survive on just the basics. But Brown tends to miss bacon. And both miss frequent showers and deodorant. Even a stick of deodorant can weigh down their already-heavy backpacks, they explained.

One thing they're packing this year, though, is a cell phone. Not to stay in touch with family and friends but to call ahead to the next town to make sure a restaurant is open and, they hope, serving meat.

"Food is a big, big motivator," Cooper said.

So is the scenery.

"It's not a race," Brown said. "You want to be out there to enjoy the environment and the people."

When the women finish the trail this fall, they hope to embark on a new adventure. Maybe moving to the mountains. Or taking on a new trail possibly the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Crest Trail.

Nothing too dangerous, though.

"We're not quite Mount Everest, but we're not quite stay-at-home," Brown said.

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To make a donation to Vital Ground in support of Cooper and Brown's hike, send a check to Vital Ground, P.O. Box 982003 Park City, Utah 84098. In the memo section of the check, write "AT Hikers." For more information on Vital Ground or to make a donation by credit card, go to www.vitalground.org.

Denise Cooper (right) and Rebecca Brown hiked through Shawnee Mission Park last week. The pair will spend four months hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for Vital Ground, a nonprofit organization that buys land for grizzly bears to live on.