View Full Version : News Article - Iowan AT Thru-Hiker

05-14-2004, 13:37
Good read on a thru-hiker from Iowa..

Hungry as a bear, Dave keeps on hiking

The Des Moines Register (javascript:NewWindow( 'FIISrcDetails','?from=article&ids=dmrg');void(0);)
May 13, 2004

2,174-Mile Trek
The Des Moines Register is following the journey of Iowan Dave Readinger as he walks the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Look for the next update in June.


Grizzly Dave, the Des Moines man who is hiking like a mule northward along the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail, finally got to eat like a horse.

Not surprisingly, A.T. hikers are hungry most of the time.

His wife, Mary Ellis, just returned from the small town of Erwin, Tenn., where she spent a couple of days with the intrepid trekker.

"While I was there, Dave ate huge meals at restaurants -about twice what I ate," Mary Ellis wrote via e-mail. (He also got a haircut and beard trim.)

"It's OK to eat the greasy stuff when you're burning off 4,000 to 6,000 calories most days," she said.

Grizzly Dave, 68, aka Dave Readinger, has lost about six pounds after six weeks of trekking. He has gained a few blisters and bruised toes.

The trekker stopped last weekend in Troutdale, Va., because of a painful blister on his little toe. The local doctor put him on antibiotics and told him to rest until Monday.

"Then the doctor invited Dave to his house for dinner!" Ellis said.

Later, while staying at a Baptist-run hiker hostel, the minister invited him to attend a traveling revival meeting.

Now, Readinger is back on the trail again.

He is faster and stronger since learning climbing techniques that help him cover more ground in shorter time. For example, it snowed a lot in the Smoky Mountains during April, but Readinger's artificial knees allowed him to slink down hills faster and without discomfort (fellow hikers called him "Slinky").

The 68-year-old is hiking 12 to 15 miles per day vs. only 7.5 miles per day when he started. He hopes to make 20-plus miles per day through coming weeks in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The terrain in the Smokies was so difficult to climb that it challenged Readinger's endurance. He would say to himself: "Come on, Dave, Come on. You can do it, Dave," according to Ellis.

Readinger continues to replace items in his pack to lighten his load.

"I believe he has done about all he can to decrease the weight," Ellis said.

He's still carrying 45 pounds.

Ellis visited hiker hostels (dormitories with bunks and showers plus some supplies for sale) that cost about $12 per night. She met other hikers, including Adam, Readinger's partner, the quiet, 63-year-old retired furniture maker from Greensboro, N.C., whose personality is "a good complement" to Readinger's gregarious nature.

Ellis also learned the difference between "through-hikers" (like Readinger and his hiking partner) and "section hikers."

Through-hikers are on the trail for the long haul, and must keep moving. Section hikers are only on the trail for a few days or weeks.

"They do not have the same time constraints so they may hike more slowly and without a goal in mind," Ellis said of section hikers.

Appalachian Trail hikers come in all ages and sizes.

"Some are environmentalist extremists and others are eccentric in a variety of ways, but most are just nice people who enjoy physical exercise, camping and the outdoors," she said.

Others are younger people who are out of work and have decided to hike until the economy gets better.

Readinger gave some Ramen noodles to a young man at a shelter who had no food left and no money, Ellis said.

Some days, secret Good Samaritans leave treats for hikers.

"People who live near the Appalachian Trail will sometimes anonymously leave fresh food or cold Coke in a cooler near where the trail crosses a road," Ellis said. Those folks are called "trail angels" and the act is called "trail magic."

Of course, a trail hiker can't live off "trail magic" rations. Ellis ships food to her husband at various points along the trail. Instead of making food shipments, say, every five days, she spaces them at 100-mile intervals.

"It has become too difficult to estimate his speed," Ellis said.

Readinger continues to streamline his food planning, cooking oatmeal packets for breakfast and Ramen noodles with chicken or macaroni and cheese mixed with tuna in the evening.

The rest of the day he eats peanut butter on tortillas, dried apricots, Snickers and breakfast bar snacks.

GORP (good old raisins and peanuts) is off the list. So is beef jerky.

Gatorade and nutritional drink Emergen-C is added to his water supply, the heaviest item to carry but the most important.

Shelters are wherever hikers can find them along the trail -from simple one-room log cabins to lean-tos that simply keep the rain and snow out. Hikers sleep side by side on the floor. Some hikers hike with dogs, which sleep with the group.

Mice can be a problem in shelters, so hikers keep backpacks off the floor. Some leave zippers open so the mice don't gnaw through the fabric while hunting for morsels of grub.

Registers are posted at each shelter so hikers may record their whereabouts. That way, in an emergency, a record exists of where they've been.

Not all A.T. hikers are able to handle the trail's hardships and challenges. Some give up the trek after discovering that hiking the trail is not free. One woman, upon quitting the hike, buried her worn-out shoes in an elaborate ceremony.

But Readinger has made a name for himself over hundreds of miles.

He's an outgoing guy who gets acquainted with people easily, so they remember him in shelters and hostels.

"You must be Grizzly Dave," some hikers have told him. "I have heard of you."

Reporter Bob Modersohn can be reached at (515) 286-2521 or [email protected]


Making a name for himself: Dave Readinger of Des Moines, shown standing in the Smoky Mountains, is logging big meals and big blisters on his trek across the Appalachian Trail.

05-14-2004, 13:52
also, there's a shot of him in the Smokies at the paper's website: http://www.dmregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73171546206487&Avis=D2&Dato=20040513&Kategori=LIFE04&Lopenr=405130326&Ref=AR (http://www.dmregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73171546206487&Avis=D2&Dato=20040513&Kategori=LIFE04&Lopenr=405130326&Ref=AR)

05-14-2004, 17:02
Ellis also learned the difference between "through-hikers" (like Readinger and his hiking partner) and "section hikers."

Through-hikers are on the trail for the long haul, and must keep moving. Section hikers are only on the trail for a few days or weeks.

"They do not have the same time constraints so they may hike more slowly and without a goal in mind," Ellis said of section hikers.I have just the opposite opinion of the goal orientation for thru- vs. section hikers. Typically, a section hiker needs to be on more of a schedule in order to get to the pick-up point by a certain date. The daily goals of a thru-hiker (at least until it starts getting late in the season) can be much more fluid I think, especially if they aren't relying much on mail drops.

During my Georgia section hike in early April of this year, I would have liked to have stopped for awhile with several groups but felt I had to push on in order to get home on schedule. In particular, I would have loved to have spent a drippy afternoon at the Addis Gap feast but had to finish a second straight 18-mile day. I'll probably take a lot of extra time to do the Whites and Maine since I really want to make sure I get to see the views in those sections.

05-14-2004, 23:08
Enjoyed the article. Do agree with Kerosene. The few sections I've done have I've been forced to hurry-up to get to my next point in time. If I'm late my wife would call in the helicopters! ;)

05-15-2004, 10:38
With both of you guys Chappy and Kerosene..........

Definately a rush when you are on a short schedule like a section hike. Doing MA in (left time for) 9 days this summer, and just found out I can add another 7, so will add another state, hopefully with 'time to spare' ....but we all know how that goes! Have to get back to the car, to the world, to the other things scheduled the following week........

Sometimes during the last few days of a S.H. the thoughts of what has to be done upon return can creep into the mind....which thoroughly ruins the last few days and fills ones mind with dreams to just say "Forget it, I'm going to keep going.....";)