View Full Version : Update on Iowan thru-hiker Dave

07-23-2004, 13:14
Update on Hiker Dave..

Hiker Dave encounters lion, bears and snakes


The Des Moines Register is following the journey of Dave Readinger as he walks the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Look for the next update in late August in IowaLife.

By Bob Modersohn
July 22, 2004
The Des Moines Register (http://javascript<b></b>:NewWindow(%20'FIISrcDetails','?from=article&ids=dmrg');void(0);)

"Grizzly Dave" Readinger has gained confidence at this stage of his trek, nearly four months and halfway into his journey up the Appalachian Trail.

The Des Moines south-sider is cutting the mustard, so much so he's becoming a bit of a hot dog.

"Dave said his comfort level in his ability to live in the wild is at an all-time high," said Mary Ellis, Readinger's wife. "Especially now that his toe is healed."

It's amazing what a new pair of shoes will do.

Clarification from Dave: He actually was off the trail in Troutdale, Va., for 25 days earlier in spring, not just two weeks, letting an extremely sore toe heal.

"He didn't want people to think he was so far behind schedule for any other reasons," Ellis said.

Hoofing some 16 miles a day, Readinger, 68, is calling it the "Trip of Deprivation."

Like many seasoned backpackers, he's learned to carry the fewest items possible, with many items being multipurpose.

He's in Shenandoah National Park (where there are places to eat, but not civilized places to sleep) parallel to the famous Skyline Drive highway.

"The scenery is gorgeous. Huge vistas, but potentially dangerous drop-offs along the trail," Ellis said.

Then there's the wildlife.

Readinger saw five bears in the park, each at a different time. Four were adults but one one was a cub all by itself.

He also saw a mountain lion, apparently a rare sighting in the park, and witnessed a huge tree blow over in high winds.

Last week he encountered a rattlesnake. He didn't discover it was a rattler until he poked at it with his walking stick.

"Then he saw it coil and he heard the rattle," Ellis said.

More common, though, were long black rat snakes that hang around the camping shelters because they find mice there.

On his last night in Shenandoah Park, he was fined $50 for camping in an illegal spot. He was supposed to be camping a half mile off the paved road, but it was dark, and he was tired and had somewhat lost his way.

"The ranger was not forgiving," Ellis said.

Dave has been wearing shorts and is paying for it. He's covered with bug bites.

"Some are swollen to the size of pencil erasers," Ellis said.

Dave has reached the stage where he has apparently used up excess body fat and is probably burning protein (muscle). So he's hungry all the time.

He can't carry enough food to match expended energy, so Ellis added high-protein drink powder (mixed with water) from a health food store to his food supply.

It's apparently helping.

Tourist restaurants through Shenandoah Park also have helped satisfy his appetite.

Don Hoke, another hiker who was on a short overnight trip in the park, witnessed one of Readinger's eating binges during lunch at the Loft Mountain wayside eatery.

"We went to the wayside and Dave had a ham and cheese sub, I believe," Hoke wrote in an e-mail to Ellis. "Plus a hamburger and two large cups of milk and a blueberry milkshake, plus some chips. I then drove him up to the camp store where he bought some food."

A final unrelated observation from Hoke:

"Dave is doing great. He didn't even smell bad."

08-20-2004, 12:43
New article on this hiker..

Iowa hiker focuses on last leg of the trail

By Bob Modersohn
The Des Moines Register (javascript:NewWindow( 'FIISrcDetails','?from=article&ids=dmrg');void(0);)
August 19, 2004

Deck: 2,174-MILE TREK
The Des Moines Register is following the journey of Des Moines' Dave Readinger as he walks the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Look for the next update in late September.

What Dave Readinger wouldn't give to be sleeping in his own bed, eating a meal he isn't carrying on his back, catching up on political news, petting his cat and spending time with his wife, kids and seven grandkids.

With about two months to go, "Grizzly Dave" is tiring of Appalachian Trail life and is now focused on the end.

Readinger, a Des Moines south-sider, has been hiking on the trail for six months and counting (he left Georgia on March 9). He has entered Connecticut and expects to reach the trail's end in Maine by Oct. 15.

That's if he survives the remaining rockiness of the trail and his vulnerable big toe holds up.

And if the black rat snakes along the trail find enough rodents and other morsels to eat, sparing his shrinking self. (Apparently rat snakes, normally seen around camp shelters, have turned up inside shelters.)

Readinger's wife, Mary Ellis, met up with her trim, bearded trekker at the end of July at Boiling Springs, Pa., (southwest of Harrisburg).

"He looks very different now," Ellis said.

His khakis were bunched around his waist when he tightened his belt.

"He probably hasn't been this slim since college!" Ellis said. They don't know for sure how much weight he has lost because there aren't any scales around.

"I bring clean and pressed regular clothes when I go out to meet him - so I won't be embarrassed if we drive somewhere civilized," Ellis said.

Grizzly Dave - his trail nickname stems from grizzly bear research projects he's worked on - kept hoping the central part of the Appalachian Trail would get easier, but no.

It's terribly rocky - lots of big boulders that get slippery when it rains.

They don't call it the Pennsylvania "rock fields" for nothing. And the Appalachian Trail runs through the wildest part of the wilderness.

"He has fallen a few times," Ellis said.

But he's still averaging 16 miles per day with some 19-and 20-mile days.

And the camps are a bit more inviting.

Best new feature along the trail in Pennsylvania: Two shelters, not just one - sometimes connected and sometimes not. One is labeled "snoring" and the other "non-snoring."

Readinger didn't say which one he prefers.

On the last half of the trail, only about 150 "thru-hikers" are left to continue the journey north.

"The remaining thru-hikers are a more consistently sophisticated bunch than the broader group he started out with," Ellis said. Recently, Readinger encountered college professors, a photojournalist, primarily business people.

While he looks forward to his wife's food shipments, he still hates carrying a new, full shipment. Especially that first day.

"But it gets lighter each day as he eats the food," Ellis said. "Until he picks up the next one."

He's also been eating wild raspberries and blackberries along the way. He's just like the bears, that Grizzly Dave.

He tries to find restaurants along the way but they're so far off the trail - a couple of miles or so - he doesn't want to spend the time.

Since this series of stories began in the spring, the 68-year-old has enjoyed hearing from folks from his past who have been following his progress.

"I have had phone calls from guys he played football with in both high school and college . . . and he's been sent letters and e-mails," Ellis said. "This has been fun for him."

Except for carrying that backpack.

Reporter Bob Modersohn can be reached at (515) 286-2521 or bmodersohn@dmreg.com

Another Iowa hiker

Megan Sweeney, a spring 2004 Iowa State University graduate, born and raised in Ames, is currently hiking the Appalachian Trail.

"Walking it. . .because I can!" Sweeney said.

"She is trying to raise $1 for every mile that she hikes for the American Cancer Society," said friend Rob Rose. Check out her Web site at www.megswalk.net.