Trail Magic and Trail Names: Gerry & Rex hike to heal veterans

We are thrilled to share our second update from Rex and Gerry Leonard who are hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise funds and awareness of PHWFF and the disabled veterans we serve. This travel logs entry highlights their new trail names (a special aspect of hiking the Appalachian Trail!), journeys through Maine and climbing 17 mountains, and their appreciation for the trail magic they’ve experienced from people, communities and local businesses along these first 142 miles. 

Let’s show our support and wish Team Leonard our best as they continue with this courageous feat in support of the many disabled veterans whose lives will be changed as a result of their sacrifice.

Read past dispatches from the AT here:  Gerry and Rex Leonard Hike to Heal Veterans

Team Leonard checking with our 2nd update and our first since we left Monson, ME. Currently Rex and I are at the local library in Andover, ME. We’ve spent the last two days hiking in and around Andover and tenting (for free!) in the backyard of a restaurant called the Little Red Hen. The Red Hen proprietors, Wally and Melissa, are awesome and true trail angels (A trail angel is AT-speak for a generous person who provides hikers with rides, food, water, beer, etc., generally at no cost to the hiker). On their day off, Wally and Melissa found time to make us and four other hikers breakfast, dinner, and shuttle us to the trail!

Since leaving Monson, Rex and I have walked, run, and stumbled 142 miles. We’ve climbed 17 mountains, four exceeding 4000 feet, passed through four small Maine towns, and ferried across one river. My feet are swollen, my back aches, and my pride is taking a beating as I chase Rex up the mountains!  Rex is the speed demon and I’m the anchor on Team Leonard.  Since we left Monson, Rex picked up a number of different trail names, but appropriately settled on the “Pony Express” because of his hiking speed.  I on the other hand, earned the trail name “Diesel”, because I move as slow as an 18-wheeler going uphill.  View the Northern New England AT Photo Gallery >

First Disagreement. Rex and I had our first disagreement in Caratunk, ME. For a moment, it looked like the team might break up and go separate ways. We disagreed about how many miles we should be traveling each day…which affects the logistics plan. Rex told me I was being too ambitious and I needed to be more realistic. After an hour or so, we cooled down and the “team” stayed together! BTW: Rex was right…I wasn’t ready for 20+ mile days in arguably the most rugged and demanding terrain on the AT.
Pain and Discomfort. Our feet, ankles, knees, and backs hurt everyday. Our clothes are wet every morning…not from rain, but yesterday’s sweat. Setting up camp in a rainstorm isn’t particularly fun. But we’re learning to live with the pain and discomfort and becoming better backpackers.
Food. Unless we’re in a town eating like kings (ice cream, pizza, and hamburgers), we are traveling light and eating fairly disgusting meals. Breakfast generally consists of undercooked oatmeal, lunch consists of peanut butter, protein powder, and tunafish on tortilla bread, and dinner consists of spam, ramen noodles, and instant potatoes mixed together. For snacks we enjoy snicker, cliff bars, and cheese. Not the ideal diet for a health major and a retired Marine.
Trail Names. By this time, nearly every SOBO hiker has a trail name. Some are more creative and funny than others. This morning we had breakfast with Wham, Little Dipper, Creamy, and Baby Milkshake. Baby Milkshake earned his moniker when someone learned he mixed milk for babies in the prenatal section at his local hospital. Baby Milkshake is a nurse by trade. Wham earned her trail name because she wears bright, florescent colors like the pop band “Wham” in the 1980s.
Way Ahead. We are nearly done with Maine. In 25 miles, we will cross the ME/NH border and in 41 miles we will begin scaling the White Mountains. We have crossed paths with a number of fast-moving NOBO hikers who have told us the last 25 miles of Maine and the first 40 miles of New Hampshire are the toughest on the AT. Wish us well.
Happy trails,
Diesel and the Pony Express
“We hope to raise as much money as possible to enable PHWFF to continue serving disabled veterans across the country and to increase the number of fishing and outdoor experiences they can provide”

You can support Gerry and Rex on their journey by making a donation today.

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