Last weekend a stranger strolled in to Highland taking a welcomed break in Creekside cabin. Her name was Kathy Finch. This past Wednesday we dropped off a new friend on the forest road that lies at the end of Little Dry River road. Kathy is a through hiker on the Great Eastern Trail (GET) and had been on the trail for about two months.
While not caring much for the public attention, Kathy’s heart has been to connect with people along the way. During her respite at Highland, Kathy ate meals at the Green Valley Store, shopped at the Bergton store, and caught up with happenings in the Highland lobby. She was free with her stories, kind to all, and met many new friends along the way.
Kathy’s journey began near Corning, New York over two months ago and will hopefully end past Flagg Mountain, the southernmost 1,000-foot peak in the Appalachian chain. Should she complete the journey, she will be the third person to through hike the GET and the first to complete the hike north to south.
For Kathy, however, the accomplishment is worth far less than the experience, the connections, and the data she collects for future hikers. It had been a dream of Kathy’s to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) since she was young. Now in her 60’s, she has experienced the AT and desired an experience that is truly wilderness; what the AT used to be before it became popular and well-travelled. When Kathy learned about the GET she realized that it embodied her childhood dream for a truly remote hiking experience and she knew she had to go.
After leaving Highland on Monday, Kathy encountered a section of trail that was seldom traveled. Finding it difficult to navigate and with water resources depleted, she wisely turned back to stay another night at Highland. We laughed that she earned that section and gave her a ride around it before dropping her on the trail again. At the forest road drop off, a young man in a jeep returning from his own adventure stopped to talk and then left. Three minutes later he returned with a gift of packaged cheese for her journey. “That’s why I do this,” she said as he drove off, referring to another ‘real’ connection made with a person who she would have never otherwise met.
If you think about it, say a prayer for Kathy. Completing this journey will not be without its challenges: summer heat, losing her way, drying water sources, the physical strain on her body, and the list goes on. If you want to follow some of her journey visit www.facebook.com/groups/GETHiking/. If you want to learn more about the Great Eastern Trail visit www.gethiking.net/ or http://www.greateasterntrail.net/.