On a drizzling Sept. 12, Bill and Sharon Van Horn completed their eight-year section hike journey of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Their last section of about 220 miles started in Rangeley, Me., and ended at the northern terminus at Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. It included 100 miles in the Maine wilderness (no towns, no place to resupply). Some hikers elect to complete the 2,189.5 mile AT in one calendar year and are known as thru-hikers. Others hike the trail in sections over any number of years, as long as it takes.
The couple started backpacking in 2004 and in spring 2009, did their first long section of 110 miles from the southern terminus Springer Mountain, Ga., to Highway 64 at Winding Stair Gap. They called this their “Walking Home” section. After that, since they are both retired, they decided to do two-300 mile sections a year and be away from home 28-30 days for each section since the U.S. Post Office will hold mail for up to 30 days.
They timed their hikes to spring and fall and usually hiked with the thru-hikers. When they mentioned they were from Franklin, hikers who came into town always had great things to say about the AT Community.
Since retiring in Franklin in 2002, Bill and Sharon joined the Nantahala Hiking Club, one of the 31 AT maintaining clubs. They also joined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) where they have held a number of volunteer positions. Sharon likes to say, “We haven’t found an ATC volunteer opportunity we don’t like.”
Bill and Sharon are happy to help anyone plan their section hike journey. They plan to present an overview of their section hikes at the Macon County Public Library’s “Walking with Spring” program held in conjunction with Franklin’s April Fools Trail Days event in spring 2014.