David Green Jr. is at it again, off on a grand adventure and raising money for The Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon.
But this is the toughest so far, he says.
Maybe it’s because he’s walking rather than riding a bicycle. Maybe it’s because he started the trip alone. Or maybe it’s old age — the Stratford Academy graduate is all of 26 now.
Green is hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine this summer, taking pledges for the children’s home for each mile he walks.
In 2002, the summer he graduated from high school, Green bicycled 4,500 miles across America from Seattle to Savannah with family friend Peter Rightmyer, an experienced cross-country bicyclist. He collected about $32,000 in donations for the children’s home on that trip.
In 2004, Green and college buddy Clay Gilkerson pedaled 2,600 miles through the mountains of western Europe on a trip from Austria to Spain. That generated about $20,000 in donations.
Now Green, who graduated this spring from the University of South Carolina with double majors in international business and accounting, is taking a break before beginning work with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Denver by hiking 2,175 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
He was hoping to hit the unofficial halfway point in Harper’s Ferry, Va., this weekend, he said Wednesday during a stopover in Front Royal, Va., to visit with his parents, Kay and David Green Sr., who drove up to celebrate Green’s birthday with him Thursday.
So far, those following Green’s progress in an online journal have contributed $6,400 to the home, said Elizabeth Hart, the marketing and public relations coordinator.
“It is amazing what David does on these trips and the support he generates for our children,” Hart said. “They keep up with him on the Internet, and he’s carrying one of our teddy bears with him to tell people he meets about the home.”
Green said that despite being isolated in the mountain wilderness for several days at a time on his hike, he has encountered a lot of people along the way.
“Every three or four days you come into a small town and eat and rest and stock up on more food. I’ve slept in a lot of Methodist church basements or fellowship halls. The folks along the trail have always been very supportive of the through hikers, but when I tell them about the children’s home back in Macon, they are even friendlier. Hopefully, some of them will make donations from meeting me.”
Green took up long-distance bicycling in high school, which led to his trips across the U.S. and Europe.
But he developed a love of backpacking and camping long before that as a Boy Scout in Macon Troop 19.
“A bunch of us went to Philmont Scout Ranch out in New Mexico and hiked 50 miles with 50-pound packs. Over the years, I read about the Appalachian Trail and always thought I’d like to try it someday. Most of the hikers you meet out here are in two age groups — the young to mid 20s like me, guys and girls who have finished college and are taking a break before beginning work, and those in their late 50s and early 60s who have retired and finally found time to do this.”
He said the best thing about the trip so far, other than the people he has met, has been the beautiful scenery and wildlife.
“I’ve seen 10 bears, rattlesnakes, a skunk, hundreds of deer and birds. And the views are awesome. It’s been a great trip.”
But also a tough one, much tougher than the bicycle trips.
“There’s no coasting downhill. You walk every step at three miles an hour. You burn 6,000 calories a day with the walking, but the mental part is the big challenge, moving along at that same pace all day, up and down these mountains.”
What he thinks about most of the time on the trail is eating.
“That’s all we talk about, getting to the next town for pancakes and cake and pizza. We mostly eat boiled pasta, trail mix and Snickers bars out on the trail.”
Green began his trip alone April 14, but he hasn’t hiked alone a lot, though.
“You meet a lot of different groups and hike with different ones for a while. I was with one group for several weeks, then they slowed down and I caught up to some others, and we hiked together a while.”
The farther north he’s gotten, the younger the hikers are.
“Mostly now it is the ones who are hiking ultra light,” he said. “You carry as little weight as possible so you can hike faster.”
Those on the trail go by nicknames, not their real names.
“I’ve hiked with Skydog, Wimbledon, Buckeye and others. A lot I don’t even know their real names. You either give yourself a name or the other hikers give you one.”
Green’s trail name is GreenLite. The “Green” is from his name, and the “lite” has to do with him only carrying 15 to 20 pounds of food, gear and water at a time.
About 10 days into the trip, he caught up to Skydog, a young woman who also just finished college. They’ve hiked together since.
“She starts grad school in the fall, so she wants to finish by Sept. 1. I’m supposed to start work Oct. 5, so I’d like to get through in early September, too, to have time to decompress and then move out to Denver. So it has worked well for us to hike together.”
A typical day on the trail is 15 to 30 miles, depending on the terrain.
He has mostly avoided major mishaps so far.
A bout with a stomach bug slowed him a couple of days, and he’s had foot, ankle, knee and hip pains come and go.
“Everyone gets that,” he said. “You just keep hiking through it.”
Right now, Green is battling an outbreak of poison ivy on his feet and legs.
“It looks a lot worse than it is. But I’m washing my hands a lot. I don’t want it to spread.”
Another 1,000 miles to hike with an itch in his stitch isn’t something he wants to think about.
And although he is about to join the ranks of the gainfully employed, Green says his adventuring days won’t end on the summit of Mount Katahdin.
“I’ve always been a big dreamer and always made plans for trips. I haven’t ridden in Asia yet, or sailed around the world, or climbed Everest. Some of that may not be realistic, but some might. One thing I’ve learned in my travels is that the options are endless, and you can accomplish most any dream if you work hard enough and don’t listen to those who say you can’t.”
To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.