Lee Barry at 81 Becomes Oldest AT Thru Hiker

Centerdaily reports Lee Barry has become at the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail at 81. He carried a homemade pack (made from nylon with no frame) . He started Jan. 2 at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Ga., hiking for three weeks at a time and returning home for monthly church council meetings. When he finished walking the trail’s 2,175 miles on Nov. 20, he had turned 81. A “thru-hiker” is one who intends to complete the trail on a continual, but not necessarily non-stop, basis, according to spokesman Brian King of the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers Ferry.

The “Easy One,” Barry’s trail name, edged out “The Crazy One,” who was the late Earl Shaffer, the first person in 1948 to make a thru-hike. Shaffer completed his third and final thru-hike in 1998, finishing just before his 80th birthday. (King said 82-year-old Mike Caetano of Pensacola, Fla., completed the trail in 2004, hiking sections over two years. Barry said he has met both Shaffer and Caetano on the trail). In 1974 he joined the Carolina Mountain Club in Asheville and began “peak bagging.” He climbed the 40 peaks 6,000 feet and higher, all in North Carolina and Tennessee. That inspired him to climb all peaks 5,000 feet and above. Then he took on all peaks 4,000 feet and above except for three near Murphy. (Peaks must have a 300-foot drop on all sides to qualify.) All told, he’s surmounted 1,000 peaks from Georgia to Virginia. Barry averaged 10 miles a day during his 220 days on the trail. He sometimes hiked north, sometimes south, depending on the location of highways that let Lois Barry pick him up. A sister, Helen Chambers of Boonton, N.J., shuttled him north of New Jersey. He summited Maine’s Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus, on Aug. 10. He ended the hike in Sugar Grove, Va.

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