- Associated Press - Saturday, April 14, 2018

VIENNA, Va. (AP) - A local woman is hiking the entire Appalachian Trial, at only 19 years old. The A.T., as it’s known, is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, and is more than 2,000 miles long.

“I get a lot people who think I’m going to die out there,” said Kaela Wilbur. At 19, she already has hiked 400 miles of the Appalachian Trial by herself. In a few weeks, she plans to get back on the trial to finish the entire 2,190-mile trail from Georgia to Maine.

“People think that there’s bears, snakes, murders or whatever. But the dangers out there are more like falling tree limbs and the cold, Lyme disease. There’s a lot of tripping and falling that happens,” explained Wilbur.

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Taking a gap year from college, the environmental engineering student began her hike from Georgia in February. She wanted to beat the “bubble” of hikers who start in March. But a few weeks ago, she got hurt while hiking in a Tennessee snow storm.

“I was on top of Roan Mountain in a blizzard and my foot got caught. I didn’t see the hole in the trail, and I sprained my ankle. Obviously, I couldn’t just sit there in a blizzard, so I had to hike 12 miles off the mountain with a sprained ankle. It did hurt,” said Wilbur.

“I think this is one heck of a strong kid,” Wilbur’s mom Chris said when thinking about her daughter walking on a sprained ankle through deep snow in a storm. “She’s amazing. I don’t know if you’re allowed to say ‘bad(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk),’ but she is totally bad(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk).”

Chris Wilbur said she and her husband Bob learned a while ago that if Kaela was determined to do something, there was no stopping her. She started hiking the A.T. with her dad with she was 12 and then in high school, hiked part of the A.T. with a friend.

“I think it’s preparing her for life, but by showing her that there’s going to be struggles, you’re going to have to overcome as long as you work hard and never quit, you can overcome those challenges,” said her dad, who added it was always his dream to hike the A.T.

Kaela said that eventually her dad’s passion became hers.

“I was going on hikes that were a couple of weeks long and said, I could do it, I could go all the way.”

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She learned the importance of having the right gear, such as sturdy boots, a good tent, a few warm clothes, warm sleeping bag and a way to keep those things dry. She also has a battery pack that recharges her iPhone seven times. Plus, she carries an emergency device that will send an alert signal via satellite if she’s in real trouble. Also, food must be kept in a bear bag and strung up on a tree limb at night.

“You definitely have to be capable and confident if you’re going solo. You have to know, I’m the best hiking partner I can have. If something happens, I can get myself out of here,” she said.

Kaela Wilbur was the captain of McLean High School’s Crew team and the MVP in 2016-17. She attended Clemson University for her first year, but is in the process of transferring and waiting for acceptance letters.

“I’m incredibly proud. She’s an amazing young lady,” her mom said.

Kaela is blogging about her experience here. Her ultimate goal is to complete the Triple Crown of Hiking, which includes the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.


Information from: WUSA-TV, http://www.wusatv9.com

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