Journey taken one mile at a time

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Olean Kenny of Chelsea has walked 1927 miles along the Appalachian Trail carrying 35 pounds on her back, and she doesn’t plan to quit now.

“It’s taken me 20 years to get this far,” she said. “But I think I can finish in another two years. I have 227 miles left to go.”

This past June, Kenny hiked 47 miles in New Hampshire.

“I got on the trail at Rattle River at Gorham and walked south to Mount Washington,” Kenny said. “Mount Washington has the highest surface wind speed of anywhere — 231 miles per hour. It’s all above tree line and is just open rock piles.”

Sometimes on a mountain, she pitches her backpack down the side and hopes it reaches the bottom without getting hung up on a rock. Then she sits on the ground and slides down after it, hoping she doesn’t hit a rock.

All along the trail through New Hampshire there are huts where people can sleep and eat for $88 a night, she said. But hikers can sleep in a hut, eat their own food, then do a chore the next morning and pay only $8 a night.

“There’s no electricity and no running water. There are decomposing bathrooms and you sleep on the floor,” Kenny said. “But you’re up in the clouds and everything gets damp, so it’s a good feeling to wake up inside a hut and be dry.”

Once, she and her walking buddy, Teresa Huckaby of Georgia, ran into thunderstorms before they could reach a hut, and had to pitch a tent on a slope.

“When you’re on a slope, you don’t do much sleeping. You stay awake all night trying to keep from sliding off the mountain,” she said.

Kenny has hiked 70 miles in Maine and plans to return next year to walk the remaining “27-something” miles, she said. “I’ve seen so much history. And a lot of wild animals — elk in Vermont, bears in Pennsylvania.”

Shelba Nivens can be reached by e–mail at