Lawley heads back to the mountains

Published 3:13 pm Thursday, April 23, 2009

Many very hearty and robust people dream of hiking the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, but Eddye Lawley, retired director of the University of Montevallo physical plant, is actually living the dream.

By what he refers to as section hiking, he has already completed about two-thirds of the trail and plans to hike another section in early May.

“The worst experience I had was in early April when there was 12 inches of snow; it covered the blazes,” Lawley said. “The one and a half miles to the shelter was the longest I ever walked.”

Beginning in 2002, Lawley has made two or three trips each year to the trail, picking up where he last left it and marking off about 100 miles on each trip. He will begin the May hike at the Hudson River in the state of New York. He will drive to the point where he hopes to end this section, leave his automobile there and take a shuttle back down to the point of beginning. When he has finished hiking, his waiting car will be a welcome sight.

The idea for the A.T. was conceived and developed by Benton MacKaye in an article on regional planning in 1921. The trail was completed in 1937. It is a volunteer-maintained footpath along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains leading from a point 70 miles north of Atlanta, through 14 eastern states, to a point in Maine.

About four million people enjoy the trail each year. It is said to be within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the nation’s population. Many take short walks, day hikes or overnight trips — the ambitious walk the entire trail. More than 10,000 people have reported hiking the approximated five-million footsteps required for the length of the trail.

Recently, Lawley talked with students in one of Carolyn Kirby’s U.M. classes about his journeys. He explained that he uses much care in selecting his camping equipment and supplies; trying to carry no more than 40 pounds. He also stresses that water is most important. About every 10 miles along the trail there is a shelter, but sometimes those are very crowded and noisy. There are reported to be many bears and snakes, but Lawley has seen only one bear and two non-poisonous snakes. The trail is marked with white blazes on trees and those, along with good maps, make the trail easy to follow.

“I believe it makes me a better person, more aware of the environment and more respectful of nature,” Lawley said. “I have learned to appreciate the extreme value of water and I have learned that quiet is a living being; I like the quiet – don’t even turn on a radio.”

Catherine Legg can be reached at