Hiker Olean Kenny surprised with a celebration of her Appalachian Trail hike
By SHELBA NIVENS / Community Columnist
The shout went up from some seventy people as the door opened into the church fellowship hall and a voice over the loud speaker announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chelsea’s Walking Queen, Olean Kenny!”
In shock and tears, Kenny stepped into the room and looked down at her bare legs below her hiking shorts. “My socks don’t even match.”
After 28 years of “Section-hiking,” she had finished the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine on Sept. 9.
Friends, family and hiking buddies joined organizers Sherry Reynolds, Teresa Spires and Debra Kuln in a celebration of Kenny’s accomplishment on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 29 at Chelsea Church of God.
The hall was appropriately decorated in fall-colored flowers, leaves and money tree. A long table held food and drinks. Another held gifts, a map tracing her journey and a large cake decorated to pay tribute to her accomplishment.
After lots of hugs and tearful acknowledgments, Pastor Mike Kiker called Kenny upfront to moderate a slide show of her journey prepared by hiking buddies Lynn Odom and Dale South, and a presentation from Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven.
Sometimes alone, sometimes with other hikers, she had climbed mountains solid with large boulders, forded streams, “butt-slid” down rocky trails… until finally reaching trails end atop Mount Katahadin in Maine.
Sitting at the top on a large boulder, she thought back over what she had accomplished at age 67.
“And I decided I didn’t want to work anymore,” she said. “So last Friday was my last day of work for H.M.S. Host at Birmingham airport where I worked for 41 years.”
She plans to continue walking for her health, Kenny said, and has another trip in three weeks.
She will also continue donating time and effort helping clear hiking trails. “We have a beautiful country,” she said. “We need to enjoy it and take care of it. And volunteering is so important—whether it’s at church, in your community or some other area. So you need to find someplace to volunteer.”
Olean Kenny is available to share her experience with other groups and can be reached at email@example.com.