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Southwest Dutchess Daily Voice serves Beacon, East Fishkill, Fishkill, LaGrange, Poughkeepsie, Wappinger & Wappingers Falls

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Lifestyle

Appalachian Trail Hikers Find Peace, Solitude During Time In Wilderness

Nicknamed Songbird (L) and Foot (R) for the duration of their Adirondack Trail journey, the hikers take a break for food, drink and rest at Mountaintop Market. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Hikers head back to the trail after eating and resting at Mountaintop Market. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Hikers take a break to refresh at Stormville's Mountaintop Market. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Hikers find food, shade and a place to rest at Mountaintop Market in Stormville. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Hikers find food, shade and a place to rest at Mountaintop Market in Stormville. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Hikers find food, shade and a place to rest at Mountaintop Market in Stormville. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

STORMVILLE, N.Y. -- On a day where the thermometer flirted with 100 degrees (ok, it was only 96), groups of exhausted-looking hikers continued to make their way along the Adirondack Trail in Dutchess County.

Just a typical day along the trail in Stormville, where hikers regularly make their way to the just-off-the-trail oasis that is the Mountaintop Market and Danny's Pizzeria.

A glance around the back of the market revealed about a dozen or so hikers - some just arriving, others just leaving - finding relief under the shade of trees, or taking a nap. Some ate food, or filled water bottles.

Market owner Jim Reynolds lets the hikers rest, get water and even camp in the space.

All were there to re-charge.

So why would anyone want to embark on a six-month, 2,200 mile hike from Georgia to Maine? Carrying a heavy backpack through searing heat, sleeping in a bag, eating when and where you can, being pretty much always on the go, and at the mercy of Mother Nature.

A hike that, on average, only one in four hikers are able to finish.

"It's always been on my (bucket) list," a hiker nicknamed 'Foot" told Daily Voice, as he and his hiking partner 'Songbird' ate and rested in the shade behind the market. "It's a time in my life where I can put everything down for six months. And hopefully I'll have enough money to get to Maine."

Hikers often take nicknames while they're on the trail, and those are the only names they go by while on their journey. Songbird and Foot - both from Missouri - started their trip in Georgia four months ago, and were at about the two-thirds mark. 

On rare occasion, they'll grab a hotel room, sleep in a bed, and shower. This pair had done that four times in four months.

"I'm a wildlife biologist, so it's nice to get back to the ecosystem level," Foot said. "So far it's been four months in concentrated wilderness... it gets you back to your roots. There are a lot of lessons to be learned.

"We carry food, walk for water, sleep wherever you want," he added. "You don't carry anything you don't use. It's living as trimmed down as can be."

The pair said the experience has been everything they expected - and more. 

"We've met hundreds of people, from all over the world," Songbird said. "We've seen nine bears - generally they don't care about us."

The pair agreed one of the best things about the trip is that sleeping comes easily. "You sleep really well," Foot said. "Drift right off."

And what kind of people have they met along the way?

"We've met bankers, finance guys, school bus drivers... everything," Songbird said. "The only qualification is the desire to do it. We've seen five-year-olds and 70-year-olds."

Eight more weeks - at 100 miles a week - will bring the pair to their destination. "So far it's been worthwhile," Foot said. "It's been all I was hoping for and then some. I'm not the same person as when I left."

"It's been exhaustingly fulfilling," Songbird agreed. "When we meet people from local communities, especially near the trail, they know what we're doing... some give us a ride to town, some give us food or water... more than I would have thought."

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