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Bristol Area Lions Club Welcomes Appalachian Trail “Thru-Hiker” Bill Michaud 05/21/2014

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Bristol Lion Brendan Donegan, left, thanks speaker Bill Michaud for a recent presentation on his Appalachian Trail experience.

Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail was a lifelong dream of Bill Michaud, but it took until age 62 for him to walk its entire 2186 mile length.

In a recent presentation to the Bristol Area Lions Club, Michaud explained that a chance encounter at age 10 with a hiker on that trail informed his ambition to walk from Georgia to Maine. It took nearly seven months, but with the support of friends and family, as well as with the camaraderie of fellow “thru hikers” and the kindness of strangers, Michaud reached trail’s end on Mount Katahdin only two days before it closed to visitors for the winter.

Michaud is a native Mainer, although he spent much of his childhood outside of the state. He ran a Wilderness School at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) before serving as the founder and executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Mid-Coast Maine from 1988 until 2003. With his wife, Debbie, Michaud runs the Outsiders Inn in Friendship and a kayak rental business. He sells real estate as well, with Farrin Realty.

The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) was first conceived in the 1920s by forester Benton MacKaye, and ten years later, various unrelated sections had been linked together to create a 2186 mile trail running through fourteen states and covering every terrain except for seashore and desert.

The concept of “thru-hiking” is relatively recent; for reasons of time, rugged terrain, illness and weather extremes, most A.T. hikers tackle only a few hundred mile section at a time. By 2013, approximately 1000 people had “thru-hiked” the Appalachian Trail, including Michaud, beginning in Springer Mountain, GA and working their way north to Mount Katahdin, ME. Shelters and campsites vary along the way, as do hazards like rogue bears, rattlesnakes, and ground nest bee stings, for which hikers take every precaution. Michaud was amazed at how little gear he needed to carry, as well as at the fact that only one pair of boots helped him to accomplish his feat.

According to Bill, “everyone hikes their own hike.” In Michaud’s case, he hiked the Appalachian Trail as a fundraiser for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

A brief business meeting followed Michaud’s presentation, including updates on the Bristol Area Lions Foundation scholarship recipients and plans for the Club’s upcoming golf tournament and silent auction fundraiser at Wawenock Golf Club, scheduled this year for Saturday, August 16.

The next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions Club takes place on Monday, June 2, with guest speaker Gary Woodcock presenting on the History of Round Top Ice Cream.

To make dinner reservations for that meeting in New Harbor, please call 677-6191.

To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, contact Walt Johansson at 677-2584.

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