About six months after taking his first steps on the trail, he finished.
“After urging my weary mind, body and spirit through the entire 2,160 miles of the trail without taking shortcuts (blue-blazing, yellow-blazing, slack-packing or skipping) while under the unrelenting burden of my pack, I discovered the greatest treasure of all,” he writes. “It was what I had learned about myself.”
A¿history major in college, Hall said his hike was a segue into the history of the early American pioneers and the conditions they endured on their journeys.
“You’re caught out there in all kinds of weather with no place to go,” he said during a recent interview.
Raised in Minnesota, Hall said his first love was the woods.
“I love it, because... it’s very simplistic. It’s a lot of peace out there,” he said. “The quiet out there, (you) just get up in the morning clear up in the mountain with nobody else around, especially out West. You hear the coyotes, or you hear the morning doves, you hear this type of thing, and it just — it just — turns my crank. That just, I go to sleep like that.”
While his original trail name was “Finnegan” to honor the determination of his late mother and his favorite book “Finnegan’s Wake,” he decided to change it to “Soup Bean.” He has hiked dozens and dozens of trails, and along each of them, he met interesting characters and challenges. The challenges include encounters with coyotes, mountain lions and bears — an animal Bryson was deathly afraid of encountering during his time on the Appalachian Trail.
“In New York, I came out of this corner, I had my trekking pole in my hand ... and I’m walking down, this pack on my back, and I’m looking down ... and this bear, he came around a little corner ... and there he stood looking up at me,” he said. “I still see him, little beady eyes.”
Hall, now 78, said the Appalachian Trail was the most aerobic of trails he has done.
“In other words, you work harder at it. You’re going up these little mountains and out West the grades are much more gentle,” he said. “ ... but there’s a place up in ... Maine, you go over just a notch in the mountains ... and after you’ve gone all that distance, you’re just worn out.”
At the library lunch, he said he hopes to give people a sense of realism about hiking the 2,160-mile trail and to pass along encouragement to start walking.
A pastor, a carpenter and a teacher before taking on the Appalachian Trail, he has lived in Winchester for about six years and has settled into a local apartment. He walks every day and can often be seen walking throughout Winchester with his walking stick he calls “Ethan.” He calls his legs his second heart, and said meeting people along the trails is the best part about walking.
“You see things you don’t see any other way, you know you go by things fast in your car. And you never see the people, you never see anything, and now I can stick my hand in the door if somebody’s going to the hospital and say ‘I’ll be praying for you’ or something like that,” he said. “And now I have a chance to actually connect with people, where they’re at, and be a part of their life and them be a part of my life. And you don’t get that when you’re riding in a car.”
The library lunch is free and open to the public. To register, call the library at 744-5661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by April 17.
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.