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Re: [at-l] long distance hiking with young teenagers

Hello All -

A while back I mentioned a good Scouting friend who had done an AT
thru-hike at age 14.  I received some requests for more information about
his hike, so I rang him up at work a little while ago and played "media
reporter" <g>.

My friend's name is:  Darrell Lenkner (dwlenkne@ingr.com).  He did his hike
in '74...trail name was "Stretch" (his 16 year-old son is well over six
feet...<g>).  He did a northbound, started in April, and took 146 days.
Darrell had plenty of backpacking experience (non-Scouting) and his family
completely supported his hike (they did the mail resupply and brought him
new gear when a bear tore up his tent, etc. in SNP).

He had trouble talking the School Board (Cleveland, Ohio) into letting him
out of school, so his family agreed with his just leaving and taking a hit
on the grades (he was an honor-roll student, so six weeks worth of F's
didn't bring his GPA down to the point where it did any permanent damage to
his record).

He remembers only spending a half-dozen or so nights in town stops and most
of them were at various church-based hostels (he tried hard to get in and
out of town during the same day).  He hiked solo, but joined up with other
hikers for a few days at a time throughout the hike...he only remembers
three or four nights on the trail when he camped alone.

I asked him:

Was it worth it?   YES!
Were there any negative physical effects?  No
Was there any problem reintegrating back into real life?  No
                                      (he was moving to a new school anyway)
Was he a "better" 14 year-old person for having done the hike?  Yes!
Were his peers impressed?  For at least an entire day...
Would he encourage his son to do the same thing?  Probably not
          (worried about effects of current trail society on unsupervised kid)
Would he have considered having his son join him on another thru-hike when the
      kid was 13-14?  Yes!
Would he consider having his (now 14) daughter join him on another thru-hike?
            In general, yes!...will have to think more about this daughter <g>.

He couldn't think of any particular reason why a 14 year-old girl shouldn't
join her dad on a thru-hike.  We agreed that the kid's basic personality
and her willingness to play the game would be the big
factors...conditioning, equipment, and backpacking skills would be nice to
have at the start...but, could be developed along the way if everybody
stayed flexible.

We both agreed that taking backpacking trips over the younger years will
help greatly with the wanta-have's (conditioning, equipment, skills,
etc.)...and will help even more with the gotta-have's (willingness to try a
distance hike and to spend that much time with the adult partner).

BTW, the pack-weight rule of thumb that Scoutmasters use around here is:

show up with absolutely no more than 20% of your body weight in your pack,
plan to add group gear which will bring the total up to 25% of your body
weight, and...be prepared (!) to adjust downward at the SPL's discretion.

This rule of thumb starts to get bogus as the kid's body weight gets below
100 pounds (a 100 lb kid shouldn't carry 25 lbs!).  There is no way that I
would start out on a weekend hike with even 25% of my body weight in my
pack...I barely carried that much when we did 12 days with no resupply on
the PCT!

y'all come,
            Charlie II

charlie2@ro.com    Huntsville,Al

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