Maine Man Hikes Appalachian Trail For Second Time – 38 Years Later
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
Hooray for Beerman! Hooray for Carey Kish!
My friend Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island, Maine followed the Appalachian Trail’s white blazes from Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) is a great accomplishment. This finish was indeed a grand accomplishment because this was the second time he has completed the journey, all 2,189.2 miles.
On March 18th, Carey left the summit of Springer Mountain and started hiking north on the Appalachian Trail. His Six-Moon Journey (the name of his blog at MaineToday.com) began in the rain and it was only 47 degrees.
189 days later, on October 4th, his wife Fran and a few friends accompanied him up Mount Katahdin. They paused near the summit and then Carey kissed his wife and sprinted ahead to reach the iconic summit sign that marks the northern terminus of the AT.
38 years ago he had made the same summit trek when he completed his first thru hike at just 18 years of age. Fresh out of Bangor High School with a copy of the book Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime by Edward Garvey in his hand he hit the trail and somehow he made it. Sure there must be a little more to the story but certainly he was young and green.
Carey told me when he finished his first thru-hike he was quoted in the newspaper saying that he couldn’t wait to do it again. And he really meant it, but life has a way of getting in the way and keeping a long distance hiker off the trail. Not that he didn’t try; he had two aborted attempts, once in 1989 and again in 1994.
I joined Carey on the trail for a couple of days when he reached New Hampshire back in August (see my column in the Weirs Times September 3, 2015 issue). Together we hiked up and over Mount Moosilauke. We were in and out of the clouds and it was chilly. When I was with him I felt for sure he was going to make it no problem. He was having fun and he was confident and careful. But on the other hand I knew so many try and don’t make it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy reports that less than 1 in 4 thru-hikers that start make it to the finish.
No matter how old or young you are the AT beats you up. Sore feet, sore knees, sore hips are common ailments and it is a long way from Georgia to Maine. Plus there are the contagious diseases and the common cold lurking out there. But there is only one way to get to the finish and it is the same for every thru-hiker and that is to get up and hike day after day until they make it to the top of the final mountain.
I followed his Facebook posts and blogs, I looked for them daily and was always pleased to see that the Beerman was steadily moving north. I tried not to worry on the many days he did not post news.
Early along the trail Carey picked up his trail name and became known as Beerman. It is definitely a trail name that inspires fun. He explained to me that he was given the name Beerman for his unabashed love and ever present wish for a cold beer. Of course, his favorite trail magic was the gift of a cold beer and it was even better if the gift included a hamburger.
Beerman happily marched across the New Hampshire’s White Mountains and had a few more good night sleeps in the AMC’s high mountain huts–Mizpah, Madison and Carter huts. He had extraordinary good weather all the way. After he hit the Maine-New Hampshire border he would have “only” 281 miles to go. On his Facebook page he crowed that from this point on he knew every mile of the trail and he didn’t need a map or a guide.
Carey continued to be blessed with good weather and found dry trails where he expected to wade through wet muddy trails. Panoramic grand vistas awaited him on every mountain top. Weather was key to his success; during the last six weeks he was on the trail there were only 5 or 6 rainy days.
Fran met Carey in Monson, Maine just before he began Maine’s famed 100-mile Wilderness. I don’t think they had been together since their visit with us in Franconia in August. A little more than a week later she’d be waiting for him at the base of Katahdin.
This fairy tale has a happy ending. The Beerman hasn’t put away his boots. Together with his wife Fran they’re redlining Acadia’s hiking trails—hiking all 120 miles of the Acadia’s trails that begin right outside their home’s backdoor.
Carey Kish is the editor of the 10th AMC Maine Mountain Guide and is working on the 11th edition. His new book, AMC’s Best Day Hikes along the Maine Coast, is now available at your favorite bookstore. I look forward to his future books on the Appalachian Trail and the Maine 100 Mile Wilderness.
I asked Carey if he had any advice for me if I ever found the gumption to hike from Katahdin to Franconia and he told me, “That’s easy Amy, just follow the white blazes and put one foot in front of the other day after day.”