By: Mike Foley
When Appalachian Trail through-hikers talk about "hiking their own hike" -- going at their own pace, meeting people and doing what they want to do along the 2,174-mile journey -- none talk about hiking the AT like Roy Kaye.
That's because the 61-year-old Powdersville resident is heading out to hike the AT on May 1 and he plans to finish in an astonishing 100 days.
Typically, an AT hike takes about six months -- that's about 182 days -- which includes built-in rest days. So that means an average hiker will cover maybe 14 to 18 miles a day. Kaye is planning on going longer, much longer, but probably no faster.
"I just go from morning to night," he said. "I'm not one of those young guys who goes 4 mile per hour, but I can go for a long time each day."
For example, on his 61st birthday on Oct. 21, Kaye got up that morning and hiked 61 miles. How did he feel the next day?
"I slept for about three or four hours and I was fine," he said.
He's hiked the long version of the Foothills Trail, about 88 miles all the way to Jones Gap, in three days. He'll walk from his home to downtown Greenville for a cup of Starbucks coffee and then back home.
"I don't know how far that is," he said about walking to Greenville. "But I know it takes me three hours to get there."
While Kaye has been active all his life, he said his body shows battle scars from injuries and surgeries. Probably the most significant surgery came three years ago when he had a gastric bypass.
After a lifetime spent running long distances and bicycle racing even longer distances, he got bored with it and quit "cold turkey." But while he stopped exercising, he didn't stop eating like an active athlete.
"My weight went 'boom,' " Kaye said. "I got up to 300 pounds."
Diets didn't work. As a last resort, he had surgery and became active again and lost more than 100 pounds down to his current 185 pounds.
Because of the surgery, walking long distances is a little bit complicated because he can't take in many calories at one time. He has to eat a little bit constantly.
Still, he's anxious to get on the AT and go.
"I'll probably go about 20 or 22 miles a day the first few weeks and then start picking it up after that," he said.
He'll carry a 20-pound pack, and his wife will send supplies to towns along the way. And while he'll go to town for food, he won't take "zero" days for mental and physical rest like many typical hikers.
Kaye's hike is different as well because while the AT is famously a social avenue as well as a footpath, he doesn't expect to have many hiking companions during his journey.
"I look forward to meeting people," he said, "but I don't think I'll be hiking with them much.
"It's not that I don't like hiking with other people, it's just that they don't like to go as long as I do. They've eaten dinner and gone to sleep and I'm still hiking until 10 p.m. each day."