By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Travel fast, carry light.
That will be Leo Moloughney’s motto when he hits the trail — the Appalachian Trail, that is — beginning March 3.
Moloughney is getting ready for the journey of a lifetime to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
“I was thinking of doing half the trail, but then I got this idea,” said Moloughney. “Both my father and my father’s brother died of Alzheimer’s, and I’m going to be 72 in August, so I thought I’d better go do something like this now, because it is only going to get harder.”
However, if you think this septagenarian will be on the television news being dramatically rescued by helicopter from the wilderness, think again. Most likely, the youthful, energetic and enthusiastic Moloughney will make history later this spring as one of the oldest people in the world to successfully hike the entire trail.
Moloughney is an experienced hiker who has tackled various portions of the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail for the past 14 years. He has been an avid walker and hiker since growing up in farm country surrounding Ottawa. His passion continued into adulthood, and the now retired Moloughney’s daily routine almost always includes treks to the local coffee shop or hiking the trails.
Moloughney’s March expedition will be his first attempt at conquering the entire Appalachian Trail, but it's a challenge he relishes.
The recreation room of his Dundas home has been transformed into a makeshift staging area for the trip. There are bags of nuts and seeds to nibble on, his Nike Air Icarus sneakers, a new watch that will sustain the elements, an easy-to-carry light-weight tent, a versatile Tilley hat and a cell phone with the most powerful battery case available. Most important among the array is what Moloughney refers to as “The Bible,” a 2013 Appalachian Data Book that will allow him to map his daily progress and identify potential rest stops, open shelters, restaurants and hotels if a shower is required.
Moloughney hopes to hit the trail by 5:30 a.m. every day and his goal is to travel 30 miles. That means if all goes according to plan, the retired HSR employee will complete his walk in 73 days.
The Appalachian Trail passes through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Moloughney said the first part of his journey will be “pretty lazing hiking,” followed by more challenging aspects like Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the trek, Mount Washington, which has experienced 200 m.p.h. winds, and Dolly Parton World, named after the famous country singer who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“In the mountains, there are several rivers that cross through, so that means down, down, down and then up, up up,” said Moloughney.
But rather than worrying about curious wildlife or the potential for taking a tumble on the sometimes rugged terrain, Moloughney just hopes the weather cooperates.
“I’d like to enjoy the scenery and take little breathing spots. I like to be out there,” he said. “If we’re driving down the road and I see mountains coming up, my legs really get going.”
You can follow Moloughney’s progress on Facebook. Search Leo’s AT Hike. As a show of support for his efforts, Leo asks that a donation be made to the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton and Halton.