by Tim Troglen | Reporter
Hudson — When 28-year-old Louie Ferdinand, of Hudson, began his hike along the Appalachian Trail June 5, he knew hunger, animals and a bit of weather would be among the challenges he would face along the 2,187-mile jaunt from Maine to Georgia.
What the 2003 graduate of Hudson High School did not count on was trudging through knee-deep snow, without winter boots, as Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast with rain and brought snow to inland areas like Tennessee.
“I was in the Smoky Mountains when Hurricane Sandy decided to come dump a bunch of snow of us,” Ferdinand said Nov. 16, via telephone, a day after he completed the journey.
“We hiked a little bit, then came down out of the mountains and spent the night in Gatlinburg, Tenn.,” he said. “Then we went back up into the mountains and hiked through the rest of it.”
About three feet of snow fell on the area where Ferdinand was hiking, he said. However, the snow drifts were 5- to 7-feet deep, Ferdinand said.
“I had to go up over and sometimes kind of fall into, and drag myself over,” Ferdinand said. “Every step I was either up to my knee, groin or waist in snow.”
Ferdinand was not prepared for the onslaught of snow and was forced to use his down-filled hiking and rain jackets for warmth, he said.
“I was wearing trail running shoes and I took plastic bags, pulled them over my socks and then put them down in my shoes,” he said. “It would keep my socks dry. I wasn’t soaking wet freezing, but I was still cold.”
The weather was the worst, but not the only danger Ferdinand faced on the hike.
“I had a mamma bear do a false charge at me in Virginia,” he said.
Ferdinand was hiking when he saw a black bear and her two cubs, he said. The mother began running at him.
“As long as you don’t turn and run, they basically stop,” Ferdinand said.
He stood his ground and “tried to make myself look big and mean” while yelling at the bear, he said.
“She stopped and walked back into the woods, thank God,” Ferdinand said.
Mice also kept Ferdinand company.
“The biggest issue I had with animals was mice trying to get my food every night in the shelters,” Ferdinand said. “You go to sleep and you just hear them running around, trying to get your food and crawling all over you.”
Hiking alone on tough terrain in Maine was the worst part of the hike, he said.
“The hiking in Maine is like no other hiking I’ve done in my life,” Ferdinand said. “It’s like a another world out there.”
Ferdinand’s mother, Maura, father, Lou, and brother, Chris, all of Hudson, kept him supplied with food and a variety of items along the trail, Maura said. The family mailed packages to towns close to the trail.
“We were really nervous,” Maura said. “But our only saving grace was that a friend from Hudson drove out and hiked with him.”
The family kept Ferdinand so stocked with goods that he earned the nickname “anchor,” Maura said.
“Everybody on the Appalachian Trail gets a trail name,” his mom said. “His name was ‘Anchor’ because when people met him, his backpack was so heavy, they said it weighed as much as an anchor.”
Ferdinand’s family is proud of his accomplishment.
He had camped and hiked before for two weeks at a time.
“But this blew that out of the water,” he said.
Ferdinand, a welder by trade, quit his job as a welder/machinist at Copen Machine, in Kent so he could hike the trail, which took about 165 days, he said.
“I had enough of the working thing and decided to save some money, and decided this was the time to do it,” he added.
Ferdinand expects to go back to work and begin saving money for another adventure.
“But I wouldn’t think it’s anymore than a couple of years before I do something like this again,” he said.
Still, he called the hike “the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
“You live a completely different lifestyle than anything anyone in Hudson could relate to,” he said.
“I think it takes a special kind of person to complete a through hike, but anyone can do it. It comes down to how mentally strong you are and how many days in a row you can wake up force yourself to go hike through the rain or hike through whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at you that day.”