Father and son complete adventure on Appalachian Trail
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A father and son recently completed a 13-year journey, hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, and have plans for more adventures on their feet.
Larry Yoder, of Grayling, and his son, Brian Yoder, who lives in southern Alabama, completed their last stretch hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
They started hiking the trail in northern Georgia in 2005. The trail runs through 14 states, ending in northern Maine near the border with Canada.
They traveled the trail in two-week stretches, hiking an average of 200 miles each trip. They had to work around the confines of Brian’s schedule, who is a retired U.S. Army helicopter instructor pilot. Brian still serves as an instructor at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker through a contract with the military.
“The reason we never did a through-hike was because he could only get off like two weeks at a time,” Larry said.
Larry, 78, always discussed hiking the Appalachian Trail, and Brian, 54, expressed interest in joining him on the adventure.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I was always thinking about doing a through-hike,” Larry said. “I always wanted to do it straight through, but I didn’t want to do it alone.”
The last two weeks on the trail were rough, as they had to cross through rivers and faced rugged terrain.
“It’s was very rough,” Larry said. “It was rocks, roots and mud and it was all up and down.”
Similar conditions exist on the entire 2,200 miles of the trail.
“There are very little flat surfaces,” Larry said. “You’re either going up or down.”
The pair appreciated taking in the scenery and the physical challenges.
“We enjoy seeing the country, so much of is beautiful country, but we enjoy the challenge of it, too,” Larry said.
Larry’s grandson, Gary Mott, 34, took part in three days on the last hiking trip.
“He loves going out, but he’s in business for himself,” Larry said. “He owns a little construction company over in Traverse City, so it’s hard for him to get time off.”
Larry said they enjoy interacting with others on the trail, most who are completing the through-hike.
“You meet a lot of nice people on the trail,” Larry said. “It’s all a challenge.”
If Larry and Brian were to do a repeat trip on the Appalachian Trail, they would opt to hike through the 500 miles in Virginia. Portions of the trail there travel through the Shenandoah National Park.
“There are some really beautiful areas,” Larry said.
Over the year, the pair has encountered black bears, deer, coyotes, a bobcat, and an eastern diamondback rattle snake which was as wide around as a human arm.
Larry started hiking in 1994, when he went on a trip to the Grand Canyon with the Sierra Club to repair trails.
“We had some free time, too, where we could do some of our own hiking down in the canyon,” said Larry, who completed two other trips with the national conservation club.
Larry and Mott hiked the Isle Royale National Park, located about five miles off the southern shore of Lake Superior, over seven days.
“It was nice,” Larry said. “It was quite rugged, but nothing like some parts of the Appalachian Trail.”
Future planned hikes for Brian and Larry include a trail in northern Alabama and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula.
“That’s only 40 miles, but I think that would be beautiful,” Larry said.
Larry said he enjoys the time bonding with Brian as they have completed their trail hikes.
“It’s been quite an experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Larry said. “Especially the time spent with my son. I don’t get to see him very much since he lives so far away.”