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Tommy Whitten of Madison plans to hike 2,203 miles on the Appalachian Trail. He will cross 14 states. CONTRIBUTED

Whitten to hike 2,203 miles, 14 states on Appalachian Trail

MADISON – Tommy Whitten, a retired information technology professional, is finalizing plans to hike the Appalachian Trail.

The ‘thru-hike’ will cover 2,203 miles, including the nine-mile approach trail. Whitten and his brother Kim will cross 14 states during their six-month journey.

Their first hike will be approximately 136 miles. “The two-week section hike this April will begin on Springer Mountain, Ga. and end at the Nantahala River in Wesser, N.C. The thru-hike in March 2022 also will start in Georgia and end on Mount Katadyn in Maine,” Whitten said.

As a boy, Whitten enjoyed camping and hiking trails around his home. “As a Boy Scout, I learned camping and hiking skills I’ve used throughout my life. Later, as an adult, I got back onto the trails with my son Thomas, an Eagle Scout, while working with local Boy Scouts,” he said.

Two years ago on vacation in Alaska, Tommy Whitten hiked with his group to a replica Indian village. “That short hike got me missing the trail. This year, I read ‘A Walk In The Woods’ where the author hiked miles on the Appalachian Trail and got me thinking I needed to do that,” Whitten said.

A retired Army Colonel, Whitten gained experience in the woods, but most outdoor skills resulted from Scouting. To prepare for the Appalachian Trail, he will walk around the neighborhood and local greenways, along with trails at state parks.

“I’ll load my pack to the weight I’ll carry on the trail and hike with shoes I’ll wear. I’ll also do some leg work at the gym,” he said.

Previously, Whitten has hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail and Sipsey Wilderness Area. “The longest hike was around 30 miles on a long weekend. My 140-mile section hike in April for 14 days will be the longest,” he said.

On the Appalachian Trail, they will tent-camp primarily, except in severe weather when they’ll stay in a trail shelter. Occasionally, they may stay in a hotel or hostel when near a town for resupply.

Most food will be dehydrated or freeze-dried. “Everything must be lightweight and non-perishable. If we’re in a town, we certainly will take advantage of ‘town food,’” he said.

The Whitten brothers have committed to stay on the trail except for injury or sickness. If they must leave the trail, they’ll return as soon as they recover.

The Whitten brothers believe the hike will instill memories they haven’t experienced since before college. “Our trail names are Crazy Luther (me) and Kim Shady (my brother). We’ve established a YouTube channel, ‘Shoals Creek Brothers’ and are posting light-hearted content about preparations. We’ll post from the trail so folks can track our progress,” Tommy said.

“As I hike around the neighborhood with my pack, I’m sure some people may ask about that guy who’s walking in Madison with a pack on his back. You can always answer, ‘Oh, that’s just Crazy Luther,’” Tommy said.

Tommy’s wife Paula had retired but now works part time with Madison City Schools. Their son Thomas works at Dell Computers in Nashville.

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