BEREA, Ohio - Most people that hike the Appalachian Trail spend their lives waiting and planning for the big adventure. A retired Berea man was simply watching a TV show when he instantly knew he had to hike it right away.
Bob Grau didn't have any experience in camping, backpacking or hiking in all of his 67 years. His mind was made up after watching the documentary "Appalachian Impressions" on PBS.
"It really appealed to me as something I would like to try," Bob said. Hiking the entire trail would mean leaving his wife for about six months.
"My wife was not thrilled by it because she was worried about my health," Bob said. His wife, Nancy, was not so sure this was a good idea.
"I thought 'Ah, is he crazy?' I couldn't imagine doing anything like that," Nancy said.
Bob read books, bought some equipment, exercised and ate to add weight. He started hiking the 2,181 miles north from Georgia on March 22. He was only four days in when he felt the huge weight of his 53-pound pack. His 5-pound, two-person tent was first to go.
The first chance he got, he bought a tent that weighed only two pounds. He bought a lighter pack as well.
As Bob got in a groove he saw bear, moose and breath-taking vistas. He said the hardest part was the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine.
"The terrain is rugged, it's steep, it's rocky, it's rooted and when it's wet, everything is slippery. So every step is dangerous. There are several places along the trail where if you fell you very definitely could be killed," Bob said.
While descending a mountain in what the hikers call a 'treacherous area' Bob slipped and fell, injuring his ankle.
"I thought I had a severe ankle sprain. I was able to talk to an orthopedic doctor by cell phone," Bob said. The doctor wanted him to get an X-ray, which was not at all possible while sitting injured on top of that mountain. He called a hostel owner who had a hiker climb 5 miles up the mountain bringing bob an ankle brace.
"I hobbled for awhile. Eventually, I got back to pretty much a normal speed within three weeks." Bob said.
After 170 days and about 5 million steps hiking mostly alone, Bob made to his destination: Mt. Katahdin, Maine. He did get that X-ray when he got home and confirmed he had a broken ankle.
"So I hiked about 350 miles in the white mountains of New Hampshire and the rugged Maine mountains with a broken ankle," Bob said.
Bob had more than 300 sponsors pledging at least a penny per mile. He raised over $75,000 for three charities. Bob wrote a blog about his adventure that you can read here: http://grauathiker.blogspot.com/