"I went for a walk in the woods, like a vacation," Kevin Halsey said. "What I did was easy compared to real life."
Halsey of Townville started his walk on April 4 in Georgia. When he reached the summit on Oct. 2 in Maine, he had hiked 2,189.2 miles. Kevin "Bull" Halsey is an Appalachian Trail (A.T.) thru-hiker and to his followers in the "Bull Nation," he's an inspiration.
The Appalachian Trail is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is the longest hiking-only trail in the world, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
"Bull Nation" is the group name for Halsey's supporters. "Having a support group was part of my plan," Halsey said. "Having supporters involved in my hike gave me motivation and accountability."
The group name stemmed from Halsey's chosen trail name, a custom, if not requirement, of A.T. hikers. "People choose a trail name as a way to escape who they are in life," Halsey said. "I chose Bull because I'm related to Admiral Bull Halsey from World War II and I'm more like a bull in a china shop than a graceful hiker."
Gracefulness aside, Halsey said his friends would not think of him as a hiker at all. Halsey had seen some of the country, but it was as a bus driver for Anderson Coach and Travel of Greenville for 20 years. "I had not done anything like this before," he said. "It was on my bucket list and I had no obligations, so I thought I might as well do it now."
Halsey's bucket list started around 1989, not long after his high school graduation, when he was working at Kings Family Restaurant on Conneaut Lake Road. "Paul Hollabaugh came into the restaurant and told me about his hike of the A.T.," Halsey said. "That's when I first got interested."
Hollabaugh, trail name "Lucky, Lucky, Lucky," hiked the A.T. from June 1 to Sept. 20 in 1989, southbound from Maine to Georgia. Whether you believe in fate or coincidence, Halsey bumped into the man who inspired him years ago, while he and his mother were having lunch at Kings Family Restaurant on Oct. 8, less than a week after Halsey's return. "There was a reason for us to go into Kings that day," Halsey said.
Halsey described Hollabaugh as an animal who would have left him in the dust. "The terrain was definitely tougher than I expected," Halsey said. "I might have been naive compared to other hikers."
Halsey doesn't have much to say about difficulties or hardships along his journey. Before he began his hike, he eliminated the word "quit" from his vocabulary. "Quitting was never an option," he said. "When I ran into someone along the way who was having a hard day, I did my best to share my thoughts and help them continue to hike their own hike."
His long-time friend, Victor Morehead, considers Halsey to be an inspiration in his life. "Kevin did something a lot of people don't do and he refused to quit," Morehead said. "I think we should all take more chances and refuse to quit in all aspects of our lives."
Nights on the trail provide ample opportunity for solitude, according to Halsey, but when times are trying there's trail magic and trail angels there to help out. Halsey said there are lots of locations where people pass out drinks and words of encouragement.
"Some towns have lists of people willing to take in hikers," Halsey said. "I was blessed one night to have a couple who picked me up, provided me with dinner, a shower and a bed and then took me back to the trail the next morning," he said.
Blessed is the word that Halsey uses to sum up his experience. "This walk gave me a renewed faith in people," he said. "I saw so much generosity and witnessed people looking out for one another."
"People can be bristly and build up a hard shell around themselves as a way to protect themselves," Halsey said. "When you're out in nature, relying sometimes on the help of strangers, that shell doesn't do any good."
Hiking the A.T. is something Halsey would consider doing again, but having completed it, he has moved other accomplishments up on the list. "There are other trails like the Pacific Crest Trail that have moved up on my list now," Halsey said.
If you would like to hear and see in person what "Bull" Halsey experienced during his nearly six-month-long walk in the woods, he will host a show and tell on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. at the Townville Fire Hall, 33441 N. Main St. Halsey is welcoming those who followed him from the beginning and those who just heard of his hike to a gathering of the horns. Lunch will be provided.
RSVPs are appreciated in order to provide food for everyone. To respond, email "Bull" at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter "Bull Yeah" in the subject line.
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You can go
Kevin "Bull" Halsey hosts a show and tell about his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on Oct. 24 at the Townville Fire Hall, 33441 N. Main St. Halsey will share stories and photos from his experience. Lunch will be provided. RSVPs are appreciated in order to provide food for all who attend. To respond, email Halsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.