Septuagenarian is Appalachian Trail Luminary

While hiking near the historic West Virginia town of Harper’s Ferry in 2013, Nan Reisinger learned that the oldest woman to have walked the full length of the Appalachian Trail in one continuous trek was 71 years old. “I can do that!” exclaimed Reisinger who, at the time, was 73 years of age. And so the Camp Hill woman began to prepare for the task, which she accomplished last year.Hiking1

It was not an unreasonable objective. Reisinger had hiked all of the Trail’s sections at one time or another. Her interest in things outdoors goes back to a childhood in which her father’s fishing and hunting avocations encouraged his daughter to embrace nature.

Through-hiking the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail requires logistical planning coupled with previous experience. “My companion and I didn’t want to do it in cold weather, which would require heavier clothing and added weight,” says Reisinger. “We had friends drive us to the southern starting point at Springer Mountain, Georgia, where we began on March 30. Our friends then drove back north, dropping off food parcels and other necessities at towns adjacent to the Trail. At those points we spent a few days to re-supply, do laundry and take showers before resuming the hike.”

Reisinger’s longest respite from the Trail was in Pennsylvania, where she took seven days to gather provisions and prepare boxes to be sent ahead for the balance of the journey.     “Pine Grove Furnace is the halfway point on the Trail,” she says. “Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs offers hikers a great package that includes a buffet dinner and a play. So, Pennsylvania is a good place to take a longer break and get ready for the rest of the trip.” Mount Katahdin in Maine is the Trail’s northern terminus. Reisinger and her friend reached it on October 4.

“Walking the entire length of the Trail provided a different experience for me than doing it in parts,” says Reisinger. “It’s not easy to explain, but I felt more like part of a community, seeing the same hikers at different times.”

Hiking3Injuries from falls were what Reisinger feared most on the hike. “We went over some pretty rocky areas,” she says. “I didn’t worry about the wild animals, except for maybe rattlesnakes. One evening we pitched our tent, and I noticed a coiled up rattler not far away. Thought about moving the tent, but changed my mind, convinced that at least I knew where this snake was. In the morning, it was gone.” There are specified camping areas along the Trail, but Reisinger and her friend more often looked for a flat piece of ground upon which to settle for the night.

“Everybody loses weight on the Trail. That’s something I never thought that I would complain about!” she laughs. “It’s hard to get enough calories.” She explains her typical daily fare. “For breakfast, I’ll have oatmeal with dried fruit, dried milk, some butter, tea and Pop Tarts. Lunch is usually some kind of granola or power bars. Snickers is great for energy. Tortilla shells with peanut butter and jelly are also good. Getting a big, thick sub in a town along the Trail is a really satisfying treat. Dinner is often dehydrated foods like beef, chicken, tuna, Minute rice, angel hair pasta, things like that.”Hiking5

Reisinger boils water on a diminutive cooking appliance that uses for fuel a product called Esbit. The small white tiles of flammable substance, which burn very hot, are easy to pack and carry. Clean and fresh water is essential. Once relying on purification tablets, Reisinger now employs a hand-held micron filter device through which stream water passes on its way into a canteen or other container. “The same filter can purify hundreds of gallons,” she says.

Walking about five miles a day keeps Reisinger fit for longer efforts. Before the Appalachian Trail, she completed a backpacking hike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness. Her next goal is to do the Oregon and Washington parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Being a member of the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club provides Reisinger the opportunity to meet other hikers, share information and experiences and to participate in organized hikes in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey.

A mother of four and grandmother of two, Reisinger was born in Mt. Joy and spent 25 years in the accounting profession, first at Pomeroy’s Department Store in Harrisburg, and then with Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff in York County. “I stayed at home until all of my children were in school,” she says, “and then I earned an associate degree in accounting from Harrisburg Area Community College while going to work.”

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Staff Writer

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