My hometown newspaper (the same one I used to be a paperboy for) included a story about my Appalachian Trail journey last week! The article started with a big front page picture of me on top of Katahdin and finished on page 5 with another photo from the start of the trail. Jim Langham called me the week before and we spoke for over an hour about the trail, how I prepared for it, and what I learned from it. Jim constructed a great story and I am honored to be included in the Berne Tri-Weekly’s news from my home town in Indiana!
Clemens completes Appalachian Trail Hike
By Jim Langham – Berne Tri-Weekly News – 8/29/2012
When South Adams graduate Chris Clemens is asked these days why he decided to walk the 2,184.2 miles of the Appalachian trail, his answer is simple and to the point. “I don’t know,” says Clemens. “I’ve given a couple of presentations since I’ve been back. People ask me why I did it and I give the same answer every time, ‘I don’t know.’” Clemens said. Clemens does know that the seed of interest for taking the long hike up the East Coast came from a college roommate who suggested the trail to him. “All I said was, ‘sounds interesting,’” said Clemens. “From then on things started to come together and I started getting ready for the trip.”
Clemens, a 2006 graduate of Ball State University, is no stranger to aggressive exercise. He has completed 11 marathons, including a 31-mile ultra-marathon. “I decided to do the trail in November of last year,” Clemens said. I always did some type of training but I didn’t over exert myself in preparing to go.” “I talked to a guy about getting in shape to go. I asked him what I should do and he told me to go to a good shoe shop and make sure I had the right kind of shoes. He said that was the most important part of being prepared.” Clemens said. At South Adams High School, Clemens had been active in cross country, track and on the swim team. In preparation for the long trail, he did a lot of preparation from reading on the internet. Clemens, son of Tom (step-father) and Sharon Ninde of Geneva and Jim Clemens of Prescott, Arizona, had graduated from South Adams in 2002. “It’s very hard to prepare for something like that,” Clemens said. “The best way to prepare is to put on a 30-pound pack and run up and down a football stadium; I didn’t worry about doing that.”
The former local athlete launched his effort on March 8 from Springer Mountain, GA. The first few days, he walked about eight or 10 miles. As the journey advanced, he slept on the trail in a tent he carried with him. He developed a system of dropping off the trail every three to five days to get groceries. Usually, on those occasions, he would end up sleeping in a good bed and getting a good night’s sleep. “I ate a lot of Pop Tarts, instant mashed potatoes and Snickers bars,” said Clemens. “I also ate a lot of couscous. Most of the food I ate cold.” Clemens said that he had one moment that he considered his most perilous moment, during a thunderstorm on the Presidential Range in the White Mountains in New England. “I was in the White Mountains Lakes of the Clouds area,” said Clemens. “All of a sudden it started thundering and lightning all over the place. I ran for a shelter. The lightening was falling all over. It was the scariest moment on the trial.
“In New Jersey I saw three bears. I was kind of skittish about that. Another time I saw a rattlesnake on the trail; that was a little scary,” continued Clemens. Clemens said that he usually slept in his tent. Often, those sleeping tried to stay close to one of the 250 shelters available on the trail. He described the shelters as, “a three wall structure with a top on it.”
Much of the time, Clemens was seemingly hiking by himself, sometimes all day. He noted that other hikers were never far behind or ahead of him. One of his most unique experiences was in the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania where he came down out of the mountains and hiked through the valley, in some cases trough corn fields. “There are three million people who step on to the trail leach year, some for just a few steps,” noted Clemens. “There is a lot of activity, especially during the holidays.” During much of the trail there was spotty cell phone coverage. If there would be a need among one of the hikers, other s on the trail would usually surround that person and work to get them to help.
When asked about some of his favorite sites, Clemens replied the White Mountains, mountains in southern Maine, the Roan Highlands in North Carolina, Grayson Highlands of Virginia. “The Grayson Highlands is a place I would definitely like to go back to sometime,” Clemens said. At the Delaware Water Gap, Clemens’ wife, Amy, picked him up for a three-day visit. He admitted that after that it was difficult for a short time to go back to the trail. At one point, early in the trip, in the Grayson Highlands, the walkers experienced snow for a day.
On the way back to his home in California, Clemens stopped in Berne to visit his family during Swiss Days. He also took a few hikes with relatives on his return trip home. When asked how the trip impacted him, Clemens replied, “It made me rethink what I do every day. It makes me focus on stuff I really want to do. I learned that it’s okay to take a risk and do something different, something I really like to do.” “I learned that there’s two kinds of people on the trails, some are always on the trail, they love the trail and want to be on it all along,” noted Clemens. “I really missed regular, normal stuff,” continued Clemens. “I really missed the things I Had taken for granted during those four and a half months, my wife and my home. It made me realize how much I appreciate normalcy, I don’t know why I did it but it sure was good to be back home.”