Updated January 23, 2018, see below.
Five Million. That’s a big number no matter how you slice it. That’s how many estimated steps it will take Robert Messick to hike the Appalachian Trail – all 2,190 miles of it. He begins his journey on April 15 over every mountain between Georgia and Maine. The AT, as it is known, is the world’s longest footpath and spans 14 states. Robert hopes to raise $35,000 while walking the trail for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter in Easton.
The Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) has been an interest of Robert’s since its start in 2009. He has volunteered at the shelter for years. He loves hiking and decided to marry the two in an effort known as The Long Walk Home. In preparation for his departure, Robert dehydrated food for his 4,000 calorie a day trek and found time to spread the word about his Long Walk Home in hopes of gathering pledges.
While Robert is choosing to go “homeless” for up to five months on the trail, the people in the care of TIS do not chose to be homeless. “I’m becoming homeless on purpose, but the people who are homeless don’t do it by choice. We get stories from folks who are able to get their lives back on track with the help from the shelter. Talbot Interfaith Shelter is a crucial aspect to our community. We need to step forward and help them out.”
Hiking the “Green Tunnel,” as its known, is hard on even the seasoned hiker. Robert has been hiking and working out daily to prepare his body. He is mentally prepared as well, having practiced yoga for years. Robert, a yoga instructor, explains that yoga is as much about mind as body. “The AT is the perfect setting for walking meditation,” he said.
While 3,000 people attempt to walk through the trail, only 15% to 20% finish. The first few weeks are a real challenge, Robert admits, before gaining one’s trail legs. “My mental outlook is to accept what is and not fight it,” he said. It’s going to rain. It will get cold. He will stumble on rocks and roots. He might even curse the PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs), but he will take the steady approach. He hopes to average 15 miles a day. “It’s senseless to not enjoy the journey,” said Robert, who is 62.
He will wake before dawn – rising from his hanging hammock – and hit the trail at sunrise. He will watch for the telltale white blazes on trees and follow them until near sunset. While there are shelters along the trail every 8 to 10 miles, Robert plans on setting up camp on his own. Family and friends may join him in Virginia, but a majority of the trek will be alone.
While he does worry about injury, Robert is still well connected to home, family and friends. Robert has an iPhone 7 Plus and a special GPS watch so he can broadcast daily uploads, based on reception in remote locations. Various apps will help him along the way as well. A Satellite Spot Messenger provides his coordinates at all times for family checking in on him.
Hiking the AT from start to finish is an experience like no other. To put it in perspective, it’s like hiking the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest, 16 times. Robert hopes to make the hike in about five months and in only four pair of boots – three pair of Trail Runners, a specialized lightweight hiking shoe – and a pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots for the colder months. And he’ll need to swap out his cold gear in the warmer months. He has packed boxes of gear and food and will mail them to various drop points along the route at one-week intervals to restock his supplies. Food and water is heavy to carry and he plans on taking five to seven days worth of food at a time.
It will be exciting to follow Robert’s five million steps starting on April 15, at the conclusion of tax season as Robert is in tax and estate planning at The Messick Law Firm, LLC, in St. Michaels. While the AT was completed in about 1927, it took another 20 years before someone finished it as a through hike. Robert hopes to be one of the proud to make that accomplishment.
To follow Robert along the trail, visit www.trailjournals.com/LongWalkHome. Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertMessickat and Instagram at @robertmessickontheAT.
To donate to the Long Walk Home, visit https://tis.networkforgood.com. For more information about Talbot Interfaith Shelter, visit www.talbotinterfaithshelter.org.
Long Walk Home Surpasses $35,000 Fundraising Goal for Talbot Interfaith Shelter!
Before setting out on his mission to hike the Appalachian Trail to benefit Talbot Interfaith Shelter, (aptly named the Long Walk Home), local attorney Robert Messick set himself an ambitious fundraising goal. On top of traversing 2,190 miles across 14 states, taking approximately 5 million steps, and navigating elevation changes that are the equivalent of ascending Mount Everest 16 times, Messick decided that he wanted to further challenge himself to raise $35,000 for the Easton-based shelter and transitional housing program.
In December of 2017, that goal was not only met, but surpassed. Since Messick began his journey on April 15,, 2017, he has raised over $36,000 to assist Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) in providing a stable, home-like environment, case management, and access to necessary services for men, women, and children in need in Talbot County.
“When Robert came to us with the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail in our honor, we were humbled,” says TIS Marketing and Communications Director Jayme Dingler. “When he said that he wanted to raise $35,000, we were speechless! And to see that he has not only accomplished that goal, but exceeded it… we could not be more proud or appreciative. He has done so much good for our community!”
Messick reached his goal with the help of over 170 supporters, including many of the people that he has met along the trail and two extremely generous matching donations from members of our local community. TIS also hosted its very first Long Walk Home Family Fun Walk in November, which raised a further $10,000+ for the Long Walk Home.
While Messick intended to wrap up his Appalachian Trail adventure in October, several setbacks, including severe weather and injury, caused him to have to take some time off the trail and delayed his completion. Hikers have a full year to travel every mile of the trail in order for it to be considered a true “thru-hike”, and Robert is determined to make it happen. To date, he has hiked close to 1,900 miles through 14 states with only portions of Virginia left to complete.
“His perseverance has been so impressive to watch,” says TIS Executive Director Julie Lowe. “Robert has been such an inspiration to our organization, our community, and especially to our guests. To see him push himself in this way and not give up shows them that determination can lead to extraordinary results. We are beyond thankful for all Robert has done for us!”
If you are interested in catching up on or supporting Robert’s adventure, visit www.talbotinterfaithshelter.org and click on “Long Walk Home”. There, you can follow media coverage, find links to Messick’s social media accounts, purchase Long Walk Home merchandise, and make a donation to benefit TIS.
“Just because I have met the goal, that does not mean the need has gone away,” says Messick. “There is still homelessness in our area, and I hope that my supporters will continue to give to Talbot Interfaith Shelter, which does so much to help our neighbors get back on their feet.”
When Messick completes the last leg of his journey, he plans to take his story to the community, giving presentations to interested groups beginning in April. If you would like to have Robert come and speak to your community group, school, youth group, etc., contact Jayme Dingler at email@example.com or 443-786-4676 to schedule a presentation.
Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) is a 501(c)3 organization based in Easton and serving Talbot County and the surrounding areas. The organization has developed a program that they call S4 (Shelter, Stability, Support, Success), which is designed to give guests access to a stable home-like environment, services, and tools that can help them break the cycle of poverty and homelessness and regain their independence. Once guests are accepted into Easton’s Promise, they receive case management as they move through an individualized plan, eventually transitioning into one of the shelter’s eight subsidized off-site apartments, where they incrementally take over expenses until they are fully self-sufficient.
Their vision is that no one in Talbot County will ever have to spend a night on the streets, in a car or in the woods because he or she cannot find housing. To learn more about how you can help, visit www.talbotinterfaithshelter.org or contact Julie Lowe at 410-310-2316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.