Hike for Kids' Sake benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters
Rockland — On Oct. 13, 2012, Bill Michaud realized a dream he’d had for more than 50 years.
On that day, he summited Mt. Katahdin and completed his 2,186 mile hike of the Appalachian Trail which had started on March 19 at Springer Mountain, Ga. “Backtrack” as Bill was known along the trail, along with 13 members of his informal hiking group “The Sunshine Gang,” which had coalesced along the hike, reached the end of their journey in his home state. Along the way, he raised approximately $5,000 to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine.
Michaud, who turned 62 while on the trail, served as the agency’s founder and executive director from 1988 to 1993. He shared his Appalachian Trail adventures with BBBSMCM staff members at their monthly staff meeting on Jan. 16, telling stories of some of the wacky and interesting people he met along the way, his adventures with bears, snakes and other wildlife, and the many kindnesses shown to him by “Trail Angels” who provided “Trail Magic” along the way. Colorful characters like “Cheese Whiz”, “4-10”, “Cackles”, “Rooster” and a group of people called “Riff Raff” all played a role in his adventure of a lifetime.
After months of research and planning, Michaud's epic adventure ran non-stop from March to October with just one exception – he came home briefly to serve as the benefit auctioneer for the town of Friendship’s annual auction. Through it all, his wife Debbie held down the home front, managing their bed and breakfast in Friendship and working with other friends and neighbors who pitched in to keep his kayak business afloat during the summer months.
Michaud's trail pack weighed anywhere from 27 to 34 pounds, depending on if he had a full load of food or was nearing empty. He slept in a 2.9-ounce one-person tent and went through three backpacks and just one sturdy pair of hiking boots. Along the way, he attended “Trail Days” in Damascus, Va., an annual gathering of through hikers. He was also part of an impromptu “Quattro de Mayo” celebration which became legendary among hikers along the trail.
Michaud said his two favorite states along the trail were Maine and New Hampshire for their scenery. He also enjoyed Georgia, the Great Smokies of North Carolina, and the Shenandoahs and Grayson Highlands in Virginia. The wild ponies in the Grayson Highlands were a particular treat, having no fear of humans.
“It was an amazing privilege to experience the adventure of a lifetime, raise money for my favorite kid-serving organization and miss the entire worst season of Red Sox baseball all at the same time,” Bills said in a news release. “I am less afraid of bears than I used to be and I lost a bunch of sedentary job weight without a diet! Moreover, I met some of the best people I have ever known and realized how much I missed and loved my wife and daughter and folks back home. It was truly seven months of drilling the few things I know a little deeper and clearing the decks for some new knowledge. I can never thank enough the people who made donations, helped Debbie, or sent letters or brownies to me along the way.”
Alex Gaeth, CEO for BBBSMCM, applauded Michaud stamina and effort. “I’ve known Bill for almost 10 years, and he is one of the most dedicated and caring people I’ve ever met. His love for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is unparalleled. Our agency would not exist without his earlier efforts. He single-handedly kept the agency going during some trying times, and his passion and commitment for our agency continues today, as his Hike For Kids’ Sake illustrates.”
More photos of Michaud's hike can be seen on the Big Brothers Big Sisters website at bbbsmcm.org.