Michaud returns from Appalachian Trail for annual auction
Friendship — Bill Michaud has been the auctioneer for the annual Friendship town auction for more than 20 years. When he pursued a 50-year plan to hike the Appalachian Trail in March, he promised to return for the event. "I said, wherever I was, I'd find a way to get back."
Hiking in New Jersey on Thursday, July 26, he made it home to Maine by car on Friday, July 27 to prepare for the auction.
The auction, which benefits the town's ambulance fund, is a mainstay of the Friendship Day festivities. Without Michaud, the event would forfeit tradition. "Everybody's pleased. He's not only entertaining, but he makes money," said auction volunteer Margaret Gagnon.
"I've wanted to hike the trail since I was 11 years old," said Michaud. He was first inspired as a Boy Scout on a family vacation in Shenandoah National Park.
Known as "Backtrack" on the trail, Michaud hopes to finish his hike in October.
Michaud has grown a beard during the months he's been away. Friends have commented that they didn't recognize him. "I can't shave," he said. "How will the bears respect me?"
Michaud is on the board of directors for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Agency in Rockland, which is the beneficiary of Michaud's hike. People interested in giving a donation can contribute as little as a penny a mile to the fund. Visit bbbsmcm.org for information on how to donate and updates on Michaud's journey.
Early in the journey, passing into North Carolina, Michaud met up with two young hiking companions from Dayton, Ohio. Kylie Klinger, known as "4-10 to Maine" and Brandon Johnson, "Smokehawk," were invited by Michaud to stay at his home for the Friendship Days festivities.
"The experience has been everything and more than I expected," said Michaud. "It's beautiful and it's the most challenging thing I've ever done physically and mentally."
Michaud, 62, said he feels every minute of the hike. "It will be my first and last time," he said.
Michaud expects the trio will finish the trail in early October after starting in Georgia. He said Klinger is the task master of the group, maintaining their rigorous pace of 16 miles per day. Some days the group accomplishes 20 miles when there is "potential for food or a bed."
Despite the experiences and nuances on the trail, Michaud still finds excitement in the familiar auction, commenting on the amazing array of items, including an 1895 Waldoboro hand-hooked rug.
"I shame people into bidding," he joked, adding he doesn't do the auction speak, or auctioneer's chant. "I make up for it by speaking loudly and lying a lot," he said.
Michaud will end his journey on Mt. Katahdin, 2,180 miles and 50 years from where he started.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at JLaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.