Since August, Greenwood resident Nathan Sonderman has been hiking the Appalachian Trail, starting in Maine and heading toward Georgia.
He has invited the Daily Journal and its readers to join him along the way. Here is his most recent update.
After nearly two months of hiking the wilderness of the northeast U.S., Nathan Sonderman was in no shape to see one of the most distinguished people on earth.
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But when Pope Francis’ visit to New York City coincided with his own trek nearby, he had to take advantage. The Appalachian Trail passes just north of New York City, so it was opportunity that Sonderman could not pass up.
The Roncalli High School graduate found a train station not far from the Appalachian Trail, traveled to the city and wandered around until he found himself along the pope’s route around Central Park.
“I went past a tall building to sneak past a security checkpoint and wasn’t paying attention to the building. As I made my way through the crowd, I ended up on the road where the pope was driving by,” he said.
Sonderman’s detour to see the pope included an encounter with Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower, spending a night in Central Park and seeing the Statue of Liberty. The adventure was just the latest in a series of outrageous occurrences on his trip.
“I got to see the pope and Donald Trump in one day,” he said. “It was pretty crazy.”
He is halfway through New York on the trail — about 800 miles into his journey.
Sonderman has encountered hikers “yo-yoing” the trail, hiking from Georgia to Maine and then back again. While staying at a shelter, he thwarted the theft of a significant knight’s helmet token by a rival shelter.
When he approached the Housatonic River in Connecticut, he was dismayed to learn that the footbridge had been washed out. Going up or down the river to find a working crossing would have added an additional three miles, so he instead decided to ford the river.
“I don’t know if I should have done that. There’s a dam that releases a lot of water periodically, but I decided to go for it anyways,” he said. “I swam across the river carrying my 42-pound pack above my head.”
As a photographer, he has tried to capture the diverse wildlife he has come across. One of the most unusual is the red efts, a bright scarlet newt common in the northeast.
His body is holding up despite filling his days with up to 20-mile hikes through mountainous wilderness. His shoes have all but disintegrated, having to be held together with a little frontier ingenuity until he can buy a new pair.
“I found the belt on the trail and used it to hold the pair together,” he said.