Four days after their April 2 wedding, Michigan residents Nick and Kara Saur were covering their skin with industrial-strength bug repellant, not SPF 30 suntan lotion.
And the adventure-seeking newlyweds – Kara is a native of Canton; Nick was born and raised in the Grand Rapids area – were lacing up hiking boots, not slipping on sandals, for a six-month, 2,193-mile journey on the Appalachian Trail.
“It started out as a joke, to be honest,” Kara Saur said, chuckling, as she and Nick neared the 1,300-mile mark of their journey July 8 somewhere in northwest New Jersey. “We thought, ‘What if we did that? Wouldn’t that be crazy?’
“The more we talked about it, the more we thought, ‘Well, why not?’ We don’t own a house yet, we don’t have kids yet. If we’re ever going to do it, it had better be now.”
So they went for it and couldn’t be more happy … or sore.
“Every day we wake up with what is referred to as the hikers’ hobble,” Kara said. “It’s kind of funny: Everybody gets out of their tents and walks a little stiff-like.”
Not the kind of stuff you see most mornings in Cancun.
For those of you who spent the week after your wedding on an all-inclusive cruise or in an exotic Caribbean resort, here’s a CliffsNotes summary of the Appalachian Trail: Saturated with breathtaking beauty, it’s rugged, mountainous and unforgiving, with zero McDonald’s drive-thrus, let alone coin-operated vending machines.
“Somebody we ran into put it perfectly: Hiking the trail is Type 2 fun,” Kara said. “It’s not Cedar Point fun; it’s wake up and put on the same wet shoes and socks for the fifth straight day fun.
“Nick is a very positive person, thank goodness, because there have been days when I don’t want to hike. I’ve never wanted to quit; there are days I’d just rather go spend the night in a hotel. But we’ve stayed true to the journey and we’re actually keeping to a pretty good pace.”
The Saurs said the average time it takes hikers to venture from the start of the trail in northern Georgia to its finish line in Maine is five to seven months.
“We’re averaging about 14 miles per day, so we’re on pace to finish in about five-and-a-half months, which, I guess, is a little better than average,” Kara said.
When it comes to wildlife, the Saurs have seen it all.
“We’ve had three separate encounters with bears, which was pretty awesome, but I’ve never felt unsafe,” Kara said. “We’ve seen two rattlesnakes and lots of other snakes, but only two that are venomous that we know of.
“We saw a porcupine recently and lots of newts. My favorite, though, is when we see snails. I have a greater appreciation now for creatures that carry their homes on their backs because that’s what we do every day.”
Eating is an adventure by itself, the Saurs have discovered. Nick has already lost 35 pounds since the day of the wedding.
“We eat junk food – total junk food,” Kara said, laughing. “We eat a lot of candy. It’s hard to eat fruits and vegetables because we try to keep our packs as light as we can so we can move faster and reduce back pain. We eat a lot of things that are fast and easy to cook on our little stove: ramen noodles, oatmeal.
“I even tried Spam for the first time and I liked it. I’m not sure if I liked it because I was really, really hungry or if it was actually good. We both have what they call hikers’ hunger; we’re hungry all the time. Since we’re usually walking, our stomachs are like incinerators that burn off everything we eat.”
The Saurs have been blessed by their experiences with trail magic and trail angels, Kara said.
“Trail magic is when a road crosses the trail and people who live in nearby towns (trail angels) show up and cook hot dogs for the hikers, give us Gatorade, coffee,” she said. “The level of generosity true strangers have shown us has been amazing.”
Every day has delivered highlights, Kara acknowledged, but one milestone has taken the cake so far.
“For me, it was the day we hit 1,000 miles on the trail,” she said. “That was a pretty emotional experience for me because, just looking at a map and thinking, ‘Wow, we really walked 1,000 miles! That was a cool moment. It made this whole experience feel real.”
reach the end of the trail in mid-September, the Saurs will return to Grand Rapids where they will continue their professions – Nick is an engineer whose company allowed him to take a leave; Kara is a nurse who will be seeking employment – and start planning for their next adventure … or not.
“One thing this entire experience has taught us is how much we miss home, our family and friends,” Kara said. “That said, this entire journey has been incredible. The experience of a lifetime, for sure.”
Contact reporter Ed Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-375-1113.
Read More:Michigan couple spends 6 months hiking