Age is only an obstacle for some
They are known as the Pink Panthers on the trail, and it isn't
hard to see why.
"In 1994, we got our trail name, The Pink Panthers," said Kip
Smith. That year, she and her husband Norm, in their mid-60's,
completed the 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail for the first time. For
that journey she had handmade bright pink fleece jackets along with
other athletic wear.
The name stuck and so did their color choice for their second
attempt to complete the AT, at ages 82 and 84.
Sitting at breakfast at the Inn at the Long Trail, July 17, the
Smiths recounted their decision to go back on the AT and their
journey thus far.
"In 2010, she turned 80 and I asked her what she wanted to do to
celebrate," Norm said. ""I'd like to go back on the AT' she had
said, so we did."
The decision was that simple; the journey has presented
Their first leg in 2010, they make it to North Carolina before a
number of injuries (and subsequent recovery periods) sent them home
to Middletown, NY.
In 2011, they gave it another go, starting where they left off.
However, medical complications once again developed, disrupting
their progress for another couple months.
After that year "we decided we had taken care of the medical
profession for a while, and decided to see what trouble we could
get into again," said Norm. They started their most recent trip at
Stratton Mountain, June 28.
Averaging 5-6 miles a day, Norm and Kip camp or stay at shelters
along the trail. Kip's pack weighs 15 pounds; it's just the
necessities, she says. Hiking poles help with balance and
stability. "Hiking poles are a must," says Kip. "It's important for
us to take steps carefully."
The Smiths are veteran hikers who have been climbing high points
together since 1979. They have racked up many impressive
accomplishments over those year, some of which include the Catskill
3500s, Adirondack 46ers, Whites 4000-footers and the Northeast
In 1992, they became the oldest husband and wife team to summit
Denali at ages 62 and 64; and the first husband and wife team to
have completed all 50 state highpoints together. "All 50 - over the
age of 60" wrote Thomas P. Martin, a Professor Health, Fitness and
Sport Department at Wittenberg University, in an essay titled
So when a friend suggested they try the AT, they did, and added
that to the list in 1994 as well.
"Just keep looking up," said Norm, remembering one of his favorite
When asked, if they were looking to set a new record with this
trip. Kip said, "No, we are not looking for a record this time."
But then added, "We'll see... we're not their yet," after subtle
coaxing from Norm, who is always "getting ahead" she
Historically, only about 10% to 15% of those who make the attempt
report to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that they completed
For now, Norm and Kip will simply enjoying the journey, each
step of the way.