Luling hiker retires to tackle 2,193-mile trail

Kelly Ford

He figured he would just try.

Last October Kelly Ford headed to the Appalachian Trail for his very first backpacking trip.

“I was more into biking and it was just something different,” the Luling resident said. “I just wanted to see what it was all about … it’s way more challenging and harder on the knees than biking.”

Ford hiked 100 miles on that 2020 trip.

“I came to see what it was about and if I could handle it,” he said.

When Ford realized he could more than just handle hiking – and that he was actually very interested in putting in more miles – he fast-tracked his retirement from Bayer to be able to spend more time backpacking.

“I was ready,” he said of retiring. “I feel like the past year with the pandemic really showed everybody that life is short and anything can happen … go enjoy it while you can.”

On April 7 Ford headed back to the Appalachian Trail and started to hike it at the same point he ended hiking last fall. He is currently on track to finish the 2,193 mile trek in late September or early October.

“The trail goes through 14 states, and Virginia is the longest at 570 miles,” Ford said of his current location. “Virginia will be challenging. They call it the ‘Virginia blues.’ I’m trying to get to Maine … I’m trying to do it all.”

Ford said it will take him a total of 5-6 weeks to get through Virginia. He is utilizing hostels and campground along the way.

“I’ll be really relieved when I make it through here because 25 percent of people quit in Virginia,” he said, adding one of his favorite parts of hiking is the competition. “You’re competing against yourself.”

Ford’s passion for the sport of hiking has him planning several more adventures after he checks the Appalachian Trail off of his list.

“I’m going to head to New Zealand in December for three months … that’s my retirement trip,” he said.

A major hiking goal Ford has his eyes on is completing the Triple Crown, which is often considered the pinnacle of the hiking world.

To complete the feat, a person must hike the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. The task typically takes at least three years, with five or six months dedicated to each trail.

“Once you’ve done the Triple Crown you’re a bad ass,” Ford said laughing.


About Monique Roth 720 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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