Woodinville resident Duane Tehee began his quest after simply reading a journal.
Not just any old journal, it detailed a months-long hiking expedition along one of the National Scenic trails in the United States.
"I was really intrigued," he said.
At that point, Tehee said he wasn't really a hiker—at least not the kind who go out for months at a stretch—but he wanted to give it a try.
The retired United States Air Force Lt. Colonel did more than just try. Last Sunday, Tehee, 63, became only one of 170 people in the world to receive the Triple Crown Award for completing the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Each of these trails runs in a north-south direction; and total 8,000 miles.
He and others were recognized at the 17th annual American Long Distance Hiking Association-West Gathering near Mount Hood, Ore.
To “thru-hike” any of the three trails in a single season takes an average long-distance backpacker approximately 5 to 5 1/2 months. Many hikers hike these trails over several years, hiking a few weeks at a time. The award gives equal recognition to thru-hikers and section-hikers that have hiked the entire length of all three trails and does not consider issues such as sequence, direction, speed, duration, frequency, or whether one carries a pack.
Trials on the trail
Tehee knew this journey would not be a small undertaking. He lost 55 pounds during his first hiking adventure due to burning 7,000 calories a day.
In the spring of 2009, Tehee started hiking the Continental Divide Trail but suffered a near fatal fall that required him to be taken out by helicopter for emergency surgery in an hospital outside Glacier National Park. An ulcer, a stomach tear and a broken hand did not deter Tehee from his goal. He started the hike again in 2010 and completed it several months later.
He also earned the trail name of Beacon on the 2010 expedition by helping a fellow hiker in Montana find her way back to the trail.
"You're like a beacon in the night," she told him.
In 2011, he completed the Pacific Crest Trail.
He finished the Appalachian Trail on Aug. 5.
Now that he's off the trail and back living under a roof, Tehee is unsure of what he'll do next. This week, he's celebrating his award by hiking in Oregon.
"I'm running out of trails," he joked. "I'm not sure what I'll do."
Read journal entries of those on the trails at http://trailjournals.com/.