‘Sunshine’ Hikes with Diabetes
KU alumna shows anyone can hike through, even with diabetes
Kutztown University 2016 alumna Cathryn Pugh, 23, is hiking the entire 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail for Hikes with Diabetes. Her trail name is Sunshine.
She recently spoke about her experience at a Meet and Greet fundraiser held at St. John’s Church in Port Clinton on June 25 for friends, family, community members and thru hikers. St. John’s Church in Port Clinton sold lunch items to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association. Also attending the event were representatives from the American Diabetes Association and the Diabetic Lifestyle Organization.
“Originally, I was just hiking for myself. I happen to have type 1 diabetes so I figured I might as well spread awareness of type diabetes and show other diabetics how easy it is to also follow your dreams,” said Pugh. “It’s a hard
journey but anyone can do it, even if you have type 1 diabetes.”
Pugh explained that type 1 diabetics do not make insulin, but she doesn’t have to worry about insulin injections while hiking. She uses a continuous glucose monitor to check her blood sugar every five minutes while an insulin pump maintains her insulin level while she hikes.
“It’s a really great set up,” she said. “The walking is great for my diabetes. It’s the only time in my life that I get to eat Snickers for fun and not just because my sugar is low. It’s been great for everything diabetes related.”
Originally from Wyalusing, the Allentown resident did day hikes prior to her thru hike. She completed a week-long hike in Tennessee in 2014 “and fell in love with the mountains and the whole culture. The hikers that you meet along the way are a whole other experience. Since then I decided I was going to do the whole thing.”
She began her thru hike of the Appalachian Trail Feb. 18 with two of her friends, Brooke Leister and George Ehrgott, also 2016 KU alumni. While hiking through Pennsylvania, they hiked separately, but hope to meet up again later on the trail.
They started at Springer Mountain, Georgia, hiking through snow in the Smoky Mountains.
“It was really hard. It snowed and I had to get off the mountain for a total of six days. Hiking in powdery snow that’s six inches deep... a step forward is like a half step back every step.”
The rain in March was a big challenge for her also.
“The rain I think is the hardest thing for me mentally mostly. We had a really rainy spring,” said Pugh. “It was something like 10 or 11 straight days of rain and my feet were wet all day long every single day.”
Her lifestyle has changed out on the trail also. She wears one outfit everyday. She takes a shower weekly, probably as often as she eats pizza, she said.
“I don’t need much in life. I think this has shown me that I really can survive with just a backpack and that’s great and reassuring for later,” she said.
Pugh hikes an average of 20 miles per day with a backpack weighing about 28 pounds, depending on food and water weight. She uses a hammock with a tarp overhead instead of a tent.
“I learned that you are never alone in the woods, even if you think you are, you’re not,” said Pugh about what she learned from the thru-hike experience so far. “I just learned how to survive on my own.”
Her favorite place so far on the AT are the Grayson Highlands in Virginia where there are wild ponies.
“I really love just hiking and having the whole day to think and to watch the seasons change. As a biologist, that was the greatest,” said Pugh. “I want to be a botanist so watching the flowers bloom is incredible.”
Pugh recently celebrated her four-month anniversary as a thru hiker. Currently hiking through New Jersey, she has less than 900 miles to go until she reaches the end of the AT at Mount Katahdin, Maine.
“I feel great, strong mentally and physically. Ready to do the rest.”
Kutztown University 2016 alumna Cathryn Pugh, 23, is hiking the entire 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail for Hikes with Diabetes.
Kutztown University 2016 alumna Cathryn Pugh, 23, is hiking the entire 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail for Hikes with Diabetes.experience for Hikes with Diabetes at a Meet and Greet fundraiser held at St. John’s Church in Port Clinton on June 25.
Appalachian Trail thru hikers stop by for lunch at Hikes with Diabetes Meet and Greet fundraiser held at St. John’s Church in Port Clinton on June 25.
Cathryn Pugh, 23, hiked through snow in the Smokies while thru hiking Appalachian Trail for Hikes with Diabetes.
Appalachian Trail thru hikers “Blue Deer” Tyler Hudgins of S.C., right, and “Dirty Face” Evan Magallanes, N.J., stopped for lunch during the Hikes with Diabetes Meet and Greet fundraiser at St. John’s Church in Port Clinton on June 25.
Thru hiker Cathryn Pugh, 23, shares views from her Appalachian Trail hike.
Hikes with Diabetes Meet and Greet fundraiser was held at St. John’s Church in Port Clinton on June 25.