Cou­ple hik­ing the Ap­palachian Trail with infant daugh­ter

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY MIKE GANGLOFF

DALEVILLE, VA. | If any­one is qual­i­fied to hike nearly 2,200 miles while car­ry­ing a baby, it’s prob­a­bly Bekah and Der­rick Quirin.

Both 25, the Quirins have ac­cu­mu­lated lengthy back­coun­try re­sumes: Both have de­grees in out­door lead­er­ship and years of trail ex­pe­ri­ence, both led week­long hikes in Wash­ing­ton and man­aged re­cre­ation pro­grams in South Carolina, and both trained as wilder­ness first re­spon­ders.

But none of the Blue Ridge cou­ple’s ad­ven­tures have been quite like the one they be­gan Mon­day: tack­ling the 2,190mile length of the Ap­palachian Trail while car­ry­ing their 1-year-old daugh­ter, El­lie. They plan to post pic­tures and de­scrip­tions of their trek — and plug their spon­sors — on­line at their El­lieOnTheAT In­sta­gram ac­count and at El­lieOnTheAT. com.

Both Quirins grew up near the trail — Der­rick Quirin in Bote­tourt County, where his fa­ther is as­so­ciate pas­tor of Bon­sack Bap­tist Church, and Bekah Quirin in Blue Ridge, where her fa­ther is lead pas­tor at Fel­low­ship Com­mu­nity Church.

Hav­ing dated since high school and com­pleted North Greenville Univer­sity’s out­door lead­er­ship pro­gram to­gether, the Quirins said they had dreamed about tak­ing on the Ap­palachian Trail for years.

But when col­lege ended, they both had full-time job of­fers. The trail would have to wait.

“We did the re­spon­si­ble thing,” Der­rick Quirin said.

“We didn’t have quite enough saved up,” Bekah Quirin added.

Hav­ing a child lent a new ur­gency to the ad­ven­ture. For one thing, they fig­ured they had a brief win­dow be­fore El­lie be­came too heavy to carry for such a dis­tance.

Tak­ing a longer-term per­spec­tive, the Quirins said they are all too aware of the pres­sures on wilder­ness ar­eas across the coun­try. They wanted El­lie to have at least some of the ex­pe­ri­ence they’d had in un­de­vel­oped forests and moun­tains.

“I don’t want her to miss that. And I don’t know where it’ll be when she’s old enough” to hike and camp on her own, Der­rick Quirin said.

If the Quirins com­plete the trail in a year from their start date, they will qual­ify as through-hik­ers. And while El­lie won’t be the youngest through-hiker — “She’s not hik­ing,” Der­rick Quirin is quick to point out — the Quirins think that she will be the youngest per­son to travel the trail’s 2,190 miles.

The three Quirins set off Mon­day from the McAfee Knob park­ing lot in Roanoke County. But in­stead of head­ing north to­ward the much-pho­tographed over­look, the Quirins plan to walk south, op­po­site the sea­sonal di­rec­tion taken by most through-hik­ers.

When they reach the trail’s south­ern end in Ge­or­gia, they will drive to Maine, the other end of the 14-state path­way, and start south again. The Quirins hope to av­er­age 12 miles per day, a pace that would have them com­plet­ing the en­tire trail in six months.

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