1991 Paden High School graduate conquers the Appalachian Trail

He prepared himself and pushed from the south station at Springer Mountain, Ga. , on March 1, logging his travels on social media throughout.

“I was considered ‘nobu’ (northbound) because I was heading north,” he said. “Sometimes you hike alone, but you run into people and you hike with them for a while. And you usually see people in shelters.”

The Appalachian Trail is the most famous “Triple Crown” trail in North America. There are shelters approximately every 15 miles. Schellenbach noted that on fasting days he would put as many as 30 miles behind him. On slower days, it’ll be 15 miles.

“I was out for a while, maybe a quarter of the way through, and I got really bad shin splints,” he recalls. “I was able to work my way through those. You get to a shelter, you sign the log book and you get in, and then you keep going.”

Keep going, for example, through the deep snows of the Smoky Mountains in March, and through the deep waters of Pennsylvania in the spring.

“There are a lot of good people on the road who want to help you,” he said. “It really restores your faith in humanity. It gives you a really good feeling about the community of people. I’ve never had such a bad experience.”

Schellenbach had served in the National Guard for nine years as a combat engineer, so he knew what he needed on the flight. His bag weighed about 30 lbs. He drank more than two gallons of water a day to stay hydrated. He would get four days’ worth of food at a time and then find his way to nearby towns to resupply.

“While hiking, I would eat trail mix, protein bars, bags of chicken and ramen noodles,” he said. “When I got to a town every four or five days, I would eat unimaginable amounts of food.”

Of course, Schellenbach had many of what he called “eye-opening” experiences.

One day he took a step, and was about to take another step, when he noticed a rattlesnake coiling quickly beside the road, ready to attack. “I was able to get away from her quickly,” he said. “I didn’t have time to be afraid.”

“You hear a rustle all the time in the brush,” he added. “If you look in the brush every time you hear a rustle, you will do it all day. You will never get anywhere.”

Fortunately, one day on Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, he looked rustling and saw two bears rushing at him, about 30 yards apart.

“It happened so quickly,” he said, “I just froze.” “But luckily they fell to the ground and started fighting with each other. It gave me time to start slamming my poles together and yelling at them. My heart was beating so fast. They jumped and ran.”

Navigating through those high waters in Pennsylvania one day, and needing nine more miles to reach refuge, he led the trail through a beaver dam—from which Schellenbach slipped into the water over his head.

“I was able to climb back up to the top of the dam – but I knew I had to move because the temperatures were in the low 40s and I had to change clothes and put on a sleeping bag before the hypothermia started,” he recalls. “I finally got to the shelter as it got dark. It was one of those days that I will never forget for the rest of my life.”

On top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, still covered in snow in June, Schellenbach marveled that it could be seen for miles.

“That was so cool,” he said. “The highest wind speed in the world was ever recorded there. It has an almost Mars-like landscape, it’s very windy. But it’s a beautiful place — you can see it forever. I’ll be back there one day.”

In fact, that’s the ongoing topic of Appalachian Trail conversation with Schellenbach, who played for Badin’s 1990 state championship football team—way back.

His journey from Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, took 121 days, from March 1 to June 29.

“I really enjoyed it,” Schellenbach said. “You miss hot baths and cold drinks. You’ll never take a hot shower for granted again.

“I think everyone should get out and go for long walks,” he added. “I feel so accomplished. I’m so glad I did.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: