HARPERS FERRY, WV — (WDVM) A young Army officer from Woodbridge, Virginia wanted to accomplish one more mission before he ended his military career in September.
Lieutenant Colonel Doug Sweet wanted to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. All 2,193 miles of it from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Sweet was all smiles when he left Springer Mountain on February 26, 2021. He was in great physical shape and had the equipment he needed for the long hike.
“I could not have picked a better day to get this amazing journey started,” said Sweet as he headed north, “Looking forward to how the story ends,” adding a prophetic post-script to what would become daily video feeds to his YouTube account so his family and friends could follow his footsteps.
By the time Lt. Col. Sweet reached the halfway point on the trail in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, he was exhausted.
“Basically going 18, 20, 25 miles every single day, your body just can’t keep up, no matter how many calories you eat. An occasional half-gallon of ice cream at small stores off the trail tasted good but did nothing to restore his strength.
At Day-45 Sweet said, “I just can’t eat enough. I’m still losing weight. About 35 pounds since leaving Georgia.”
I met Doug and some fellow hikers under a bridge where the Shenandoah River empties into the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.
“This isn’t a walk in the park, is it?” I asked. “No. Absolutely not. It’s been a long 55-day journey so far,” said Sweet.
Some people warned him about bears, mountain lions, snakes along the trail that could hurt him, but Sweet says most people leave the trail because they fall and hurt themselves.
Lt. Col. Sweet left the trail, 343 miles short of the finish line atop Mount Katahdin in Maine. Concern for his family back home in Virginia caused him to call it a day.