Thru-hikers on the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail are often given trail names and one of them was "Tenderfoot." Tenderfoot talked with Steve Sherman and Julia Older, authors of the memoir Appalachian Odyssey; Walking the Trail from Georgia to Maine
, at the Toadstool Bookshop signing in Milford, N.H., August 22.
Sherman and Older named themselves Dr. Redlo and Dr. Namresh, who cured each other's blisters in private practice. More public networks of trail names are used today.
Tenderfoot kept his trail name, but he told Sherman and Older what happened to a thru-hiker named Bill. On top of Bald Mountain in Virginia in a thunderstorm, Bill was struck by lightning. When he woke up, his ears were ringing and he was lying on the ground. That night around a campfire, hikers on The Trail changed his name to "Sparky."
At the book signing, Tenderfoot said that he contracted giardiasis, a waterborne disease from the microscopic giardia parasite that lodges in the bowel. Tenderfoot was about 1,200 miles into The Trail when he developed some of the symptoms that can last 2-6 weeks — diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, cramps, belching, flatulence, fatigue, weight loss.
The disease is usually not overly dangerous, but on the Appalachian Trail it can be devastating, especially if a hiker is backpacking 60 pounds, which Tenderfoot was carrying. He had to quit The Trail.
During their time on The Trail, Sherman and Older added chlorine tablets to their water, which can be helpful to a degree. Bottled water and water filters work against contracting the disease, but on The Trail, this is difficult, if not impossible. Hikers must take their chances, and use the good sense that Tenderfoot displayed.