Couple completes 17-year Appalachian Trail odyssey

Alumni Lois and Ernie Hess at the Hiker’s Elm Tree in Hanover, New Hampshire with son Phil Hess '91 and daughter Audrey Hess '94, who made a special trip to join their parents on the completion of their Appalachian Trail odyssey. Lois and Ernie are 1965 graduates of Eastern Mennonite University. (Courtesy photo)

Since 2001, Lois and Ernie Hess, both 1965 graduates of Eastern Mennonite University, have been chipping away at their goal of hiking all 2,189 miles of the Appalachian Trail before they each turned 75.

With the deadline approaching, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, couple completed 322 miles in 2017. They covered the last 75 miles at the New Hampshire/Vermont border this fall.

With just two days left, they were surprised by their daughter Audrey Hess ’94, who came from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and their son Phil Hess ’91, from Big Sky, Montana.

A Dec. 24 article published by Lancaster Online (timed to come out right before Ernie’s 75th birthday) shares more of the backstory. Read more here.

The couple first hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1965 during their honeymoon at Camp Hebron.

Ernie’s retirement from Lancaster Mennonite School, where he was a teacher, guidance counselor and administrator, meant they could take on the goal in earnest, working around Lois’s vacations from her job at a senior center.

The article shares more of their 17-year quest, including the overcoming of serious health issues and hiking accidents, as well as the joys of the trail and the sharing of the journey with their son and daughter and grandchildren.