She Has MS and She’s Planning to Hike 500 Miles

She Has MS and She’s Planning to Hike 500 Miles


April Hester has MS. She was diagnosed in 1996, just after she turned 20 years old. Like many of us, April has balance and fatigue issues. Her legs can become tired, her foot sometimes drops and she falls a lot.

But unlike many of us, April and her husband Bernie are about to set off on a walk. More accurately, it’s a hike — a 500-mile hike, from Walhalla in the mountains of South Carolina to Awendaw on the coast, along the state’s Palmetto Trail.

Bernie and April Hester on the trail. (Courtesy of Bernie Hester)

As you can imagine, it’s not going to be easy. April will be using “trekking” poles for the entire hike, even when the trail goes through the downtown sections of some towns. She’ll be wearing ankle braces. But, as Bernie Hester told me in an email, “Her big problem is balance, she falls a lot and I mean a lot. Most of the time after the first 3 miles her legs get weak and her right foot experiences foot drop. We also have to break a lot so she can keep going. Then sometimes she can just go, we had a day where she had some issues early then caught her second wind and we did 22 miles, I was the one holding us up!”

The two expect that the toughest parts of the hike will be the beginning and the end. The start of the trail has a lot of hills and valleys, with rugged terrain on the trail sections and a lack of re-supply options. The end is a remote section over 50 miles long, through a national forest. Again, few resources will be available, no re-supply areas are around, and it has a lot of swamps.

Packed and ready to go. (Courtesy of Bernie Hester)

Believe it or not, this couple has hiked this trail before. They did a similar hike this year, from February through April. Back then, they spent only a few nights in tents and a lot of nights in hotel rooms. They also skipped some highways that span some gaps in the trail. This time will be different, and more difficult. As Bernie explains on the couple’s Trail Journals website, “we will get dropped off this Sunday morning with what’s on our backs and other than the caches & care packages we are on our own for the next 500 plus miles to the coast.”

Bernie and April say they’re embarking on this hike to raise awareness about the fight against MS. They’re also hoping to raise money for the National MS Society… $100,000, in fact. (You can donate here.)

The hike begins on Sunday, Oct. 1, and they expect it to last 35 or 40 days. You can follow April and Bernie at the Trail Journals website or on Instagram.

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Ed Tobias Editor
Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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Ed Tobias Editor
Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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5 comments

  1. Judy Lynn says:

    Fantastic! I have the Wonderland Trail on my list of things to do before I turn 50, but it has felt so daunting. You’ve inspired me to continue to accommodate and ensure that I can keep hiking. I’m curious how long you prepared for this, frequency and distance of other hikes that you’ve done?

    • April Hester says:

      We only started to hike in January of this year, prior to that we tried to walk a few miles a week. Our prep was for about 3 weeks before we started the first hike in January, I worked my daily walks up from around 2 miles to 8 but at that distance had to take 2 days a week off. When we first started the first hike of the PT I had some many struggles but as we went on I got stronger. In June we started the Foothills Trail, a very rugged 77 mile trail here in South Carolina that is AT like, with a plan to complete it in 6 days. Right at the first I twisted my ankle and then by 2 day my hamstring was very painful, my husband had to almost make we turn but but we had to retreat. Once healed at tried in again in August and finished it in 5 days, my husband said I hiked as hard and fast as him that hike as we averaged 12 miles per day. To prep for that hike my husband had me go up and down our stairs taking 2 steps at a time since the trail had 1000’s of steps and massive elevation changes. The Foothills Trail helped me be ready for this hike. We are 7 days into the Finish MS Hike and covered almost 100 miles. I’ve only fallen a handful of times and only 1 really bad day so far. Cheer us on!

  2. charles says:

    i just hope that she has gps in case her ms gives her problems. i remember hiking for a few miles and collapsing from the heat. my legs just got all floppy. that was a few years ago.

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