April Hester Is Lacing Up Her MS Hiking Boots Again

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by Ed Tobias |

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When I wrote about April Hester two years ago, she and her husband, Bernie, had just finished hiking the 500 miles of South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail. That’s no small accomplishment for anyone, but it was a particularly special achievement for April because she has MS.

Now April is about to start a hike that will be four times as long. In early May, she and Bernie intend to hike the Appalachian Trail, which runs nearly 2,200 miles from northern Maine to western Georgia! The pair is planning what’s called a flip-flop hike, starting in the middle at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and hiking north to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Then they’ll flip-flop back to Harpers Ferry and travel south to finish at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

columnist pic

April and Bernie Hester. (Courtesy of Bernie Hester)

It won’t be a walk in the park

April uses a knee and an ankle brace to help her, as well as hiking poles. Bernie says that some days, making nine miles will be tough, but that they hope to do 16 or more on others. Rocks and tree roots are April’s enemy, and the toughest part of the hike is expected to be through Pennsylvania, which hikers call “Rocksylvania.” In 2017, Bernie told me that “her big problem is balance. She falls a lot, and I mean a lot. Most of the time after the first three miles her legs get weak and her right foot experiences foot drop. We also have to break a lot so she can keep going.” Bernie says that’s all still true.

Exercise and DMTs help April handle her MS

April was diagnosed in 1995, and she didn’t begin to use a disease-modifying treatment for several years. She started Avonex (interferon beta-1a) in 2004, but she continued to experience a lot of exacerbations. In 2013, she switched to Gilenya (fingolimod). Bernie says it’s been very effective for her. April regularly works out in the gym, but Bernie says the best thing for her is hiking — the more she hikes the stronger she gets. Bernie tells me he can see the difference on the trail.

Follow April and Bernie on the trail

As was the case with her Palmetto Trail hike, April hopes that her efforts will bring attention to MS and to the capabilities of people with our disease. She and Bernie will be keeping a web journal and will post pictures on Instagram. Once the hike begins, they’ll also be posting a link to allow you to follow them via GPS. I’ll certainly be watching their progress.

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


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.


Marielle avatar


Sounds great! All the best to April so good to hear about others that don’t give up...

Jay avatar


There is a cure. America is not what you think. We are 37th in health care. This probably won't through, but, I'll try.


N. avatar


Inspirationnal !


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