April Hester Is Lacing Up Her MS Hiking Boots Again
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.
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.
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