Did you know you can earn awards for hiking? In 1961, the Keystone Trails Association instituted an annual Hiking Awards Program to recognize those hikers whose enjoyment of Pennsylvania’s trails might serve as an example and inspiration to others.
Currently there are seven awards that can be earned, none of them easy. Hundreds of ambitious hikers have participated in this program, some earning one or more awards, and a few expending the effort to get ‘em all.
- Appalachian Trail Award — Applicant must have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. (That’s about 240 Rocksylvania miles).
- Merit Award — Applicant must have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania plus 200 or more miles on any of additional designated trails. (A total of about 440 miles).
- Merit II Award — Applicant must have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail between the Hudson River and the Potomac River (about 389 miles) plus 200 or more miles on additional trails in Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania Award — Applicant must have hiked 500 miles in Pennsylvania on designated trails.
- State Forest Trails Award — Applicant must have hiked all 798 miles of trails in the Pennsylvania State Forest system.
- Western Pennsylvania Award — Applicant must have hiked 200 miles or more on any designated western Pennsylvania trails.
- Young Hiker Award (12 and under) — Applicant must have hiked 25 miles on any trail in Pennsylvania. Applicant may receive this award on multiple occasions, but must complete the 25-mile requirement on different trails for each award.
I had a recent conversation with Henry Bonson, 72, of Millerton, concerning his quest to earn all six KTA hiking awards. (He doesn’t qualify for the seventh, being a slight bit over age 12, like 60 years). Henry commented that to earn the 798 mile State Forest Hiking Award he actually hiked more than 1,100 miles because some of the hikes were solo-out-and-back and some state forest boundaries were in the middle of the woods with no close connecting trails.
Just last week, Henry completed hiking the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, commenting that Pennsylvania has appropriately earned the AT hikers’ nickname of Rocksylvania. He said there were three consecutive hiking days where the trail never saw dirt; just rocks.
He started out with a new pair of quality hiking shoes and wore them out on the rocks in 240 miles. The Wild Asaph Outfitters store where they were purchased was kind enough to replace them.
Because of its popularity, the Appalachian Trail has many hikers; lots of day- and section-hikers and, of course, its share of thru-hikers. Henry is a gregarious fellow who is willing to strike up a conversation with anyone who has the time. On the AT, he met hikers from all parts of the world. He commented that all of these folks were much younger than he is.
And none of them carried maps or trail guides. They all relied on smart phone apps. Henry doesn’t even carry a cell phone (doesn’t own one) but relies on old-fashioned maps and his GPS unit. Consequently he has been saddled with the trail name “Dinosaur.”
Well, Dinosaur has earned all the KTA awards except the Merit II Award. He is now planning to complete that one this year. He has only about 149 miles to go: 41 miles from the Potomac River to the Mason Dixon Line and 108 miles from Delaware Water Gap to the Hudson River. (An interesting AT fact about the Hudson River crossing is that it’s the lowest point on the trail at 124 feet about sea level. Compare that to the highest point at Tennessee’s Clingmans Dome: 6,643 feet.)
If you would like to have Henry consider you as a hiking partner on any of his hikes (local or otherwise), email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dinosaur deserves all the accolades he receives for his hiking exploits. He’s in excellent physical, medical and mental condition. He even puts up with my exceptionally slow pace when we hike together. Love you, Bro. May you have the fortitude to continue your hiking exploits many years into the future.