Isis and Jackrabbit are the trail names of two young women from Maine (also known as Susan Letcher and Lucy Letcher) who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia and then "yo-yoed," turned around and headed back the other way.
Over 1000 miles in each direction, hiking the Appalachian Trail takes one over mountains, through valleys, past towns, and through untouched wilderness. The hike takes months and weather conditions can vary from snow to sweletering summer heat along the course. Not only did Isis and Jackrabbit make this incredible trek, but, unlike most of there fellow AT hikers, Isis and Jackrabbit did most of it free of footwear--that's right--BAREFOOT! This somewhat unheard of choice of gear has gotten the sisters much attention during their hike, from others hikers and the press. Most people can't imagine the feet being able to handle such a journey unprotected. Of course, we can!
"My sister (Isis) and I hiked about 1300 miles barefoot last summer and fall, and about 200 this spring (between snow storms) in the course of our southbound hike. We're going to yo-yo and hopefully fill in the sections where we had to wear boots."(from an e-mail on 03/11/01).
Trudge, a fellow AT hiker who provided my first information on the Barefoot Sisters, wrote in awe,
"The people that mentioned them seem to refer to them as the "barefoot sisters,"so maybe they've stuck with it the whole way. I can't understand how one could hike barefoot through snow and not end up with frostbite. But that's something you can ask them when you get in touch. If their goal was to set a record, I can't imagine that anyone else has done a two-person, barefoot, yo-yo!"(from an e-mail on 03/05/01)
I recently had the honor of speaking with Susan (Jackrabbit) by phone about her incredible journey. When I asked her, "Why Barefoot?" she replied that she and her sister always hiked barefoot as kids, so it just seemed natural to see if they could do this hike the same way. Here are a few other comments I found interesting:
On toughened soles: A few weeks into the hike, the ladies could "run on gravel" without a problem. Also a few weeks into the hike, it took almost an hour wandering around a campsite before the ladies even realized that the ground was "covered in broken glass." Again, not a problem for them.
On cold weather: While they did sometimes wear shoes in the snow, "7 or 8 miles" in snow that didn't come over the tops of their feet was tolerable. I also found it interesting that they were sometimes forced into shoes by ICY conditions, not because it was too cold, but rather "too slippery."
On shoes: Susan notes that, despite the rugged terrain, her feet really didn't hurt "Until [she] put shoes on."
On muscle development: Despite a serious reduction in barefooting opportunities since returning from the hike 5 years ago, Susan reports still having "arch muscles that I can flex."
Susan (jackrabbit) recently headed to Scotland to spend some time with her sister Lucy (Isis). The sisters apparently had a great time getting caught up and enjoying the local Scottish flavor. I'm honored that while exploring the local scenery, they took the time to pose for some pictures wearing the new Barefoot Hikers t-shirts that i was honored to be able to present to Susan when she attended a Barefoot Hikers of PA hike earlier in the month.
For more "notes from the trail," be sure to check out Susan and Lucy's new books telling the full story of their amazing barefoot trek. Go to Lulu.com and pick up The Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters, Book 1: Southbounders, then complete the tale of the trail with Book 2: Walking Home.