Having recently completed an adventure on The Appalachian Trail, I caught up with Adam and Kadra Casseday of Beverly to learn how the experience went. The Cassedays set out in early May from Georgia and spent the next few months traveling north to Maine. It wasn't easy.
Before the journey, the Cassedays gathered gear, food and equipment, which they thought would be necessary. Adam Casseday was most looking forward to time alone, running daily, moving forward 30-40 miles at a stretch. Kadra Casseday, who is an artist by profession, was hoping to spend time creating, drawing inspiration from the trail surroundings. Adam Casseday was bogged down by thoughts of how much food he was going to have to consume.
During the journey, Adam Casseday faced the challenge of pressing on. Yes, there were times, he admits, he didn't want to get up and go.
After 71 days, 4 hours and 35 minutes, Adam Casseday reaches the other end of the Appalachian Trail in Katahdin, Maine. He began his journey in Georgia.
"I encountered hikers out on the trail, and they envied me because my pack was so light," said Adam Casseday, an ultra runner who travels light to cover extensive distances. "I envied the hikers because they had all of their gear with them in their packs and could at any point stop and rest or stop and set up camp. I couldn't do that. I had committed to getting to the crossroads location each day, so I had to keep going."
He ran each day. The distances and routes he completed may be viewed at www.wvultrarunner.blogspot.com.
Kadra Casseday traveled in their vehicle, being the mobile supply center, and met up with her husband at a designated stopping point, later in the day.
"Kadra did an amazing job. Most of her time was spent keeping everything going, and she did it all cheerfully," Adam Casseday said. "She didn't have as much time as she had hoped to be creative. She did get to do some small watercolors."
Traveling through the state of Pennsylvania was the toughest. Adam Casseday was battling with tendinitis.
"We would pray together every morning," Adam Casseday said. "I learned you can do a lot more than you think you can do."
Those following the Casseday's journey on the trail provided a great deal of encouragement. Relatives came out on certain portions of the trail to meet up with the couple briefly. Most of the time, they were on their own.
Kadra Casseday's mother had offered support to the couple before they left by committing to walking each day they were gone.
"I know she walked a mile a day, and by the time we finished the trail she was walking two miles," Adam Casseday said.
The benefit of the experience for Adam Casseday was that it made him tougher as a runner.
"The trail wasn't great for building up my speed because of some of the terrain and the steeps," Adam Casseday said. "New Hampshire was tough. It took like 11 hours to go 20 miles in New Hampshire. There was lots of climbing, and it was super rocky. "
Maine, which was the final state for the Cassedays, was their favorite.
"I miss the adventure. I miss being out on the trail. I miss the camping. I miss eating the junk food. I consumed a lot of Little Debbie cakes," Adam Casseday said. "Coming back to Beverly after 71 days, four hours and 35 minutes of running has been an adjustment.
"I joked to Kadra, on the way home, that we should set out for the Pacific Crest Trail," Adam Casseday said. "She was like, 'Well, we have everything in the car.'"
In the meantime, Adam Casseday, who is an optometrist by profession at Valley Health Center in Mill Creek, has had to return to regular, everyday life.
"On the trail, I learned that real life doesn't come easily. When we were on the trail, we only had one flat tire. When we got home, a huge tree fell on the car."
Adam Casseday directs the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness Race hosted annually by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners. The race is coming up on Aug. 26.
"It's a 50-mile race. We allow 13 hours for competitors to finish. The winners usually can finish the race in seven and a half hours," Adam Casseday said.
The Cassedays also plan to present more about their experience on the trail during a special service at the Elkins Church of the Nazarene in Gilman. No date has been set for this event yet.