Woods, words are perfect combination for hiker

NEW CASTLE (AP) — Some mothers coax their kids to bed by reading them a story.

It was the opposite for Gary Sizer when he was growing up. Sizer’s mother encouraged her children to tell stories based on what had happened to them during their day.

That momentous time of his life paved the way for what the 1987 New Castle High School graduate does now.

His resume lists his professions as author, hiker and storyteller.

He has lots of great adventures to tell.

And many of them can be found in two books he has written and published. The best-selling non-fiction “Where is the Next Shelter?” documents his 2,185.3 miles hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2014, which took him 153 days to complete. The other is called, “Home is Forward” and it includes stories of people he has encountered on his hiking trips all over the world.

Gary Sizer, adventurer, also sounds like the title for a book. The desire to hike trails struck about the same time the writing bug struck.

Now living in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife, Katie Farrar, Sizer, 48, is doing exactly what he wants to do.

His mother’s technique about storytelling and adventures that was instilled in Sizer was cemented even more after he spent 10 years in the Marines where his love for being outdoors grew stronger. Even when he was on leave, Sizer went backpacking.

“I always wanted to have one more day,” said Sizer, whose mother and brother still live in New Castle. “I was always a little wistful to get into the woods.”

Just recently, he and Farrar returned from a backpacking trip to the Shenandoah Mountains, which he calls a favorite. The adventures have also extended to other parts of the globe when he traveled as part of his job in corporate software and consulting.

Farrar shares the sense of adventuring with her husband but admittedly perhaps not to the extent that he does. She had never camped until she met Sizer.

“I have him to blame for this,” she joked, adding that now she’s had the experiences of a lifetime and loves being outdoors.

It takes a rugged, determined individual to traverse the Appalachian Trail or AT as through and section hikers — those who hike for four or five days — alike refer to it.

Sizer said his basic equipment included a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, water, water purification system and navigational tools. While going through the grueling nearly final section in Maine called the 100-mile Wilderness, Sizer contracted Giardia, an infection that is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States. He also had a close encounter with a rattlesnake and “played the waiting game with it.” And he encountered danger going up Mount Washington where the highest ever winds — 200 m.p.h. — have been documented.

“It knocked me over, I slid sideways off the trail, grabbed a root and it saved me.”

His entry for the AT was Springer Mountain in northern Georgia and the northern terminus is Mount Katahdin in Maine. He left on May 10, 2014, and finished on Oct. 9, walking, on average 14 1/2 miles a day and splitting time between his tent and shelters.

“The entire state of Maine is glorious,” Sizer said. “The leaves were changing, the moose were out, the loons were singing.”

It was those shelters, though, that prompted the first book.