When she hits a 150-mile-long segment of the Appalachian Trail this month, Joyce Peterson will be walking for both fun and to help save a life.
She’ll start her trek May 15 near Franklin, N.C., and head north through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park into Tennessee.
Every mile will help raise money for Steve Sanders, a member of Peterson’s church who was diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer.
Both attend Pittsfield Community Church but were not close. Then Peterson had what she called a “bizarre experience” that set her on a clear path.
“I woke up and was getting ready for church. This voice gave me the idea. It spoke to me,” she said. “I felt compelled to do this. I made the announcement that morning in church.”
Peterson started collecting pledges, either by the mile or a fixed amount for her entire journey, to alleviate Sanders’ medical costs. About $1,170 came in during a benefit dinner by employees at Village Market, where Sanders worked for three decades.
Pledges can still be made by calling her at 440-647-2288 or in advance via checks payable to the church.
It’s a safe bet Peterson will finish all 150 miles during her three-week trip. It will bring her total on the Appalachian Trail to 790 but still leave plenty more for the future — the trail runs 2,185 miles from Georgia to Maine.
Peterson has been eating up big chunks of the route each year since 2012. She plans to return for another 150-mile segment this fall.
It’s a passion that came later in life. Peterson said she was 60 when she started backpacking long distances, starting with smaller trails in southern Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Her interest was captured with an introductory class by the Lorain County Metro Parks. “I just wanted to find out about it and once I did I was hooked,” she said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Joyce Peterson stands beside a trail Tuesday morning at Findley State Park, where she is hiking regularly to prepare for a three-week trek on the Appalachian Trail.