If you could show the extent of your love for another person in footsteps, how far would you travel?
Each year four friends take a week long trek on the Appalachian Trail to raise money for the Julianna Hike Fund to find out.
In 2003, Steve and Denise Doherty started the hike and established the fund through The Philadelphia Foundation, in order to preserve the memory of their three year old daughter “Jules,” who in 2001 tragically lost her life in an automobile accident.
Each year Steve and his close friends have spent a week hiking the Appalachian Trail. So far they have traveled 1,766 miles. These life long friends plan to hike all 2,194 miles of the Appalachian Trail together over the next many years. Their story is not only about a father’s love for his daughter, but also about the love of friends who would do anything to help their buddy survive, even tormenting themselves on an arduous one week annual march through the wilderness.
They began this quest on Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia in August, 2003.
In 2023, we regretfully are not hiking the Appalachian Trial. The Whites of New Hampshire and the highest point on the east coast, Mount Washington, will have to wait until 2024. It is not a lack of desire that is stopping us, it is my beat up body. Barfy, Streek and Giggles are healthy and ready to go, but my left knee broke down and was replaced on August 3, 2023. So instead of facing the struggle of the mountains, I am on a couch icing my knee. We will see you all in 2024, hopefully better than ever.
“Soon we shall die and all memory of those we have known will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” For 20 years we have prayed before each day hiking and end with a quote similar to the one above we read on the first day of 2021. We all succumb to the daily pressures of life and get attached to superficial things that consume us or overwhelm us. This hike is a beautiful annual tradition that allows us to focus on what really matters…letting go of our pain/addictions/resentments and to focus on our blessed lives and the love in our hearts. On August 26, 2022 we completed our twentieth year hiking the Appalachian Trail. This year we were treated to the beauty and the torture of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Our hike through the heart of the White Mountain had Barfy so concerned he committed to losing weight and God forbid…training. Four weeks before our departure he sent us a photo of his I-Watch indicating he just hiked 3 hours. Reminded me of the saying, “Out of difficulties grow miracles.” The White Mountains are widely known as the most difficult section of the Appalachian Trail. One hiker web site, described it like this. “The biggest mistake when people start hiking the whites is not turning back. People new to the White Mountains are often surprised by how rugged the trails are. They’re often narrow, steep, and require good scrambling skills to ascend and descend. I know many experienced White Mountains hikers who will tell you that learning how to rock climb vastly improved their hiking footwork.for our twentieth year on the iconic Appalachian." Truth be told, I read this clip and did not understand the depth of this difficulty. This year by far was the most challenging, dangerous and possibly rewarding hike. Our first ascent in the White's was Mt. Moosilauke at 4,800'. The climb was long and arduous, however, that could not compare to the descent, which was done mostly on moss covered granite boulders that required us sliding on our butts to proceed forward. I want to go back and see every section of the hike we have covered to date. With one exception...I never want to lay foot on Mount Moosilauke ever again. Our goal this week was to hike 83 miles. This was a dream over this terrain. After seven days of hiking, we logged 61 miles ending at Mount Lafayette. (above photo) The rock, rain and elevation made this our shortest and most memorable hike in twenty years. The scenery was breathtaking. We can't wait for 2023 and our 21st hike for Julianna
In 2021, we embarked on our nineteenth sojourn on the Appalachian Trail. Over seven difficult days we completed 78.7 miles over the Green Mountain of Vermont and the beginning of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On day one we elevated more than 3,200’ from Clarendon Gorge to Killington Peak. The next few days offered more Appalachian Trail fare, as we digested rocks, roots and undulating mountains. Before weeks end we passes Thundering Falls, Woodstock VT, the Connecticut River and Hanover, New Hampshire the home of Dartmouth College. We even enjoyed wings and a beer at Murphy's Tavern on the AT in Hanover.
On August 29, 2020 in the lush State of Vermont, we re-introduced ourselves to real hiking and our own fortitude. We began this hike lugging loaded packs up a steep mountain, along the Long Trail one of the original sections of the AT. For a quick reminder, this includes water filters, sleeping gear, tents/hammock, food, clothes for hiking/warmth, cooking gear, personal hygiene items and a variety of other stuff. Just to give some perspective, the last day we hiked without our support team while carrying full weight, sleeping in the woods under tent and not glamping was August 27, 2014. Over seven days of hiking, we traveled 72.2 miles. Although this was our shortest hiking distance since 2003, this was a very difficult week. Our first eleven miles required all our grit as we elevated all day in a driving rain storm culminating in the most awkward tent assemblage ever. A few highlights this week were climbing over a few ski resorts including Bromley Mountain and our highest peak in 2020, Stratton Mountain (3,940’) in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
In 2019, we hiked 90 miles beginning at the Housatonic River, Massachusetts and ended seven days later on Route 9 in Bennington, Vermont. The New England states have brought us back to higher Appalachian Trail elevations as we faced several 2,000’ + ascents with our longest climb over Mount Greylock at 3,500’. Most importantly, I was blessed to have nine high school friends join our journey for Jules. We were a ten man Appalachian Trail team!!! As Giggles always say’s, “Incredible!!
On August 31, 2018, we completed our sixteenth annual hike when we completed 92 difficult miles. We began this week on forgiving New York terrain then traveled through scenic but quite challenging Connecticut. Our foray into New England finished in the woods in the high mountains of Massachusetts.. The rocky ascents/descents in Connecticut along with the spectacular Housatonic River walks provided the most memorable parts of our 16th edition.
The oppressive heat and humidity in the middle of the week when temperatures soared over 90 degrees insured our suffering. In addition, these conditions provided the perfect environment for mosquitoes, which were relentless most of the week. In fact when we finished we couldn’t even pose for a photo the mosquitoes were so pervasive. I can’t say this was the hardest week we have had since we began but at an average age of 54 years it certainly felt like it. Thank you to everyone for your continued support.
On August 26th, 2017 we began our 15th annual hike on the Appalachian Trail. After 6 days of New Jersey and New York trail we finished at the Taconic Staet Parkway in New York totalling 92 miles. Our New Jersey portion of the hike turned out to be more accomodating than New York. We now understand why it is rated the 5th most difficult section of the entire AT. Much of the week required boulder climbing over mountains. If I was 13 years old I would have loved it. Unfortunately, our 53 year old hips and knees made these climbs very awkward. I was pleased with the effort, however, as we aaveraged 15.3 miles per day. I also wanted to acknowledge all the folks that participated in 2017. Dave Lafferty (Tuba), John Rogers ( Ricky Bobby), Allison Schmitt (Duct Tape), Rob Schmitt (Lover Boy), Matt Lynch (Birdman), Dan Castaldi and Joe Innes.
In 2016, we completed the fourteenth chapter of this very long book in High Point State Park in Sussex, New Jersey. The week lived up to our initial fears as the rocky terrain in northeast Pennsylvania and New Jeresy decimated the entire hiking team. Although Barfy may have been designated most valuable on this year's hike, I would give a close second to Advil, which allowed us to endure countless falls and injuries. We also were tested mentally as we were forced to endlessly stare at the uneven ground in front of us for most of the week.
The mountains we hiked may have been beautiful, but we had no opportunity to look up and appreciate them. Despite finishing 103.7 miles, this was the most difficult year yet. Through all the challenges we have faced in all fourteen years on the trail, we truly feel blessed to have completed this arduous week. Of course, we could not and did not finish this hike without some loving assistance. Joe Innes , Denise Doherty and Dan Castladi kept us fed and comforted. Dave Lafferty joined us for five grueling days and completed the entire PA section with us. Rob Schmitt joined us on Day 7. His most telling comment after two miles on the trail was,"Ok, I finally get this rock thing." He ended the day with two huge blisters on the heels of both feet. We are grateful to have completed one more year in Julianna's honor. Thank You for supporting us.
In 2015, we completed our thirteenth annual hike on September 4 on Hawk Mountain Pennsylvania. We had fourteen hikers join us on this final day including Father Jeff Putthoff, who probably regretted this decision after falling two times in the first three miles. By the time his first two hours of hiking had ended he had a twisted ankle, had cuts on his arm and chest and had developed blisters on his feet. We began this rocky walk on August 29th just off Route 11 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In the end, we finished 103 miles, which is an admirable feat for a group of out of shape guys over 50 years old. This year we were joined by numerous guest hikers who wanted to be part of the fun. Rex Guyer, Pat McCabe, Barb Kucia and Dave Lafferty "Tuba" all added to the Pennsylvannia experience. Thank you!
In 2014, we took the plunge for the twelfth consecutive year hiking 95.5 miles. We completed the state of Maryland crossed the Mason Dixon Line and finished on Route 11 in Carlisle near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in our home state. Our final hiking day in 2014 brought out several long time supporters. Hiking 11.9 miles with 15 of my closest family and friends was by far the my most meaningful day ever on the Appalchaian Trail. After twelve years of hiking we have conquered the mountains of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. I wish I could say we loved every minute of this quest. We have not. Please read the annual overviews for each year on this site to understand the challenges we have faced.
In 2013, we hiked 91.7 miles beginning at Thornton's Gap in Shenandoah National Park and ending in Crampton Gap, Maryland. We finally left Virginia behind, which we entered in 2008. After departing Virginia we hiked through West Virginia and proceeded ten miles into the State of Maryland. As always this years was eventful. We encountered our second bear sighting on the trail in Day 1 in Shenandoah National Park. We also were mesmerized by the the historic town of Harpers Ferry. Unfortuntely, our hiking ineptitude was revealed as well when we nearly quit on the "roller coaster" in the last section of Virginia on Day 4. Nonetheless, we did finish. Streeks comment says it all, "at least we are in this together."
In 2012, we began on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Dripping Rock and finished 93.6 miles later on Skyland Drive at Thornton Gap in Shenandoah national Park. Shenandoah National Park is considered a sanctuary preserving plants and animals and contains 103 trail miles. There is no hunting in the national park so wildlife is abundant including big black bears. Although we did not run into a black bear last year we did encounter one of our most feared nemesis, a rattle snake. On Day 4, a four foot rattler was basking in the sun in the middle of the trail. In the lead, I almost ran over the thing in one of my thoughtful moments. Needless to say this caused some excitement in the troops. Snakes are also a protected species in the park.
More importantly for the hiking team, Shenandoah National Park is home to the Skyline Drive. This scenic roadway, which we crossed more than a dozen times, provided many opportunities to partake in modern comforts. We stopped at two camp stores, which regrettably sold beer and two restaurants which served warm meals. This was not the typical struggle we faced in past years. Although I was not was not overjoyed with the excess comforts, the team as a whole was quite content. As Barfy said, "This may be the first year I come back from the hike heavier than when I left."
In 2011, the hikers completed 90.8 miles over seven agonizing days. This was one of our toughest years on the trail making our 2012 hike easy by comparison.
Thankfully, after twelve years on the trail we are getting little closer to our goal of Katahdin, Maine. I am estimating we will need another 12 hikes to complete. Consequently, our final hard pounding ascent will not occur until the year 2026. The thought of this is quite humbling considering some real facts. First, we are getting old. I am not sure how we will maintain our 92 miles a year average, especially when nobody commits to training. Second, it has been reported to me that we will expend as much energy on trail in the State of Maine as we will use on the rest of the Appalachian Trail. Oh Boy!
To date, the hikers have raised and donated more than $1,600,000 and funded numerous charitable causes. The Philadelphia Foundation awards funds from the Julianna Hike Fund to organizations including the Center for Grieving Children, Teens and Families in Philadelphia, it’s largest beneficiary and The Breathing Room Foundation, which supports families afflicted with cancer. The Julianna Hike Fund focuses its supports on organizations assisting children or families who are struggling in life.
The Philadelphia Foundation, a public charity, is Southeastern Pennsylvania’s leading center for community philanthropic engagement and is committed to improving the quality of life in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties through funds established by donors.
To support the Julianna’s Hike Fund click on the donate button above or for more information on the hike, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Price - Streek
Murphy Barton - Barfy
Dave Guyer - Giggles
Steve Doherty - Jules