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A long walk for a good cause

Raising money to help amputees seemed like a worthy cause, said Finkle, especially as he made extensive use of his own legs.

"I've been very, very fortunate to live my life fully equipped. Hiking this, it's good to keep it on the mind," he said.

Like most "through hikers," Finkle started the trail from the south just as winter was departing with the intention of following spring's advance northward. He left the AT trailhead in Georgia on March 13 and after a week of hiking made it to the Smoky Mountains, where many southern hikers were unhappy to find snow still on the ground.

An earlier trip Finkle made to Patagonia with the National Outdoors Leadership School had given him a intense primer in cold weather preparedness, though.

When viewed from a U.S. map, tackling the Appalachian Trail over a long summer might not seem like an extraordinary task. But in reality, covering the sometimes-mountainous 2,000 miles of trail requires through hikers to maintain a grueling pace with little time to rest. Imagine traveling the better part of a marathon, every day, carrying everything you need to camp and live on your back.

While Finkle hiked well, he lost time off the trail to places like Knoxville, Tenn., where he stopped by the Amputee Coalition of America's offices and visited a friend. In Hot Springs, N.C., he spent two weeks at a work-for-stay hostel program, working in an organic garden.

Finkle's parents also had an opportunity to see their son in May, when they met him near Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

And so, three months and 1,000 miles into his journey, Finkle made the call to step off the trail in Waynesboro, Pa., roughly the halfway point, with hopes of taking a month or so each summer for a few years to finish the remainder.

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