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Local man hikes the trail for Community Free Clinic

July 04, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail was a dream come true for Ken Berry - a true life-changing experience.

In the first week home since completing the nearly four-month quest, Berry said he is content to just enjoy clean sheets, home cooking and being with his wife and daughter again.

Berry, a 33-year-old certified orthopedic physician assistant, reached Baxter Peak in Maine on June 22, completing the entire 2,170 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Berry used his expedition to raise money for the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown, where he volunteers one day a month.

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According to Robin Roberson, the executive director of the clinic, close to $20,000 was raised.

"He's amazing," Roberson said, noting that all the money raised will go to direct patient care. "Ken is to be commended for what he has done for the community as well as the clinic."

It all began in May 2005 with a note left on the steering column of Berry's car by his wife, Jennel. The note said, "You have my blessing" and targeted the date of February 2006 when Berry would begin his hike in Georgia.

In his daily journal Web site, Berry described how he didn't feel the emotion of completing his goal until he saw Jennel in Maine.

"Then I saw her. That woman. The girl that gave me a note that began a cascade of events that set me off on this long adventure. A short note that, I believe for the better, changed me, a practice, a clinic, and a community," Berry said in his journal.

In all, Berry was gone 117 days - just less than four months. "I hiked 110 of those days," he said. Many days, he began hiking at 5 a.m. and didn't stop until after dark.

It rained 27 of the last 30 days that Berry was on the trail.

"That took a toll on my enjoyment," he said.

Especially when he reached New Hampshire, where he'd been told had the best views. The weather fogged that all out for him.

In Vermont, Berry encountered mosquitoes, black flies and tiny biting flies that were particularly awful.

"Maine made up for it though," Berry said.

The reunion with Jennel came in the town of Millinocket, Maine.

"I saw her and all the emotion that I had expected to feel on the summit of Katahdin welled up inside me. I was done. The hike was complete. I saw her and I wept. Tears and everything. I hadn't cried like that in a long time. It felt good," Berry wrote in his journal.

Berry is going back to work at Robinwood Orthopedic Specialty Center on July 10 and expects to resume his duties at the clinic in August, diagnosing and treating arthritis, old fractures and muscle complaints.

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