Danae R. ’06 and Olen A. Netteburg ’07, along with their four children, Zane, Juniper, Addison, and Lyol, completed the 2,193 mile Appalachian Trail thru-hike in October 2020.
For a missionary family based at Béré Adventist Hospital in Chad, the opportunity to hike the Appalachian Trail doesn’t come along every day. However, with ample physician coverage at the mission hospital, 2020 was the year to make it happen, and the Netteburg family was up to the challenge.
With complications from the pandemic, the Netteburg troupe opted for their own creative itinerary to be mindful of COVID-19 safety measures on and off the trail. Between one minivan and a borrowed truck outfitted with a camper, they were able to shuttle themselves to various starting points up and down the trail, hiking between the vehicles and camping along the route as they needed to.
Backpacking with four children aged 4 to 11 years old comes with its own challenges, but Danae and Olen were happily amazed by the resiliency and positive attitudes of all their children. The older ones kept the younger entertained and engaged. Even on soggy, chilly early mornings, Danae and Olen were left wondering at the lack of complaining from their intrepid children.
Every member of the family earned their own trail name, a hiker’s rite of passage. Olen was “Lion King,” Danae claimed “Queen Bee,” Addison, age 7, was “Angel Wings,” Zane, age 9, was known as “Boomerang,” Lyol, age 11 was called “Blaze,” and Juniper, the youngest at age 4, earned the trail name “Beast.” With the exception of a few fast-moving river crossings (where she hitched a ride with her father), young Juniper walked every step of the trail on her own two feet, making her the youngest thru-hiker the Appalachian Trail has seen to date.
Five months worth of actual hiking days and approximately seven months after they began in February 2020, the Netteburgs completed the family adventure of a lifetime; the kids are already dreaming up the next.