BOB SLOAN Editor
When Noah Stanley decided to take on the challenge of hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, he decided to put others to a challenge as well.
Stanley, who is from Hartsville, is using his journey as a means to raise money and awareness for the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic Assault.
The Pee Dee Coalition is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to the reduction of rape, family violence, and child abuse and to the needs of its victims. The coalition serves seven Pee Dee counties, including Florence, Darlington, Marion, Chesterfield, Marlboro, Dillon, and Williamsburg.
“I thought, if I’m going to do this then why not make it purposeful,” said Stanley, who became familiar with the organization after participating in one of its fundraisers, the 2018 Darlington County Dancing with the Stars.
“We are so very appreciative and grateful for Noah’s willingness to do this and bring awareness to our organization and to women and children we serve,” said Sarah Driggers, director of communications for the coalition. “It’s a long hike and very challenging. What he is doing is phenomenal and to involve us makes it even more special.”
Stanley, 28, has set up a Facebook page, 2000 Miles for the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic Assault, where people can keep up with his journey and make donations and pledges to the coalition. He is quick to point out that 100 percent of the money raised will go to the organization.
“I am self-funding this hike, using my own money to pay for all the expenses,” said Stanley. “If anyone donates, they can be sure that the money is going to the coalition.”
He plans to present the money to the organization when he will again take part in its Darlington County Dancing with the Stars in December.
Along with making direct donations, Stanley came up with unique ways for people to make pledges. Pledges can be made for every snake he sees or animal larger than he is while hiking the trail. Surprisingly, Stanley said he has come across only a few small snakes. He has seen five bears.
“I thought it was a fun to way to get people involved,” he said. “I have to give credit to my sister for that, though.”
Pledges can also be made for miles hiked per state, completion of the hike, and early completion of the hike.
Stanley said his sister, Hannah, has been a huge help and that he could not have done this without her. While her brother treks northward on the trail, Hannah looks after his dog, keeps up with the donations and pledges, and generally serves as his connection to the world.
As of May 31, $5,933 in donations or pledges has been promised. Stanley said he has already collected $650.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Stanley. “I’m shocked at the number of people supporting me and at the same time helping the Pee Dee Coalition.”
Through Friday, Stanley had hiked just over 400 miles. He said he hopes to cover the finial 1,800 miles and make his final ascent, Mount Katahdin, Maine, by mid-October.
“That’s a long way off,” said Stanley. “Right now it’s just one day at a time.”
Stanley began his journey on May 7, four days after graduating from the School of Business at Francis Marion University. As the sunrise peaked over Springer Mountain in northern Georgia, he took his first step.
On June 3, Stanley was not far from the town of Erwin, near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. He was nearing the end of a day in which he logged in just over 21 miles of hiking. He averages around 20 miles per day. His longest day thus far has been 25 miles.
An Eagle Scout, Stanley had previously hiked small sections of the trail. He said the only time he has questioned whether he might be able to finish the hike was on the first day.
“It whooped me,” Stanley admitted. “After that, though, it has never crossed my mind.”
His father, Billy Stanley of Hartsville,” has no doubt that his son will finish the hike.
“I am extremely proud of Noah,” said the senior Stanley. “He has done many commendable things. He’s a very goal-oriented person. I have no doubt he will accomplish this hike.”
Stanley said the extreme heat of late May has been the most difficult part of the hike.
“The miles are a lot easier in the morning,” he said.’’
He is making the journey unaccompanied, but says he often meets other groups of hikers and travels with them.
“This trip has been amazing,” said Stanley, the passion he has for the journey evident in his voice. “I have met so many people. The age range is unbelievable, from 18 to 65. I’ve met people from every nationality, ethnicity and background. The diversity in backgrounds is amazing and the people have been so friendly.”
Hannah shared this journal entry on Facebook:
“Yesterday while waiting out the rain, two women met Noah as they set out for a day hike. When they returned to the spot where he rested they gave him a cookie the size of a plate and two inches thick. She said they had just gotten it from the best local bakery before they set out to hike. Noah said she was right - it was delicious. A few moments later after also determining Noah was a thru hiker, a father and young son duo also provided Noah with a snack. People are good. The kindness alone lifted his morale.”
Stanley said one of the most memorable parts of his trip thus far took place on Max Patch, a bald mountain on the North Carolina-Tennessee border in Madison, N.C. While cowboy camping – sleeping under the stars with no tent - with a group, he met a fellow hiker from Charlottesville, Va. The hiker had an unusual item attached to his backpack – a trombone. Encouraged by others, the hiker played his trombone for the group at sunrise the following morning.
“I had a smile on my face a mile wide,” said Stanley, who is also a musician. “A great memory.”
By the time he’s finished, chances are he will have logged in as many great memories as he has miles.
To donate or make a pledge, visit the Facebook page, 2000 Miles for the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic Assault.