Mother-Daughter Duo Reaches Halfway Point of Appalachian Trail After 1,100 Miles

by Suzanne Halliburton
Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Susan Otten and her daughter, Gretja, now have officially reached the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. That’s 1,100 miles down, another 1,100 to go.

The mother-daughter team are thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for Dan, Sue’s husband, and Gretja’s father, who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

And how does one celebrate this achievement? Although they’re only halfway there, getting to this point also is a remarkable feat. So Susan and Gretja ate some ice cream. You can carbo load for energy and celebrate with a tasty, sinful snack. The two are posting weekly updates on YouTube. Here’s their latest missive. Give it a look and keep reading about their trek and thru-hiking one of America’s most well-known trails.

Gretja and Susan, who live in Minnesota, started their Appalachian Trail trek this summer. They kicked it off in Maine, choosing the north-south route. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it usually takes between five and seven months to finish the journey. You can either start in Maine or Georgia. But Maine’s Mount Katahdin, the most northern point in the trail, closes in mid-October. Starting in Maine when it’s warmer gives a thru-hiker the longest window for good weather.

It Takes Up to Seven Months to Thru-Hike Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is 2,200 miles long and slices through 14 states. Hiking it is the equivalent to scaling up and down Mt. Everest 16 times. In addition, Susan’s age isn’t in her favor. Only 3 percent of the successful thru-hikers are 60 years and older. In order to officially complete the thru-hiking journey, they must do it in a year’s time. However, Susan is a pro. She’s logged more than 10,000 miles for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. Meanwhile, Gretja just finished her veterinarian internship. She’s already completed 13 marathons and three Iron Man competitions.

The mother-daughter team reached Connecticut this week to hit the halfway point. When they started their trip this summer, Gretja explained:

“We’ve never actually gone backpacking together. This will be our first backpacking trip. We’ve done lots of hiking together, we’ve done lots of camping together, but we never actually married the two and gone backpacking. We are doing something together that’s bigger than ourselves.”

But like we said, they’re walking 2,200 miles in all sorts of weather. The cause is so close to their hearts. As Gretja explained about her Dad and Parkinson’s, “you kind of lose a piece of yourself every day. We refuse to let Parkinson’s Disease win. … We would do anything for him.”

They’re hoping to finish the trip before Christmas. By then, they’re hoping to have raised $50,000 for Parkinson’s research.