I was always teeny tiny. I always looked younger than my age. That is until menopause hit in my 50's. Then Mother Nature played a cruel joke… besides my hair turning gray during my 30's, my body packed on the pounds. Just prior to this time, I became interested in long distance hiking. While still teaching, raising children, coaching various activities my kids were involved in, I began to read every book I could find about the Appalachian Trail. I began to imagine myself walking endlessly in the woods, communing with nature… being Thoreau. Eventually, the kids were gone, I retired, and the time came to pursue my goals & dreams of hiking the AT. Now, mind you, I had no experience hiking or camping alone. Except, that I was raised on a farm, and I did get the cows in every day!

Judy Young
aka Gray Jay
Head Dame
Kentucky Chapter

After reading Jean (Indiana Jean) Deed's book There Are Mountains to Climb, I decided it was time for me to go… to begin hiking the AT. Now my husband of 30 years did not understand my desire to go off into the woods for six months. So as a compromise, I decided to go for 3 weeks in 1999, to start at Springer & hike to Fontana Dam. I was overweight and out of shape. My pack was way too heavy. On the climb to Hawk Mt. Shelter, I literally sat down on the trail, and thought "it's the first day and I can't make it." But I pulled myself up and went on. After that first hike, I knew I could make it to Katahdin.
The next year I started out thinking I would finish the trail… not to be. Plantar Faciitis allowed me to only hike 400 miles before I had to leave the trail. It took two years to get my feet in shape to hike again. So in 2002, I again thought I would finish the AT. Once more I had to leave the trail after 800 miles. But in 2003 I was able to complete the last 800 miles and became a 2000 miler.
Since then, I have re-hiked VT & NH and other sections in the south. I hiked the Long Trail in 2007… well all but 35 miles north of Mansfield… that mountain really beat me up! In 2008 I went to Scotland to hike the West Highland Way. In 2009 I hiked the Northville-Placid Trail in NY. 2010 was the year I went to Newfoundland & to Europe to hike the Tour du Mt Blanc…unfortunately a severely sprained ankle cut short some of that hiking. This year 2011, I plan to hike the C&O Towpath and then the John Muir Trail.
I live in Kentucky halfway between Louisville and Lexington. I was born and raised in this same county. I taught my entire career here… PE, Health, & Science. I have 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and a husband of 42 years.
I suppose as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I will continue to hike. When I started hiking, many folks around here thought I was "nuts." Now they want to know where my next adventure is… and would I take them on a hike! Thus, my desire to start a Trail Dames Chapter. There were no mentors when I began. Now I want to help others learn the joy of walking endlessly in the woods.

Hiking On.....
Judy, aka Gray Jay

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