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AT Hikers

Profile: FireBall
By Ken Anderson
Sep 23, 2004 - 5:47:00 PM

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FireBall, also known as William G. Luttge, has stopped by the Magic City Morning Star & Hard Drive Cafe quite a few times over the past week.

He completed his northbound thru-hike from Georgia to Maine on September 20, 2004; and has been around updating his journal and taking care of other things for the past few days. His wife, Michaelyn, known on the trail as Hot Chocolate, began coming in a week or so before, as she was waiting for him to arrive at the various points along the way.

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180-mile trail that follows the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountain ranges from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Fireball began his trek on March 2, 2004, after retiring from his position as Executive Director of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida in Gainsville, an interesting bit that I discovered on my own, but one that neither he or his wife divulged in our conversations over the past several days; all of which serves to illustrate the principle that everyone is equal on the trail. On the AT, you see, he is not Dr. William G. Luttge, but Fireball, just another northbounder who will be judged not by past accomplishments but through what he says or does on the trail, and in his relationships with other hikers.

FireBall is from Cross Creek, Florida.

In his trail journal, FireBall says that an early mistake that he had made was to carry far too much weight. Beginning with a pack that weighed in at 62 pounds, he soon learned that he didn't really need much of what he had taken with him. So he shed things along the way, as do many hikers.

During his journey, his wife walked with him part of the way and, even more importantly, she followed his progress with a recreation trailer, providing support and restocking as needed, and could take him off the trail for a shower, and perhaps some real food, before dropping him back on the AT to continue where he had left off.

Michaelyn was also able to help him keep up with his journal wherever Internet connections were available, and that's where we were able to help out. With their own notebook computer, they needed only a wireless adapter to connect to our wireless signal, which also allowed him to download and arrange the many photos they had taken along the way.

Shortly after completing his hike, we asked FireBall if there was anything that the town or people of Millinocket might be able to do to make his stay more pleasant. His reply was, "After receiving a free beer at the bar just down from the laundromat, I can't think of anything better."

This has been his first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but he's not through with hiking. Next year he plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington.

FireBall, Michaelyn - It has been a pleasure having you here with us. My wife and I wish you the best on future journeys. If you're ever again in Millinocket, stop by and visit with us.

Fireball, known off the trail as Bill Luttge

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