BAXTER STATE PARK, Maine — When Caleb Miller sets his mind to doing something, he doesn’t let much stand in his way, even if his goal means hiking 1,086 rugged miles to a mountaintop 5,268 feet high with about 20 pounds of gear on his back.
That’s why the 17-year-old York, Pa., resident was due to arrive at the park on Tuesday and plans to climb Mount Katahdin on Thursday, his friends and family said.
Miller hopes his hike of the Appalachian Trail from Pine Grove Furnace, Pa., which began June 11, to its terminus atop the mountain will raise about $5,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Program, said his father, Jeff Miller.
“We talked to him yesterday. He is doing really well,” the elder Miller said Tuesday. “When we spoke he had about 20 miles to go or something like that. Today he probably finished hiking and is at the Katahdin Stream Campground. He is in really good spirits. He is spending a lot of his days hiking alone because he tends to hike faster than most people and he enjoys hiking alone.”
A love of hiking — he already has done about 500 miles in his life — and two neighborhood friends who have cystic fibrosis motivated Miller to take his months-long trek, his father said.
“I tease him that his other motivation to hike quickly is that he has this girlfriend in Maine. As soon as she left him on the trail, I said he is going to run to Maine. He has certainly moved along,” Jeff Miller said.
That girlfriend, Jess Truscott, is from Red Lion, Pa., and has grandparents who live in Windham and have a cabin on Little Sebago Lake. Only a summer job at her church prevented her from hiking with Miller, she said.
“I was a little hesitant at first to let him go this summer. It was a little scary for me to sit back and watch him go,” said Truscott, 17, “but the more miles he accomplished, the better I felt. Now I am just so excited and proud of him.”
“He is a very driven person,” she added. “When he has a dream, he just goes right for it and nothing stops him. He has had this dream for a long time.”
Miller impressed 80-year-old Ken Truscott, Truscott’s grandfather, by doing the fundraising and the step-by-step, detailed planning that comes with any trip this ambitious.
“He said, ‘I am very much looking forward to being up there and doing more water-skiing.’ He was here last summer and learned how to water-ski. A week later, he was [skiing] on one ski,” Ken Truscott said.
Miller has raised about $4,000 so far, his father said. As part of his effort, Miller registered a webpage for himself at cff.org, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. Anyone interested in making donations to Miller’s effort can do so by searching his name under the site’s “Great Strides” tab and clicking a link on his page.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 people worldwide. A defective gene causes the body to produce unusually thick mucus that clogs the lungs, obstructs the pancreas and stops enzymes from helping the body absorb food, according to the website.
The hike has left Miller in the best shape of his life, said Jeff Miller, an elementary school teacher and avid hiker whose wife, Renee, teaches kindergarten.
“One of the things you can say is that he hikes about the equivalent of a marathon every day, 20 to 26 miles,” the elder Miller said. “When he is done with the trip, his average will be about 21 miles a day, but that’s only because it takes you longer to do as you go along. I think his biggest day was his first, where he did 36 miles, and he has done a number of 30-mile days since then.”
“He is hard for me to keep up with,” Miller added. “In fact, I don’t really try.”