CHICAGO — Erin McShea and Joe Vlasek are about to put their 2½-year relationship to the ultimate test.
On May 28, the Lincoln Park couple will begin what hopefully ends in a 2,190-mile hike from Maine to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. McShea, an Edgebrook native, and Vlasek would like to finish their epic quest by Halloween — and raise money for the Danny Did Foundation along the way.
"Going from being a city girl to the complete wilderness is overwhelming," said McShea, 32, a Loyola Academy and Indiana University graduate. "But it's a great opportunity, and I trust Joe, and we can balance our worries off of each other."
Only about 25 percent of Appalachian Trail hikers finish the journey. Vlasek, 34, said the statistics don't bother him.
"I'm very confident we're going to finish it, and you have to do this with an open mind," said Vlasek, who's in between jobs.
McShea is taking several months off as a Downtown-based real estate agent to make the trip. She and Vlasek — both veteran hikers who have spent time in the Alps, western Canada and the Smoky Mountains — in February decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, which runs through 14 states.
The couple are starting in the north — only about 10 percent of the Appalachian Trail hikers begin in Maine, preferring to walk into the cooler temperatures — because they want a bigger challenge.
Danny Did Foundation, which helps families who have epileptic children, became involved in March. McShea has two siblings — Kristin, 26, and Justin 30 — who have epilepsy, and Kristin is on one of the Danny Did Foundation boards.
"I feel very, very fortunate when I put in perspective what my siblings are challenged with every day," McShea said. "The least I can do is put one foot forward in front of the other and make them our motivation."
McShea and Vlasek are bringing clothes, a tent, sleeping bags, cooking stove, first-aid kit, food in a bear bag (which they'll hoist every night), cash and other essentials.
McShea said they'd like to walk about 15 to 20 miles a day.
"How often does someone get an opportunity to do something like this?" Vlasek said.
To donate to Vlasek and McShea's journey, click here.
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