The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 5, 2013

Wyoming County native takes long hike

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— Two brave adventurers are hot on the trail — the Great Eastern Trail — and will be hiking through our neck of the woods during the course of their travels.

Joanna Swanson and Bart Houck, a Wyoming County native, started their 1,800-mile trek Jan. 10 in Alabama and if they complete their journey, they will be the first to do so.  

The Great Eastern Trail is America’s newest long-distance hiking trail, stretching from Alabama to New York.

The two brave hikers have been posting updates on their blog,, and said they started the journey “to raise awareness of the Great Eastern Trail, to see if it can be done, and to raise funds to help the trail continue its work.”

At first the idea of having the Great Eastern Trail cut through the coalfields made some land owners trepidatious, Houck explained.

“If it wasn’t for the effort of a few people, like VISTA worker Joanna Swanson, among others, the trail would have gone right around West Virginia and several small towns, like Mullens, wouldn’t have benefited from hikers coming through,” he said.

They have estimated they will meet the trail’s end in five months, wrapping up in June, but, then again, they ask, “Who knows?”

“Hiking is not an exact science,” said Houck.

Many friendly fellow adventure lovers have reached out via blog to Swanson and Houck, or Jo and Hillbilly Bart as they call themselves on the trail, offering food and shelter along the way.

So far the duo’s adventures have only been met with minor injuries. Houck said their blisters are long gone and their feet are as sturdy and calloused as shoe soles.

“It has been wonderful. I still look forward to getting back out on the trail every day,” he added.

While traveling through West Virginia, plans call for the hikers to venture through R.D. Bailey Lake Wildlife Management Area, Twin Falls State Park, Camp Creek State Park, Pipe-stem State Park, and follow the New River through Bluestone State Park to the Virginia border.

Houck estimated they would be venturing through Mullens Friday and will meet up with friends and family for a cookout.

For more information about the Great Eastern Trail, visit www.

To stay updated with the latest news from Joe and Hillbilly Bart, check out their blog at

Register-Herald Reporter Sarah Plummer contributed to this story.

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