Appalachian Trail hikers near finish line

Chuck Defer and his hiking partner Goat

Our Hiram-based walker, hiker, backpacker and Thru-Hiker, 61-year-old Chuck Defer is just about ready to take on the final leg of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

I have declared Defer, a retired teacher, as “our” guy because he’s doing what so many of us wish we had the gumption, the skill set and the will to do, and that is to take a walk of well over 2,000 miles.

More-so, to do it in one continuous day after grueling day, week after tiring week, month after exhausting months, of hiking in the sun, shade, rain and anything else that Mom Nature can think up is truly remarkable.

I’ve used up several lines of column space over the last five months to update readers on Defer’s endeavor because I know him well, and admire his determination and motivation to actually accomplish such a personal challenge.

Early and Goat have paced much of the last 1,600 miles together, a team of two with shared professional backgrounds, mature and friendly personalities, as well as mirrored love of the trail.


Early is Defer’s AT nickname, and Goat is his hiking partner. Real names don’t matter on because every thru-hiker soon becomes known by his or her trail name.

Defer, or Early, typically crawls out of his sleeping bag at 4 a.m., plus or minus a few minutes.

He earned his nickname by those who preferred to catch a few more winks each morning.

Defer says that he just likes to get up, get set and start off by 5 a.m. on his daily goal of at least 15 miles.

Not so for Goat, who will catch up if not by lunchtime, certainly by the day’s end.

Oh, Goat is well named for his snow white chin whiskers. And incidentally, the two met on the trail just as so many campers do, finding friendship and company with those they meet on the trail or at an overnight shelter.

It’s especially helpful when AT hiking buddies share the same daily goals, such as speed. Even when friends walk at different speeds, they often meet up at the end of most days.

End in sight

Defer is now in Massachusetts, with some 600 more miles to go. The finish line in Maine is reachable.

It looks like Early is going to make it. Outdoor-oriented groups might want to invite Defer to share his story.

Both he and his son, David, who completed the same journey last summer, will soon be able to claim their well-earned honors as Father-Son AT Thru-hikers.

Savage Arms sold

Vista Outdoor Inc., owners of Savage Arms and Stevens firearms, have announced the sale of these long-time, highly popular brands to an unnamed buyer.

It’s remarkable how many gun companies have been traded in recent years, and there will certainly be more.

Other outdoor brands have also been sold, bought and sold again, including several boat manufacturing companies.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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