Arlene Gregoire and friend raise almost $25,000 for Alzheimer Society

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Retired Ottawa chief building official completes challenging 3,500 km Appalachian Trail hike

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

Ottawa’s recently retired chief building official has just completed a grueling five-month walk along the Appalachian Trail, in the process raising almost $25,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.

Arlene Gregoire started the journey with friend Anda Bruisma shortly after leaving her challenging job, where she oversaw the city’s building inspection process and handled sometimes complex and contentious disputes.

In her post-retirement challenge, she set out on the approximately 3,500 km (2,189 miles) hiking journey from Springer Mountain, GA to Mount Katashdin, Maine. The two hikers completed the journey on Aug. 7, about a month ahead of schedule, hiking an estimated five million steps.

Fewer than 25 per cent of the hikers who start the multi-state journey complete it.

“I’m happiest when playing outside,” Gregoire said in a news release announcing the adventure. “I’ve decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail as a way of disengaging from the fast-paced and demanding career I had with the City of Ottawa. Getting back to nature and slowing down will help me transition between work and my next phase of life: retirement.”

Both women are seasoned hikers with many international, rugged hikes in their background. They were motivated by another important goal: to raise much-needed funds for the Alzheimer Society.

The Appalachian Trail’s popularity is likely to increase following the release of the movie “A Walk in The Woods,” starring Robert Redford. The journey combines many challenges but also allows for breaks, where hikers can rest in hostels or motels, visit local communities and connect with their families. (Gregoire said their husbands arranged to meet them at designated times to resupply and support the hike). However, conditions can be especially challenging, including late winter snows at the beginning and, in the final stretch in Maine, extremely remote environments with steep climbs and limited communication.

The two hikers have set an ambitious overall Alzheimer fund-raising goal of $218,920, or $100 per each mile of the trail.

Their travel and fundraising website is at 2015appalachiantrail.jimdo.com.

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