6-year-old Sebastopol girl breaks hiking record with family on Appalachian Trail

GEORGIA (KGO) -- A Bay Area family made history, and they almost did it in time for the start of the school year.

The Malones spent the months of February through August, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

At 2,200 miles long, The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The AT travels through 14 states along the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine.

"Hi," shouted the Malone family in unison over the phone, who are back home in Sebastopol and stronger than ever, after their 6-month long backpacking trip.

"We definitely have been planning it since before they were born, since I thru-hiked in 1999," explained Jaime Malone, who first hiked the trail to honor and raise money for her brother, who died from a brain injury.

20 years after her first Appalachian hike, Jamie, her husband Chris, and their four daughters, Maya,13, Harper, 11, Josie, 8, and Sabina, 6, camped in snow, and hiked across rivers and up mountains, all with blistered toes and homework assignments to complete.

"In some of the toughest physical moments, they would get sort of a fire in their eyes and say let's do it," said Chris.

One of those tough moments was hiking Mount Katahdin, the final summit in Maine.

After walking 2,190 miles, the Malones were caught in a storm. A ranger told them to turn around when they were two miles from the top. The girls stopped, huddled along the side of the rocky mountain, and sang "Hallelujah" in the rain, before they abandoned their last climb.

But a few days later, the weather cleared and they were singing a different tune. "Let yourself feel pride, always stay humble and kind," sang the girls from atop Mount Katahdin.

"I think the experience definitely did make us closer," said Harper.

Josie said seeing ponies, and eating blueberries in Maine were her favorite part of the journey.

Most of the family celebrated birthdays along the trail, including Sabina, who turned 6, and is now believed to be the youngest female to ever hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

Sabina's trail name was "Sister Bunny", and her most memorable moment came on a cold and foggy day in the woods of New Jersey. "We went up the stairs of the fire tower... then I was like, 'Mom - there's a bunny, there's a bunny, and we saw 8 bunnies," exclaimed Sabina.

The rain delay meant they missed the first few days of school, but certainly not any life lessons. "I never knew I could push myself so hard until I hiked the trail... now I know what I'm capable of doing," said Maya.

"At such a young age, they've gained so much," said Jaime with pride.

If you're searching for your own adventure, Chris has some advice. "Don't let the trip destroy the journey. It's all about taking that time and realizing and remembering why we did this. It's because we love what the natural world and backpacking gives to our girls, gives to us and our family. That's why we went out there in the first place."

The Malones also raised more than $10,000 dollars for 6 different charities, while they were hiking.
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