June 19, 2023

Hiking has become a way of life for Bill Eichenberger

Damon Brooks

A year ago, Margaret Corvini and her daughters, Elizabeth and Katherine, traveled to Pearisburg, Virginia, to pick up her husband, Bill Eichenberger,  after his two-month-long hike that began in Georgia. that included stops in Georgia and Maine. 

Eichenberger’s 500-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail led to a noticeable difference in his appearance. Sporting an already slender frame, the 6-foot-3 Eichenberger now weighed 155 pounds.  

His children joked that the weight loss was significant enough to see their dad’s ribs through his athletic clothing.

It's adventures like these that invigorate Eichenberger, the Las Vegas Review-Journal assistant managing editor for sports.

With an already established 50-year journalism career, he discovered a motivation to try things that may seem risky for someone who is 68 years old. Eichenberger developed an itch to hike after watching someone on YouTube conquer the Appalachian Trail. 

While some may shy away from their fears, Eichenberger believes in facing them head-on.

“My life philosophy is to confront your fears,” Eichenberger said. “That's where real life happens. Don’t run from them, confront them.”

Eichenberger started his career as a beat reporter for 10 years before moving to managing positions at The Times-Picayune, Newsday, and The Wall Street Journal. 

Last August, he moved from assistant  sports editor at the Review-Journal to managing editor of sports.

A year before he chose to start hiking. He knew he had to learn and get in shape. 

He worked remotely for the Review-Journal from his Long Island, N.Y., home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eichenberger used the three-hour time difference to train in the mornings. He walked steep hills while getting accustomed to carrying a 25- to 30-pound backpack. 

The backpack contained a sleeping bag, a pad to absorb moisture, a tent, a first aid kit, a headlamp and an empty bottle for toileting purposes. 

After tons of preparation,  he was ready for his first hike. A newspaper friend was also making his first hike. He, too, was inexperienced in this field. 

The pair struggled initially, but it’s the life and death of hiking that kept Eichenberger engaged with the journey. 

“You don't worry about keeping up with somebody [on the trail] … so everybody survives or doesn't survive that day,” Eichenberger said.

During the 500-mile hike, Eichenberger met interesting people. One  gave him a deeper appreciation for the trail. 

This person was suffering from terminal cancer and was told that he had six months to live.  The man, 30, said there was a 2% chance the chemotherapy would reverse the inevitable. He shunned treatment options and continued hiking the trail.  This man’s attitude inspired Eichenberger, who plans to hike the trail again in 2024.

“I want to live my life, I want to go down swinging. I don’t want to take a [cold] third strike.” Eichenberger added: “...if I were to fall on the trail and get killed, I would rather that than be in some hospital.”

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