The Cable News Network (CNN) recently posted a news story in its Travel section to highlight the exploits of a Seventh-day Adventist family of seven hiking the longest and most famous trails in the United States.
Olen and Danae Netterburg and their five kids are currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from the border of Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington to Canada, CNN reported in an August 28, 2023, news story. They are known in the hiking community and beyond after completing the Appalachian Trail (between Georgia and Maine) and the Continental Divide Trail (extending from New Mexico to the Canadian border).
In its report, CNN highlighted the beginning of the family’s hiking adventures and how they worked to gradually increase the length and complexity of their hiking once they saw their kids enjoyed it. “[The kids] liked camping, catching salamanders, campfires, and all the rest,” they told CNN. And as they kept increasing the distances and challenges, they saw how well the kids responded. “The kids enjoyed it, so we kept doing it,” they said.
In early 2020, the Netteburgs and their then four kids decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, which crosses the United States’ east coast from north to south. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which manages the trail, it is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. According to some estimates, about 2 million people hike at least part of the trail each year. Most of the trail runs through forests or wildlands, but parts of it traverse villages, roads, and farms. It passes through 14 states of the eastern U.S.
Despite the restrictions and safety precautions the Netteburgs had to take when health officials declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the family, including then four-year-old Juniper, completed the iconic 2,193-mile (3,529-kilometer) hike in seven months.
At the time, the family reported on their youngest, who at four years old completed the entire hike on her own two feet. “On the trail, Juniper would often be waiting for the rest of the family to catch up, sitting patiently on a rock or fallen tree,” they shared.
Olen and Danae, both physicians, graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine (Olen 2007, Danae 2006) and married a few years later. They went on to serve for 12 years as Deferred Mission Appointees—medical missionaries—at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad. Earlier in 2023, the Netteburgs moved back to the United States, and it is expected a new family will soon take over at the Chad hospital.
Regarding their hiking feats, Danae told CNN Travel that they are aware of what a privilege it is to do it together as a family. “We realize a lot of people can’t do it,” she said. “They [either] don’t have the time or money or they don’t want to. So, we’re very blessed.”