Westmoreland lawyer Antoniono completes hike of Appalachian Trail

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

At 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, local lawyer Jim Antoniono finished a project that took him more than 5 months and 2,200 miles — hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail.

The marked hiking trail in the eastern United States passes through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“It's something that's always been on my mind,” said Antoniono, 68. “Can you really do it or not?”

While hiking, he raised more than $10,000 for the Westmoreland County Bar Association Foundation, a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services, a mock trial program, scholarships and outreach programs to Westmoreland County.

“There was no doubt in my mind that once he started, he was going to finish, even if he was crawling,” foundation Chairman Bruce Tobin said.

Friends and family celebrated his successful return at Rialto Cafe, where he was honored for his contribution to the bar foundation. Antoniono is a partner in the law firm of DeBernardo, Antoniono, McCabe & Davis in Greensburg.

Still recovering from the hike, Antoniono said he dreams about the trail nightly.

“I'm still mentally there,” he said.

Antoniono began the hike on April 20 and took nearly a month off for injuries and several trips back home.

Returning to the trail was always the hardest part, he said. With the hiking momentum gone, he would have to restart over and over.

He credits his wife, Susan, for keeping him going.

“There were about three to four times I could have quit. But every time I got into one of those situations, something would happen that would rejuvenate me,” Antoniono said.

From a final pep talk from his wife to a drink of water and ice cream offered by a man who lives just off the trail, Antoniono said he received the inspiration to keep going to complete the hike all in one try.

He caught the hiking bug in the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, a 34-mile, one-day endurance hike.

“I thought if I could do this, I could do the Appalachian Trail,” Antoniono said. “But it was more brutal than I ever would have imagined.”

Physically, he was prepared, but mentally, the hike was draining, he said.

“Perseverance is one of those things I have a lot of,” he said.

At the end, Antoniono said he expected to feel euphoria, but instead, he was proud of being done and felt relieved.

“I thought, ‘I don't have to hike tomorrow,' ” he said.

Starting and stopping for work and family obligations made the hike more difficult.

Now he remembers the good times and the people he met along the way, and would even consider making the hike again.

For anyone considering the through hike, Antoniono offers this advice, “It has to be something you really want to do if you expect to make it. Otherwise, it will beat you down.”

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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