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‘Mama Boots’ returns to Camp Stem

‘Mama Boots’ returns to Camp Stem
‘Mama Boots’ returns to Camp Stem
With several past and present Girl Scouts in tow, Mary Sands, who was given the nickname 'Mama Boots,' starts the White Trail at Camp Stem in Laconia Saturday.

There’s no comparing the five-mile White Trail at Camp Stem in Laconia to the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail that winds through parts of 14 states. But to Mary Sands, both trails hold a special place in her heart.
Sands, who turned 80 on Saturday, visited and hiked the White Trail she helped create at the Harrison County Girl Scout camp some 38 years ago. She was joined by several family members and about two dozen current and former Girl Scouts in the heavily-wooded area for Saturday’s hike.
‘When I got down there to visit the trail last year, I saw some of the same tags that I put on the trees 37 years ago, and I told people they had to get the trail in use again,’ she told the hikers. ‘I hope something like this can inspire girls to get out and hike. I want to get the trail back in use, and I would like to get Harrison County more involved.’
The White Trail was first marked by Sands and her daughter, Diane Fuchs, in 1970. The last time she walked the trail was in 1980.
‘Then I got engrossed in other things like writing a book and quilting,’ Sands said.
Sands went on to complete hiking the entire AT ‘ where she finished her final section in August 1984 ‘ and in 1992 wrote a book of her adventures on the trail. She logged more than 3,000 miles on the AT.
‘I’d wrote the book like I hiked the trail,’ Sands said, ‘just a little at a time.’
The book, titled ‘Appalachian Trail in Bits and Pieces,’ is still in print.
Along the rolling terrain of the White Trail, hikers could see a horse-drawn manure spreader from the early 1900s and remnants of damage from the windstorm of Sept. 14.
With two walking poles in hand, Sands, who was born in Pendleton County in Kentucky and now lives in Louisville, marched along, telling tales of past hikes and taking only a couple of brief rests when sciatica in her left hip became too painful.
‘When the doctor first told me I had arthritis, I told him I was taking two Advil and I headed out trucking,’ she said. ‘He said that was the best thing to do, and I have to agree.’
Sands led 130 Girl Scouts on 16 years worth of section hikes of the Appalachian Trail. The girls she hiked with gave her the nickname ‘Mama Boots.’ Her husband, Paul Sands, who died in 1994, received the nickname ‘Papa Boots’ during a 1971 trip on the AT.
Sands used to take her Girl Scout troop on a trek to the Grand Canyon.
‘We used to collect newspapers to recycle to earn money to take a trip to the Grand Canyon on a school bus,’ she said. ‘Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve driven to the Grand Canyon on a school bus.
‘One time, one of the girls had left her purse in Tennessee and she’d thought her life was over. We pulled into a stop in Oklahoma and when we got there, a man asked us, ‘Does this belong to one of you?’ and was holding the girl’s purse.
She’d put our roster of where we were going in there and someone had found it and got it to us at our next stop,’ Sands said. ‘It was just amazing.’