Team prepares for 28-mile hike for cancer research

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — On a rapidly warming spring morning, Ann Cline and Sandy Buechler leave on foot from Ann’s house on Catawba Drive and head for the city’s greenway.
They make sure to take the steep Park Road hill on their way, just to wake up their leg muscles. They wear ballcaps and light clothing. They also carry backpacks, each about 10 pounds in weight.
This is a training hike — only about 5 miles. It covers the greenway near Overton School before they stride into the Eagle Heights neighborhood, then onto the Crescent greenway, the streets of Meadowbrook, a long stretch down Statesville Boulevard and Mahaley Avenue and into Hurley Park and City Park.
A final leg brings them back to Ann’s house, and the skies release buckets of rain just as they finish.
Cline and Buechler are preparing themselves for the 28.3-mile Ultimate Hike May 19 on the Foothills Trail. Yes, that’s 28.3 miles in one day.
Cline has tried to put it in perspective for herself.
“It’s just like walking to Albemarle,” she says.
Then she thinks about it a little longer.
“For goodness sake, I’m walking to Albemarle.”
The Ultimate Hike raises money and awareness for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer. At least two other women from Salisbury, Brenda Julian and Rachel Gray, also are participating in the hike, which starts in South Carolina and ends in North Carolina.
Julian is part of the Mutt & Jeff Team with friend Helen Mason.
Gray, a physician’s assistant at Salisbury Pediatrics, volunteers for a week every summer at Camp Sunshine, which is for kids with cancer.
Gray supplied these statistics: Every day, 35 children are diagnosed with pediatric cancer, resulting in more than 12,400 children diagnosed annually.
Of those 35 children, seven will not survive their cancer.
Cline, 60, and Buechler, 43, expect the Ultimate Hike to take them at least 10 to 11 hours. So far, they have raised more than $3,000 toward their $5,000 team goal.
“We’ve had a really good response,” Buechler says.
The duo work together at SCG International, a strategies, consulting and grant services firm at 1026 S. Fulton St.
They’ve named themselves “Team Aww Hell,” owing to their belief that several times during the hike Cline will utter one of her favorite expressions, “Aww hell.”
They even have T-shirts.
While they have always been in good physical condition, Cline and Buechler are new to hiking and all the equipment that goes with it — the walking sticks, boots and backpacks, for example.
They’ve found in their training that hiking calls on a different kind of stamina, but they worry more about — and laugh about — their poor sense of direction in the woods and in the car trying to get to their hiking destinations.
The women are “fresh” off an 18-mile weekend hike in the Uwharrie Mountains and will be participating in a final 20-mile preparation hike this Saturday on Crowders Mountain.
Besides training regularly on their own since February, the women also have hiked together on the county’s Eagle Point Nature Preserve and Kings Mountain Park.
Cline still doesn’t let Buechler live down her insistence, during one hike, on speaking by cellphone to people back in Spencer. She was trying to iron out details of a school fundraiser while they were tackling the rockiest part of Crowders Mountain.
“I had great reception up there,” Buechler protests.
On occasion, Buechler will walk the 7.5 miles from her Spencer home to the SCG office in Salisbury, then walk back at the end of the day.
The women plan to hold a yard sale May 12 at 521 Maupin Ave. to help with their fundraising.
Cline, who makes outlandish hats — “Ann Cline’s Mad Hats” on Facebook — also is auctioning hats off as a way to raise money (!/annclinesmadhats).
Individuals can make monetary contributions to the team by visiting the Ultimate Hike website and searching for “Team Aw Hell” (
Some 13 teams, each with varying numbers, are registered for the May 19 Ultimate Hike, and donations so far are close to $130,000.
Cline came up with the idea for the women to participate in the Ultimate Hike last December. They went to the Charlotte organizational meeting at the National Whitewater Center and have participated in the scheduled group hikes when they could.
Buechler’s best friend in college had cancer of the lymph nodes as a 15-year-old, then breast cancer as a young woman. Planning to be Buechler’s maid of honor, she died six months before Sandy’s wedding.
Buechler later ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando in her friend’s honor, raising money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Almost a dozen years ago, while she was pregnant, Buechler also participated in the three-day Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Atlanta.
Buechler is a regular runner, having participated in 11 half-marathons in 11 different states.
A recent participant in the half-marathon at Babcock State Park in West Virginia, Buechler aims at running a half-marathon in all 50 states.
The women must each pay a $100 registration fee for the May 19 Ultimate Hike. They can include that as part of their $5,000 goal.
Their fee covers hotel accommodations for two nights; transportation on hike day; the 12- to 14-week training program, a daily workout calendar and bi-weekly group hikes; trail support at three locations during the hike; an Ultimate Hike shirt; a pre-hike pasta party and a post-hike victory breakfast.
Despite their problems with directions, Cline and Buechler have often told each other they should be a team on the television show, “The Amazing Race.”
If they were, “aww hell” would surely break loose.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@

Ultimate Hike
What: A one-day hike of 28.3 miles on a portion of the Foothills Trail, starting in South Carolina and ending in North Carolina.
When: May 19
Why: To raise money and awareness for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer.
Local participants: Ann Cline and Sandy Buechler (Team Aww Hell), Brenda Julian (Team Mutt & Jeff) and Rachel Gray (as an individual).
To donate: go to the, and search for the person or team to whom you would like to contribute.