BREVARD With headlamps strapped on, 37 hikers braved the darkness of the morning in Pisgah National Forest and wandered into the woods early Saturday.
Their mission: To hike 30.1 miles along the Art Loeb Trail for the Charlotte Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundations fourth annual Extreme Hike for a Cure.
The group set out about 4 a.m. from the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp, about 45 minutes southwest of Asheville, to help raise awareness and funds for the foundation.
Charlotte resident Rebecca Lewis made the trip to Pisgah National Forest to support her husband, Joe Lewis, as he hiked for their daughter, Caroline Lewis.
Caroline was diagnosed with CF when she was a baby. The now 2-year-old requires a daily regimen of about 20 pills and several breathing treatments.
We always love to hike, and we wanted to rally around this cause, Rebecca Lewis said. If we have a daughter with cystic fibrosis, we are going to give it all weve got, and were going to make an impact.
Folks from New York to Winston-Salem, Boston and Charlotte all made the trip to participate in the hike.
Amos Beason and John Barlow, two friends from Charlotte, started the hike in 2009. They saw people spending days hiking the Art Loeb Trail and wondered whether they could do it in a single day, in honor of a friend with cystic fibrosis.
The event has since been held on sections of the Appalachian Trail, but the chapter wanted to return to its roots for the first fall hike, said Dede Brand, development director for the Charlotte Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This years hike is expected to raise $100,000 for the chapter.
Prior to the Extreme Hike, participants were given a three-month training schedule, much like a marathon schedule but with a bit more hills, Brand said.
Perry Clark of Winston-Salem brought eight of his high school buddies along on the hike. This was their first attempt at the trek.
Clark hiked Saturday morning for his son, Wells Clark, who was diagnosed with CF when he was born. Wells endures two 45-minute breathing treatments each day and takes about 50 medications, Clark said.
To celebrate Wells, the friends call themselves the Warriors for Wells. They have raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for the past 12 years. This year, the group reached a personal fundraising goal of $1 million, Clark said.
We decided we werent going to sit on the sidelines and let him wither away, he said. We were going to do everything we could about it.
Hikers Erin Romeiser and Christian Romeiser of Charlotte ventured out on the trail for their daughter, Lauren Romeiser, who was diagnosed with CF before being born.
Were very focused on Lauren and shes doing really well, Erin Romeiser said.
While her parents hiked for a cure, Lauren stayed with grandparents in Charlotte and prepared for a Saturday soccer match.
Within the first 10 miles of Saturdays Extreme Hike, hikers faced exposed roots, boulders in the middle of impasses, steep drop-offs and significant inclines.
By first light, most hikers were halfway through the first section of the trail and were still positive. Many stopped for a moment to enjoy a sunrise along the Art Loeb Trail and the orange and yellow fall leaves.
This is inspiring, said Anc Newman, a member of the Warriors for Wells team.
About 3:30 p.m., hikers began to close in on the finish line.
Claire Collins, 11, held a support sign and waited for her dad, Clay Collins, to cross the finish line at Davidson River Campground in Brevard.
The Waynesville youth was diagnosed with CF at age 2 1/2. Claire said she wakes up every day at 6 a.m. for breathing treatments before school. She advises youth with CF to exercise often to help with symptoms of the disease.
We are thrilled with all of the research coming in for CF, said Dianne Collins, Claires grandmother. We are confident we will see a cure in Claires lifetime.
Claires dad ran across the finish line second.
Its daddy, Claire said.
Come here, Claire-Bear, Clay Collins said to his daughter. The two posed for a quick photo at the finish line banner before going home.