Backpacker 'Tipi' takes to the trails

Walter Wehner of Tellico Plains sits beside the four-man tent he regularly brings on his extended backpack trips. Tipi Walter, as he's known on the trail, is seen here last Saturday in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness Area, almost two weeks into a 20-day trip.

Most backpackers seldom spend more than a week on a trail before returning to civilization. An exception to that is Walter Wehner.

The 65-year-old Tellico Plains resident sometimes spends weeks in the mountains of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

"I like the freedom of being out in the woods. A lot of people, when they retire, they play golf. I go backpacking," says Wehner, who goes by his trail name of Tipi Walter.

"I try to get out once a month. I especially like the winter."

Wehner, who stands about 6 feet tall, regularly carries a backpack more than half his weight of 150 pounds. He got his trail name by living in a tepee 21 years on the outskirts of Boone, N.C. The closest thing he had to a modern convenience then was a wood-burning stove.