Retired police officers carry ashes of their fellow to complete his AT hike

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) -A retired police officer from North Carolina completed the Appalachian Trail this week, seven years after dying of cancer.

Three other retired officers summited Mount Katahdin with some of his ashes to honor their fallen friend.

Andy Molatch was a retired police officer from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina. He had a 30 year career which saw him heading up the bomb squad and working as a sniper on a SWAT team. He also founded Wilderness Scout Ministries and worked as a chaplain.

He died of cancer in 2014 before he could complete his goal to finish the Appalachian Trail.

”He got about 130 miles into Maine and got the phone call to come home, and he never made it back.” says Chandos Williams, who learned about Andy’s story as he prepared for his own AT hike. Williams says the journey is one many retired officers attempt.

“Detox from the stuff that we’ve seen. The PTSD that we suffer.”

Chandos, who goes by the trail name “Nobody” started the hike with some of Andy’s ashes at the request of his family.

“Hiked about a week and a half before COVID shut everything down.”

He came back this year to try again but continued to face challenges.

“Walked almost 300 miles before I pinched a nerve in my neck.”

Unwilling to let the family down, he found others who could help carry the burden. Mark Farmer and Michelle Hummel, who go by “Scooter” and “Hot Lava” on the trail, are also retired officers from the same department.

“Andy and I were on the bomb squad together.” says Mark.

“He helped train me.” added Michelle.

The two met with Chandos in Tennessee to take charge of Andy’s ashes.

“Andy was a no quit type person who was very dedicated to his profession, very good bomb tech.” says Mark.

“That was our bond.” says Michelle. “I mean Andy was just a great man and a great leader. Just committed to the profession and the people that he served.”

“Knowing that I was carrying Andy and I had to get him to Katahdin was a great help of being able to finish the hike.” says Mark. “I didn’t want to let the family down.”

The three met up again for the final push up Katahdin.

“We were walking up that mountain and he was all I thought about.” says Michelle.

“It was a pretty hard climb.” says Chandos, citing poor visibility, strong winds, and wet conditions. “The weather was not that great but we got Andy on the top of the mountain, and now he’s a thru hiker.”

With the journey complete, they plan to meet with Andy’s family and share their stories.

Michelle smiles. “Tell them he made it.”

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