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SC's Mark Sanford returned from 'hiking the Appalachian Trail' 10 years ago today

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Sanford thankful for 'forgiveness' on fifth anniversary of tearful admission (copy)

In 2009, a tearful Gov. Mark Sanford told the world he was having an affair with an Argentine woman. His marriage to then-wife Jenny collapsed and the phrase "hiking the Appalachian Trail" - which was Sanford's cover story while he was out of the country - made its way into the mainstream.

A decade ago this morning, the phrase "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" took on a whole new meaning in South Carolina.

That's when then-Gov. Mark Sanford emerged from his six-day absence to give a live, televised tear-filled admission that he had been unfaithful to the state and his wife by running off to Argentina to visit his mistress.

His administration said his absence was because he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Once the story broke nationally, the state became a mockery for political comedians.

Since then, it appeared Sanford was destined to land on his feet, again.

He finished out his term as governor, dodging impeachment chatter.

He won his old seat in Congress in 2013 — a signal he'd been generally forgiven by tens of thousands of Republican voters in the Lowcountry.

But then he ran into the politics of Donald Trump, who targeted Sanford after Sanford targeted Trump for his questionable behavior.

Their differences hit a new level during a Trump visit to Cayce to support the election campaign of Gov. Henry McMaster.

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“I can’t stand that guy,” Trump said, referring to Sanford and getting the crowd going.

“The Tallahassee Trail — must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn’t go there,” Trump confusedly told the audience.

Sanford said he was on the House floor when Trump made the comment, but Sanford questioned whether the president mixed up his words or whether the botched phrase was an attempt to continue an old punchline.

“I can’t judge another man’s heart or what he has on his mind, but I have to wonder whether there is a method to the madness,” Sanford said.

Booted out of office in last year's GOP primary, Sanford has since wandered off into the political wilderness. Most recently, he completed a two-month stint teaching as a political fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

Sanford did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Monday. But the anniversary was recognized by some on social media, further proof Sanford's absence won't soon be forgotten.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

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