"We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.” – Robert Sweetgall


Hiking The Appalachian Trail: Maine to Georgia 2008 – 2009
A journey from Baxter State Park, Maine to Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia.

On August 24, 2008 Pam Flowers reached the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park, which is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Her plan was to hike the entire Appalachian Trail with her dog, Ellie, aka Eleanor Roosevelt. However, other then service dogs, no dogs are allowed in Baxter State Park, so she hiked alone to Abol Campground just outside of the Park and Ellie was brought to Pam the next day.

Their goal was Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, 2,174 miles to the south in the State of Georgia. Hiking from one terminus to the other is referred to as thru-hiking. A person can hike the Trail in one long period of time, usually 5-6 months, or they can hike in sections over a number of years. On the Appalachian Trail hikers say “Hike your own hike”, meaning how a person chooses to complete the Trail is up to them.

The Appalachian Trail was conceived by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921 and completed in 1937. In 2010 the Trail was declared to be 2,174 miles long. From time to time the Trail may be shifted a bit as new land is acquired by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the governing body of the Appalachian Trail.

Upon leaving Abol Campground, Pam and Ellie entered the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, a stretch of trail in which there are no communities. The trail was swampy and much of the time they walked along split-log walkways and narrow boardwalks, careful to stay out of the delicate ecosystem that lay on either side.

Near the Maine/New Hampshire state line, they came to the famously intimidating Mahoosuc Notch. This mile-long narrow gap in the mountains is filled with boulders the size of a small car, creating a series of tunnels. Ellie was not particularly thrilled at the prospect of going through these tunnels, so while Pam crawled through, Ellie confidently found her own way over the top.

While crossing Wildcat Ridge in New Hampshire they were almost literally washed off the ridge by a torrent of mud and gravel rushing down the trail during a fierce storm. This was the only day during which they saw no one else on the trail.

Pam and Ellie hike south through Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New jersey. In the beginning they could only hike eight or ten miles a day but as they moved through Pennsylvania they sometimes hiked 25 miles a day. This meant they had toughened up and had what are called “trail legs”.

Moving south they were stalked by winter moving south. Three times they were overtaken but each time they managed to walk out of winter on their southbound odyssey. After hiking through Maryland and West Virginia, they entered Virginia, which has more Trail miles then any other state. While the terrain in Virginia was not particularly difficult, it was Virginia that gave Pam and Ellie their last winter challenge. Pam slipped on an icy patch and, for the third time, severely injured her back and Ellie broke through some thin ice covering a creek and nearly drowned. By now they were a strong team and each encouraged the other to keep going.

Up in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina it was cold but fortunately there was little snow.

Finally, 199 days after leaving Baxter State Park, on March 10, 2009, Pam and Ellie reached Spring Mountain, the official southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. But Springer Mountain is in the wilderness, so they hiked the remaining few miles to Amicalola Falls State Park. It was a wonderful journey filled with challenges, beautiful scenery, and a lot of laughs courtesy of Ellie, but it was still not over. After a bit of rest, Pam and Ellie visited some schools that had participated in Ellie’s Walking Club and then finally headed home to Alaska.


 

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