A 9-year trek: Local nurse completes Appalachian Trail hike

  • Doreen Landry at the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  CONTRIBUTED

  • Doreen Landry standing along Route 25C in Warren, New Hampshire.  CONTRIBUTED

  • Doreen Landry sits atop MacAfee Knob in Virginia.  CONTRIBUTED

  • Doreen Landry at COVID-19 bear 2020, the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail.  CONTRIBUTED

  • Doreen Landry on Springer Mountain in Georgia.  CONTRIBUTED

For the Athol Daily News 
Published: 8/25/2022 4:04:28 PM
Modified: 8/25/2022 4:00:53 PM

WINCHENDON — You would think that, as a busy nurse at Athol Hospital, Doreen Landry would want to spend as much of her free time as possible simply relaxing – and off her feet. Such, however, is not the case. Landry, who calls Winchendon home, recently checked off one of the items on her bucket list by hiking the Appalachian Trail, a nine-year effort during which she trekked the entire 2,190-mile length of the mountain chain.

“I started on May 19 of 2013 just south of Warren, New Hampshire, and then I finished off in Springer (Georgia) on August 21,” Landry said. 

Her decision to undertake the challenge, she said, was made the year before she took her first steps on the trail.

“What motivated me to start the hike,” explained Landry, “was in 2012 I read an article about a guy who started to do the hike at 27, but life happened, and he had to get off the trail. He went back on and finished it at 67 years old.

“So, I said, ‘You know, I think I can do that.’ That was when I made the decision to start hiking the Appalachian Trail. At the time, when I started in 2013, I was working full-time – I’m a nurse at Athol Hospital – so I would hike whenever I could. In the area, in Massachusetts, I did that; I would hike 20 miles a week. I would also hike sometimes up in Maine; I summited (Mount) Katahdin in 2013. Then I just kind of bounced around between Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.”

Landry said that, depending on the weather, she would hike for three or four days — whenever she had the time off. Carrying her backpack, she would cover anywhere between 15 and 23 miles per day.

Accessing the trail outside of New England, however, took a bit more planning.

“That was a lot more difficult,” she continued. “I had to find out about buses to take, or I would drive and a family member — one of my kids — would meet me at the end of my hike on a given stretch, then bring me to my car and I’d drive home. One time in Pennsylvania I had to get off the trail; the weather was very cold, and my son researched buses for me so that I could get home.”

About a year ago, she said, she found herself a hiking partner. In March of 2021 she met Athol resident Dan Naughton. Landry said she explained to her newly found friend what her plans were for the upcoming summer and eventually invited him to join her on her hikes. “If not,” she told him, “then maybe we should put this relationship on hold for another time. But he was all for it.”

“We brought one car down, and we were going to hike together to the end. But he got off the trail, so what he would do is meet me — every six days I’d get off the trail so I could resupply my food, wash, take a shower,” Landry said.

In June of last year, Landry suffered an injury which sidelined her for about three months.

“I ended up with a stress fracture in June last year,” she said. “So, I decided at that point it would probably be better for me to … instead of hiking with a 25-pound backpack on my back … I decided to do what they call ‘slack packing,’ which is just hiking with a day pack. So, my boyfriend would hike a few miles with me on the trail, then he’d hike back to the vehicle and meet at the end of my hike for the day. That’s how we pretty much finished it, from just north of Damascus, Virginia, all the way to Springer. That’s how I completed that whole section.”

The toughest hike for her, she said, “Was the White Mountains — Kinsman Notch — in that area, because you’re climbing over a lot of rocks. There’s also this one section shortly after you get into Maine — it’s called the Mahoosuc Notch: it’s one mile of climbing over huge boulders. It can take anywhere from an hour to six hours to hike that one mile.”

Landry said her four grown children were supportive of her effort, but also concerned.

“You’re a woman on the trail alone, and people are like, ‘Are you crazy? It’s dangerous.’ In 2015, I was on the Chairback Mountains (in Maine), and I fractured my ankle. So, I hiked out, but after that my kids, for Christmas, they got me a Garmin tracker so that they could watch where I was hiking. That was their way of keeping an eye on me.”

When asked what experience, along the entire nearly 2,300-mile trek, was most memorable, Landy said, “I guess I would have to say when I finished it on the 21st. It was like, I’ve been working on it for nine years and to finally be there. A couple of days before we finished, my boyfriend said to me, ‘You don’t look too excited.’ I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m almost there.’ When I saw that sign — ‘Springer Mountain, Southern Terminus of the Applachiian Trail’ — I just got so weepy and crying; I was finally there.”

Now that her trek of the Appalachian Trail is complete, don’t expect Landry to stay put in her Winchendon home. There are more items on her bucket list.

“My next adventure is I’m working on going to all of the national parks in the U.S.,” she said. “I’m leaving in September to get seven of the national parks done.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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