For more: http://www.trailjournals.com/madelyngiven/

POLAND — She hiked through a Tennessee blizzard that left snow up to her hips, heavy rain and mud in Massachusetts and while being pursued by a bear in New Hampshire.

Madelyn Given, 65, hiked solo every day until she completed the Appalachian Trail — 2,175 miles over 14 states “and about every mountain you can think of.”

She started in Georgia on March 26 and finished at the summit of Mount Katahdin on Aug. 7. “That’s pretty darn fast for a solo woman hiker my age,” she said.

Most days she hiked from 5:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. She slept in lean-tos, shelters or her own tent. She carried supplies in a backpack. Back home, her husband Ed mailed her supplies and monitored her progress.

At her Poland home Wednesday, she gestured to her baggy pants, which she wore on the hike. “I lost 35 pounds,” she said.

It was far from her first adventure.

Since retiring from teaching at McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston in 2000, she has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains. She has run marathons on each continent.

She wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail while she still could.

“Physically, I’m pretty agile,” she said. “I can jump rock to rock. I don’t feel old. But realistically, how long could you do it successfully without pushing your luck?”

She had a few scares.

Once she was crossing a river with a rope and her foot got stuck in rocks. The current was swift. She let go of the rope with one hand and used her walking pole to free her foot.

Another time she was on the New York-New Jersey border on a high ridge. She fell off a huge rock into a ravine, landing on her backpack and injuring her leg. Her ankle swelled as big as an orange, she said. “I knew it wasn’t broken because I could still hike.”

In July she was in New Hampshire and heard hikers ahead hollering. A hungry bear was following too close. By the time Given reached the hikers, the bear was on her, she said. It didn’t attack, but it stalked them for a half-hour. Men in the group threw rocks at the bear until it went away.

There wasn’t a day on the trail that there wasn’t some misery, she said. “It’s hard hiking up over mountains. It’s steep and rocky. You’re hurting.”

But the trail also yielded a lot of joy. “There were always some pleasurable moments.”

She had close encounters with animals, deer and bear, that delighted her. She took in all kinds of beautiful views from the tops of mountains. She photographed wildflowers.

There was “trail magic” — nice, unexpected things. “Someone has left you a banana and you’re hungry, or some trail person walks with you and talks with you for a little while, or you see a great scene from the top of a mountain.” So-called “through hikers” look out for each other, she said.

She also met “lovely people” off trail, including a judge and his wife in Pennsylvania who invited her to pitch her tent on their porch to get out of a thunderstorm. She’s sending out thank-you notes to those who helped her.

Given said she was glad she met the challenge of hiking from Georgia to Maine.

“But the biggest thing is the people you meet.”

[email protected]

Madelyn Given relaxes at her home in Poland after recently hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

Madelyn Given relaxes at her home in Poland after recently hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.