By Colin Foster
Gail Lowe is attempting to do something no other female has ever done before — hike the entire North Country Trail in one hiking season.
Lowe, a Lowell, Mich., native, has walked walked well over 10,000 miles in her lifetime — taking on the Appalachian Trail twice, along with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. But this particular journey holds special meaning to her. She’s doing it in honor of her daughter Rebecca, who passed away from breast cancer in May 2013.
“My daughter, when she found out she was dying, her biggest fear was she would be forgotten,” Lowe said. “The way I’m looking at it is if I go down in history as being the first woman to hike this trail in one hiking season, and I’m doing it in her name — as long as I’m remembered, she’ll be remembered. That’s why this is called ‘Becca’s Hike.’
“It’s my way of making sure that she won’t be forgotten — her biggest fear will never come true.”
Lowe began her journey along the North Country Trail in Waynesville on Sunday, and trekked through Troy on Thursday afternoon. From here, she will go up through Michigan, across the upper peninsula, then to North Dakota. Once she hits North Dakota, she’ll fly to Vermont and hike back to Ohio.
Lowe’s hiking journey began in the early 1990s. She was a certified nurse at the time — a field she retired from two years ago — and surrounded by sick and dying patients every day. Lowe’s experience in the field led her to the realization that life is too short not to take chances. So, she decided to branch out and try a new hobby — hiking.
She decided to take a stroll along the Appalachian Trail between Maine and Georgia, which ended up being a 2,180 mile, six-month journey — a feat that she has now conquered twice.
On her first trip along the Appalachian Trail in 1991, she was struck by lightening, encountered a guy with a handgun and was nearly washed away while fording in the Kennebec River in Maine. Following that first trip, Lowe returned to her daily life, but still had a strong desire to do it all over again. But it would be 17 years before she convinced herself to return to the trails, hiking more than 2,000 miles once again on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
In 2011, Lowe walked the Appalachian Trail once again in celebration of the 20th anniversary since her first walk.
The North Country Trail is the longest national scenic trail in the United States. It passes through 12 national forests and crosses through seven states.
Lowe, who is 64 years old and a self-proclaimed “bad women,” said she will be traveling nearly 30-40 miles per day once she hits her stride. Lowe said she is very driven to finish what she has started.
“There’s some hikers, like myself, whose mentality is all or nothing,” Lowe said. “It doesn’t appeal to me to go out and do a trail for two weeks and go home. If I go out there, I want to do the whole thing.”
Colin Foster may be reached at 937-440-5208 or followed on Twitter @colinfosterbg