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Tales of the Trail 

A hiker shares her view of forgotten America.

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Lots of folks enjoy a walk in the woods, but when that walk goes on for 2,160 miles, it's worth talking about.

Patty Jackson will do just that on Thursday, February 7, when she recounts "An Appalachian Odyssey" at the Happy Days Visitor Center.

Jackson is the 53-year-old Hudson woman who embarked on an April-to-October journey of self-discovery last year. Her 15-state trek along the Appalachian Trail led to encounters with black bears, wild ponies, four-foot snow drifts, and an impromptu wedding party.

Up to then, she hadn't done anything as physically challenging. "My longest hikes before this were weekend trips to Pennsylvania to try out different sleeping bags, tents, and stoves," she says.

A former ski and fitness instructor who visits the gym at least three times a week, Jackson wasn't worried about having strength or stamina for the adventure. She was unprepared, however, for the toll that carrying a 35-pound pack eight hours a day would take on her feet and knees. And although her plan had been to stick to a macrobiotic diet of mostly rice, Jackson's need for calories soon had chocolate, potato chips, and other fatty foods creeping into the menu. "Whenever the trail went near a town, I'd hike in and get a large order of fries."

Despite the challenges of staying rested and fit for the long haul -- and taking a month off to mend a broken arm -- Jackson was one of only about 400 hikers who completed the Appalachian Trail last year. And she's already plotting her next course: Later this year, she'll take on part of the Pacific Coast Trail, a 2,650-mile route that winds from Canada to Mexico. "This time, I'm only going for a few weeks," she says.

"And I'm going to carry a much lighter pack."

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