Z on the A.T.

Z is a 4 year mixed breed that looks like a miniature Great Pyrenees, or as her owner likes to call her, a Norwegian Squirrel Hound. This September Z returned from an adventure many dogs only dream of completing. She walked the entire Appalachian Trail from springer mountain in Georgia to Baxter State Park in Maine.

Z is originally from Portland, Maine and was a regular at many of the dog friendly businesses downtown. Before the trail she stayed active by running with run club at Fleet Feet and pulling on an amature dog sledding team. Although she lived an active lifestyle it could not fully prepare her for her next journey. Dogs are welcome on 97% of the Appalachian Trail, Z only needed a dog sitter for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Baxter State Park which comprises about 85 miles of the trail.

Although she did not walk all 2,190 miles, she most likely walked over 5,000 miles during the 5 months from herding hikers on the trail. She would run back and forth checking on her Trail family members, bear bell jingling as she ran. She fit right in on the trail many hikers asked how she knew where to go and her owner would jokingly reply “she follows the white blazes”. The Appalachian trail is a continuous trail from Georgia to Maine consisting of roughly 165,000 white blazes painted along the trail.

Walks are usually the favorite part of a dog’s day, and even though walking was the majority of Z’s day, covering an average of 15 miles a day for 5 months, she still loved it. Z wore a Groundbird gear backpack containing food, a small first aid kit, booties, and a collapsible dog bowl. She was prepared for injuries and illness but luckily Z stayed healthy and strong through the entire trip. Her journey on the Appalachian trail started March 22ed with her owner Amelia Bothel and completed September 3rd.

Every day Z and Amelia would wake up at dawn, pack up all of their gear, put on their packs (Z’s least favorite part of the day) and start hiking. Depending on the terrain they covered between 8 and 26 miles a day. Amelia always had an eye out for Z making sure she didn’t push too hard and got adequate breaks especially when it was hot. Every 3-5 days Amelia and Z would go into a town, either by walking or hitchhiking. In town they would buy both human and dog food and occasionally sleep in a hotel or hostel. They needed to make frequent trips in town because Z was consuming so much food that she could only carry a few days at a time.

Z’s favorite days on the trail were ones that involved above tree-line bouldering where she could show off her jumping skills and still keep an eye on her Trail family. People would ask how she was handling the trail and the answer was always “she is in much better shape than any of us”. All the other thru-hikers around them all knew Z and her silly habits including snapping her jaws as if she was talking. Although sometimes she was referred to as wildlife deterrent at camp, Z encountered all types of wildlife along her journey. She saw deer, porcupine, bear, rattlesnakes and her favorite, squirrels. Luckily she kept her distance with wildlife and did not have any bad encounters. Now Z is back home enjoying couch life but she will always be a thru-hiker at heart.

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