WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — The Appalachian Trail spans across 14 different states, and hiking it is the feat of a lifetime. Dawn Landen is a science teacher at P.S Jones Middle School and completed the trail in its entirety.  

Spanning 2,200 miles, the trail is full of hilly terrain, inclement weather and unpredictability. Landen came home from her journey with invaluable life lessons and memories of a lifetime. 

“There’s some days you don’t wanna get out and do it the weather’s bad,” she said. “It’s cold, there’s hills you gotta go up.” 

Over the course of seven years, Landen completed the trail one segment at a time, completing her final hike in April 2022. She didn’t even start the trail with the intention of finishing it. From the southern part of Georgia to the northern tip of Maine and all the land in between, Dawn had one person who never left her side… It was her dad.   

“Well it was just fun to get in with her that plan allowed me to hike some and see the sights she did,” he said. “But it was a family experience and any time we get the family together it’s always fun. “

One thing the Landens found out quickly was how to navigate not only the terrain of the trail but the creatures who lived alongside it. They learned this through a life-threatening encounter.

“He must’ve hung around all night,” Dawn said. “It got dark, we tried to sleep. Got up the next morning and my friend Amy went down the path to get to the outhouse and came running back with a bear behind her.” 

Dawn is a jack of all trades.  While hiking across states and teaching middle schoolers for a living, she also dedicates her time to coaching the high school girls’ cross-country teams. When she told her team about her completion of the trail, she knew they had to change up their training style.

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“Telling the kids on the team hey we need to do some mountain training and we need to do some hiking,” she said. “And actually this summer, this past summer before the season started, four girls from the team and their parents and I went up to the area around Boone and hiked Grandfather Mountain and did some trail runs.” 

Landen’s experience has been a testament to how she views life and imparts her wisdom to her students and cross-country team.  She said some days are cold and rainy, while others are full of beauty and wonder.   

The Landens have now set their sights on their next expedition. They hope to visit the highest points of each state.