Owensboro native conquers lifelong dream of hiking entire Appalachian Trail

December 18, 2022 | 12:10 am

Updated December 17, 2022 | 4:08 pm

Tabitha Ellis | Photo provided

Owensboro native Tabitha Ellis recently completed a goal not many can say they have achieved. Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, she conquered 2,194.3 miles — an accomplishment she calls a lifelong dream. 

“I have wanted to do this for 20 years,” Ellis said. “It’s been on my bucket list. I used to go to a hiking camp and a counselor told me about the trail. Each year it got pushed back and I decided this was the year.”

After preparing her journey for nearly 2 years , Ellis set out for adventure. Her dad, Glendale Gayle Ellis, decided to complete the journey alongside his daughter. 

Joining the duo was Ellis’ dog Charlie, creating a tramily, which is another word for trail family. Although they did not finish the journey together, Ellis was thankful for the time they did have together.

“Around mile 400, my dad heard a pop and realized he had broken his foot. He had to get off the trail and was unable to continue. My dog Charlie made it 900 miles with me,” Ellis said.

Even with the unexpected events that caused her dad and her dog to leave the trail early, Ellis met her hiking partner at mile 340 — and they trekked the rest of the trail together. 

“Most people on the trail have others with them.  Each state gets you ready for the next one. New Hampshire and Maine were the most difficult. It was pretty much straight up a mountain,” Ellis said.

While some choose their name and others are given a name, many along the trail choose a special title to go by during their journey. Ellis chose the trail name Dragonfly. 

“I was also called bear bait because I slept with my food the whole time. My food got stolen on Easter Sunday when we stayed at a campground. No hiker will steal your food. They don’t want to carry it, but the homeless might. After that I held my food at night.”

The post-trail part of working back into civilization can feel significant. For Ellis, deciding her next move is the biggest piece of that puzzle. 

“Off the trail, you go into shock. I’m used to carrying a bag with food, about 45 pounds. We carry 3-5 days of food at a time,” Ellis said. “Now, I have to decide if I’m getting a job or moving to a different state— keeping up the momentum. I’m thinking about trying rock climbing, something to get out there and and keep up the adventure part of it.”

The journey was long, spanning 14 states and lasting 7 months from early spring until fall. Ellis said it taught her many life lessons along the way. 

“Anything I can set my mind to, I can do. Even if I’m having a bad day, this has taught me that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Ellis said.

Ellis attributes much of the success of her journey to her trail partner who helped her though and an amazing community of friends that encouraged each other. 

“With this trail we all have different journeys — those who wish to heal physically, mentally or emotionally on the trail,” Ellis said. “You are stripped of modesty, stripped of the bull of life. I can’t even explain it, but now I can do anything because I can say ‘I’ve been through harder stuff.'”

December 18, 2022 | 12:10 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like