By Rachael Bailey
Gordon College News Service
October 24, 2011
(This story appeared in November 2, 2011, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)
On March 24th, former Wenham resident, Max Beauregard, 24, set out for a six-month long adventure, covering 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine—on foot—and alone.
Now after only 18 showers, 240 liters of water, four bears and 20 snake encounters, and a sickness that nearly cut the trip short, Beauregard returned to his childhood home in Maine on October 1st having traversed one of the world’s five longest hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail.
Though Beauregard started out alone in Georgia, he finished in Maine with people he now practically considers family.
“There was definitely a community,” said Beauregard. “I would walk into a town and go to MacDonald’s and there would be other hikers who I didn’t really know, but you always knew they were hikers. So I’d just go and hang out with them.” By the end of the trip, Beauregard had only spent one night on his own during the time he was on the trail.
The trail runs through 14 states, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and consists mostly of wilderness, but runs into some towns, roads, and rivers as well.
Last spring, Beauregard, who was working at a small biotech lab in the Cummings Center in Beverly, said he needed a change. “It was something I have always wanted to do,” he said. “I was at a point where I was working a job that I didn’t want to work anymore. It was a good time so I decided I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail.”
Once Beauregard hit North Carolina and the Smoky Mountains, he met Veronica Long, 24, and Austin Palmer, 24, a dating couple from Houston, TX. “On the trail, people meet up, continue hiking together, then start to build relationships,” said Long. “You start seeing people more and more frequently. In our case, we all became really close.”
Palmer recalls his first interaction with Beauregard from their stay in a shelter on Albert Mountain in North Carolina. “My first remembrance of him was on a pretty cold day,” said Palmer. “I remember him showing up and telling us how cold he was and I thought that was kind of weird because he was from Maine.”
Hikers on the Trail are given “trail names,” or aliases that stay with them throughout the trip. “Mine was ‘Gravity,’” said Beauregard. “Because I tended to climb very slowly and descend almost at a run.” Veronica or “Pixel” has a college degree in photography and was working on a photography project at the time of the trip, thus the appropriate name, “Pixel.” Fellow hikers called Palmer, “Shazam” after the 1970s comic book series superhero who donned a lightning bolt on his chest.
“For a long time on the trip I had been trying to get a mo-hawk,” said Palmer. “A little later down the trail, I wanted a lightning bolt mo-hawk, so I had Gravity do that for me. I went by Shazam after that.”
When the summer heat was at its peak in late July, Beauregard developed Lyme’s Disease on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border.
“I was miserable,” said Beauregard. “And it was overwhelmingly hot, so I took several days off to seek medical attention.” During this time, Beauregard was hiking nearly 25 miles a day and burning at least 6,000 calories a day. Following his trip to the doctor, Beauregard was given antibiotics and regained energy just days later.
“At that point I thought about going home,” said Beauregard. “Then I started to get better and decided to push through.”
At about 450 miles from the end, Beauregard’s mother sent him a box to the nearest town’s post office filled with food and his cell phone. They approached the finish line, summit of Mount Katahdin.
“It was probably the greatest thing I ever felt,” said Palmer. “My girlfriend and I walked hand in hand the last 15 feet, then ran up and touched the sign. Everyone was cheering for us.”
Since Beauregard completed the hike, he has been home applying for substitute teaching jobs and commuting weekly to Ipswich, MA, playing piano for the YMCA Theatre Company. The Gordon College graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, says he has no regrets about his trek through the 14 states on the Appalachian Trail.
“There was an overwhelming happiness,” said Beauregard. “I got a lot of big hugs.”