A local couple who recently retired from family medicine have just completed their biggest adventure yet.
Drs. Pete and Julie Rosá cut their bucket list by hiking the 2,000+ mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine over a 6 month period. The trip came after 3 years of planning. Their friends and family joined in the adventure by following the couple – who had been family doctors in Hiawatha for more than 20 years – on their private Facebook page called Julie and Pete — Docs on the Trail.
In mid-October, the couple shared their adventure in a public presentation at their church — Hiawatha’s First Baptist — a few weeks after their hike ended. They brought samples of their daily food – which amounted to between 500 and 700 calories, including various energy bars, as well as freeze-dried meals – all of their clothing, supplies, tents and bags which they took with them on the trek. their trip. Pete said he had to change his bag halfway through because he was attacked by a squirrel that ate a hole in his bag.
“My new pack was 3 pounds lighter and that’s actually a lot,” he said.
Pete’s packs ranged from 32 to 35 pounds and Julie’s from 24 to 26 pounds.
“Weight went down a bit throughout the day as we ate it,” he said.
They also started with a three-person tent at first, but switched to a two-person tent to save weight.
The two agreed that they weren’t sure what made them want to hike, but also agreed that they had no desire to do anything like that again. Three thousand people attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail each year and only 25% actually finish.
From their very first day in April, when they took this photo at the trail arch in Springer Mountain, Georgia, to their triumphant day climbing Momma K. — or Mt. Katadhin — at the end of the trail in northern Maine, Pete and Julie approached each day as a challenge.
“Some days have been so tough, really tough,” Julie told the group gathered at the FBC for the presentation. “There were days when we wanted to quit.”
Along with the grueling punishment inflicted on their bodies – which they both admitted they weren’t quite prepared for – also came the added homesickness and longing for their homes, friends and loved ones. family. Their four children – Katie, Jada, Mary and Jack – joined their parents one by one at different stages of the trip, staying to hike for a week at a time. Back home, they had friends guarding the house and also sending them boxes which they picked up along the way. Lots of boxes contained new shoes – not hiking shoes, but good tennis shoes for walking. They each went through four pairs of shoes during the six-month trek and their feet flattened out – increasing in size by half for each after taking 5 million steps.
But there were also so many highlights – the feeling of accomplishing what they set out to do, the relationships they formed on the trail with other hikers, the look deep inside themselves. themselves.
The Rosás talked about the first days they set off in Spring Mountain, Georgia, to those last weary days where they traversed the 100 Mile Wilderness – which ends at Baxter State Park, home to Mount Katahdin. and the end of their trail.
On their daily Facebook blog, there was an observation about the 100 Mile Wilderness which Julie noted – “I cried, I pouted, I fell on roots, rocks, sticks, my own feet! I wanted to stop, I wanted to scream… our attitudes were sometimes bad – we could go on!! Pete’s encouragement on those bad days – “Everyday can’t be our best day…and we don’t give up on a bad day!”
Another thing they both agreed on was that some areas were very boring – not much scenery as they walked through the giant fields of grass taller than them, or through the boredom of climbing a half mile mountain then back down – repeating this several times. Julie said the heat was also intense – as they walked in the heart of summer – with bugs and gnats.
They had an itinerary for each day – trying to do 15-18 miles or 100 in a week. Typically, they would rise with the sun to start their day and especially on hot days, they would take afternoon breaks during the hottest time of the day. Then they would walk a few more hours in the evening.
“We worked hard and went to bed with the sun,” he said, noting that it was great to be so physically tired that they slept through the night.
“We sweated so much you could see the salt stains on our shirts,” Julie said.
She said the longest time without a shower was 8 days and she said they would take their clothes off – wet with sweat – and put them back on the next day, still wet with sweat.
Food and water were also challenges – they carried water filters, but if they were lucky enough to find a natural source, they filled their canisters with fresh water. They only carried small amounts of food and their daily calories were low. Julie ended up losing about 45 pounds, while Pete lost 65 over the 6 month trek.
They said their normal day started with coffee and crackers or an energy bar. They would hike for a few hours and take another protein/energy bar. Around noon they would have another bar or Trail mix and another mid-afternoon snack. Dinners often consisted of freeze-dried meals.
Every 3-4 days they went to a small mountain town, where there were many places for hikers to stay – in hostels or places to pitch their tent. It was there that they were able to find home-cooked meals and “feasted” on them to store calories for the grueling days ahead. One of their favorite stops – and it’s very famous – is called Shaw’s Hostel and they actually drop off food for hikers halfway through.
They were lucky to escape serious injury, as many areas of the treks include rugged terrain that can be dangerous and even fatal for some. Some of their injuries included wasp and hornet stings and both had problems with their knees – wrapping themselves daily with duct tape.
They said there was a definite ‘fear factor’ to their adventure – perhaps a bit like life and the unknown, which Pete said sometimes ended up not being as scary as it once was. initially appeared.
“Or maybe it was and we worked on it,” he said.
Both said that in hindsight, some situations they found themselves in were a little more dangerous than they would have liked.
“It’s a good thing our moms don’t know that,” Pete said with a laugh.
One of the areas that presented some of the biggest challenges was New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains. For the Rosás — who’ve done their share of mountain treks in Colorado, Pete said it’s as tough as any 14-er he’s ever done.
“It was dangerous, the rocks were loose and the people we were with were getting hurt,” he said, noting that by this point they had already covered 1,600 miles.
Their coldest day was 22 degrees and they slept in their coats, with their phones and water filters.
They crossed North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia in the spring. With summer cane over Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They said fall has blossomed into beautiful Vermont, New Hampshire and finally Maine.
After their hike, the Rosas met Hiawatha native Jacob Charles and his wife, Brianna, who reside in Maine. They said the couple gave them a vehicle to drive for 10 days for sightseeing. They explored the area and even camped again – this time with some added perks!
While the couple are now back in Hiawatha, enjoying life as they knew it, Julie noted that adjusting to being in a bed, a house and the noisy aspects of everyday life.
Their intense camping days are behind them and they look to a future that involves international medicine.
Julie said after being a doctor during COVID, their mind needed something different.
“It was a gift – COVID was very difficult for medical providers and staff, we had so many heartbreaking situations,” Julie said. “Our bodies were tired, but it was a rest for our spirits. It was a peace.
Pete said they became more dependent on God, while growing in humility.
“The track was everything we thought it would be and maybe harder, maybe more boring, but I’m glad we made it,” added Pete. “It was a great adventure. We weren’t going to give up, but we were ready to do it.