The Quest of Pamola
You have to admit, Pamola is a badass looking dude. Well, god actually. As the Penobscot stories go, Pamola is a god of thunder and protector of the Greatest Mountain, aka Katahdin. That’s where he lives and no one comes into his house without paying the price. He is described as having the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and talons of an eagle.
I learned about Pamola as I was working with the planning committee for the A.T. Museum’s latest exhibit in our Children’s Area. I was immediately intrigued and had to learn more. As I studied the stories, it became clear to me, that my upcoming hike was going to be a quest. A Quest of Pamola. I will travel along the trail, from its southern terminus to its northern end. I would make the prescribed sacrifices of fat and oil as needed and will hope to be found worthy to climb his mountain. I plan to suffer a lot along the way. I think Pamola likes when you suffer.
I’m Joe “EarthTone” Harold and I’m a hiker. Next April, my wife (LoGear) and I, will head down to Georgia and take on this Quest of Pomala. Our goal, like the thousands that stand on Springer Mountain, will be to walk to Katahdin. Having an adventure along the way. Living a life less cluttered. Slowing to a pace of around 2.5 miles per hour or so.
As a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, I had a vague knowledge of that long trail that ran all the way from Georgia to Maine running through my state to the east. Most of my hiking and backpacking took place in the western part of the state and I didn’t step foot onto the trail until I was in my late 30’s. I really didn’t know a lot about what a Thru-Hiker was until then.
At 20, I joined the Coast Guard, which at first was going to be nothing more than a four year stint, where I learned a trade and maybe saved some money. It ended up being a 30 year career that I don’t regret for a second. In fact, I’m grateful for the pension I now collect. It will be providing an income which will sustain us on this upcoming hike.
My interest in the trail was initiated as I was driving along Rt 70 in Maryland. Being stationed in Baltimore and Washington, DC, we would travel to Pittsburgh for holidays and vacations. We could cross under that screened in foot bridge with the brown sign announcing it was the famous Appalachian Trail. From time to time, I would see a hiker or two crossing the bridge and I would always give them a little toot of the horn to encourage them. Each time I crossed under that bridge, I would wonder what it would be like to be the one walking across it and having the rushing traffic below toot at me.
Eventually, an opportunity arose where I could take a quick hike along the trail for a couple of miles. I was a runner back then, so I made it a nice easy trail run. I ran out to Black Rocks and took in the view before heading back down to my truck and continuing on my errand. That planted the seed for me.
In 2011 I completed my first section hike of about 100 miles. Hiking from Harpers Ferry into Pennsylvania, crossing that bridge along the way and having a truck blow his air horn at me. I was hooked. Over the next several years, I would hike the trail. Some of it new miles and sometimes just a part of the trail that I liked and wanted to repeat. I loved the peace and freedom I felt when I was out there, hiking my hike and having a great time.
In 2013, I retired from the Coast Guard. By now, Lisa, my wife, aka LoGear, was coming along from time to time and we planned a nice hike down south from Amicalola Falls to Fontana. Well, a twisted ankle changed that plan and we ended up doing a few shorter hikes in GA, VA and PA. Visiting the recently opened A.T. Museum in Gardners as we hiked through that area. I had (half) jokingly told my co-workers that I would find my next job on the A.T. Little did I realize how true that would be.
After our hike, I was reading through a hiking club’s newsletter and I saw they were looking for a new manager at the A.T. Museum. I brought up my resume, wrote a quick cover letter and sent it to the indicated email address. A few hours later, I was talking to Larry Luxenberg, the creator and president of the Museum. We got along great and I was pretty much offered the job, if I wanted it.
After volunteering at the Museum during the summer, I knew it would be a great job for me and in November of 2013, my (half) jokingly vow came true. I spent the next three years, having the best job I have every worked. I immersed myself in the Hiking Culture that we all know and love. The one thing I noticed was that when I met and talked to the hikers who stopped by the Museum, with that smell of adventure wafting off their clothes and bodies, my wanderlust would grow. At the beginning of this year, I saw a window opening up where LoGear and I could quit our current jobs, use our Capitol One miles to fly down to GA and start our own adventure. I informed the board of my decision to move on (surprising no one) and started my planning and gear updating.
Like everyone who hikes, I am asked repeatedly why I’m hiking. (After getting the question about ‘will I carry a gun’ out of the way), I have many reasons. Some of them can’t even be articulated in voice or type. This is how I am currently answering the question:
I want to be an Outsider. To watch the dawn break in the forest. To feel the mid-day sun on my neck as I move north. To experience a sunset each day. To walk amongst the falling rain and feel a stiff breeze chill me. To be with the beasts of the forest and talk with the people who walk with me. To live live to its fullest each day I hike.
So, that is where we are. I plan on writing about our adventures along the way. I have followed a lot of hikers on their journeys and hope you will follow us on ours.
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