As Dianne McCormick climbed to the summit of Mount Katahdin, she wasn't thinking about overdue library books or the upcoming school year. She was only thinking that, after nine years, her journey finally was coming to an end.
McCormick, the Montgomery Area School District librarian, stood at the top of the mountain around 1 p.m., when a member of the large crowd wondered out loud if she had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.
McCormick said, "Yeah, she did the whole thing," as she let out a yell of victory.
Above, Tracy “Hope-to” Carney, Dianne “Trip” McCormick and Dianne’s son, Troy McCormick are shown on top of Mount Katahdin on July 25 in Baxter State Park, Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Bottom left, Dianne McCormick is shown with Reilly, her hiking golden retriever on Roan Mountain, Tenn.
At bottom right, Tracy Carney and Dianne McCormick pose in Great Gulf Wilderness Park, N.H., off Mount Washington.
"I didn't plan on doing the whole thing," McCormick admits.
She explained that after five years of working toward her master's degree in 2004, her husband surprised her by taking her backpacking along a section of the trail.
McCormick was hooked.
"It was just so beautiful," she said. "By the end of the year, I had almost all of Pennsylvania done."
That was the time that she decided she would do the entire trail. She would take her husband, dog, sons and friends along as she planned multiple-day trips to complete different sections.
"A lot of people can't do it with me," she said. "They want to do it but they can't. They don't know there's a difference between walking on the street and walking in the woods."
Life on trail was tough, McCormick said. Everything she needed on the trail was carried on her back, she either slept in a shelter or a tent, and sometimes she needed to cross water.
But there also were things that McCormick loved.
"Every single day on the trail you would hear a song from a bird every morning," she remembered. "It's an amazing place."
She also said the people she would meet were always friendly and helpful.
She explained that no one went by their real names along the trail, but "trail names."
McCormick's name was "Maggie and Company," after her dog, but after Maggie's death, she changed it to "Trip."
When meeting people on the trail, McCormick said there's an instant bond as they share stories about their travels.
"Because you're sharing that trail - whether it's for a day or six months - you're instantly bonded," she said. "You're sweating and stinking just like they are."
The time and memories she's had on the trail saw a very emotional ending.
"My last full day on the trail I walked a lot by myself and just reflected," she said.
She said the emotions haven't stopped since.
"I've been crying for about a year thinking about (the end of the trail). Nine years is a long time," McCormick said.
Now that she's finished the trail, she wants to continue hiking state trails and go along as her friends try and do the entire trail.
"I'd like to keep hiking and get involved with our state in some trail maintenance," she said.
And of all the things she will miss, she said "just being in nature," is the biggest.
"I just love the peacefulness of it," McCormick said.