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76-year-old Pinellas County woman determined to finish Appalachian Trail

Pamela Clark started the hike on her birthday in March and needs to finish within a year to set the record.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County woman Pamela Clark, known as "Birthday Girl" to her fellow hikers, is on her way to completing the Appalachian Trail — and she may just set a record while doing it.

"I've done 1,300 miles on the Appalachian Trail, and I hope to finish the 800 in January, Februrary and March," she said.

And if she does that, the 76-year-old will be the oldest female to hike the nearly 2,200-mile journey within a year.  

"If there's one thing I know about Pam, this lady has it in her to make it because she has no fear... none," hiking instructor Kathy Porupski said.

Porupski works with Suncoast Outdoors and helped get Pam ready for the hike. She and Brant Bowers were both working at Bill Jackson's outdoor sporting goods store the day after Thanksgiving in 2021 when Pam walked in to get geared up. 

"It is big. It's an epic journey to go all 2000 plus miles on that," Bowers said.

"They told me everything I needed to get, how to do it and got me involved in a hiking group so that I could practice on the equipment that I got because I had never backpacked or overnighted," Pam, a retired Pinellas County teacher, explained. 

Pam started the hike on March 30, 2022, her birthday. That led to her obvious trail name, "Birthday Girl." And if you were expecting Pam to describe how magical the trail is, well think again. 

"The trail is sort of like a marriage. You get into it, you think it's the fairy tale and all of it is not the fairy tail, and then you just go ahead and do it," she said.

But after hiking 1,300 miles over 6 months, an injury brought her home. 

"Once I start something I want to finish it. It was really hard to get off the trail with my arm, because I didn't want to stop," Pam said.

So now that she's healed up, she's going back.

I asked Pam if she's afraid she won't finish. 

"No, it's gonna get done," she said confidently.

You can follow Pam's journey on her Facebook page.

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