It seems like Facebook is responsible for all kinds of interesting stories these days. Among other things, it’s proved to be the 21st century go-to place for reunions. So when a Gorham woman sought a partner for an Appalachian Trail hike, she got an enthusiastic reply from a friend she hasn’t seen in decades.

“When I initially announced to my family that I wanted to do the hike, they didn’t want me to do it alone,” said Sue Twombley, 49, of Gorham. “They wanted me to find a partner. After thinking and asking around for a couple of weeks, out of the blue I just thought of Denise and sent a message through Facebook.”

Twombley said Denise Scales of Scarborough, a long-lost middle school classmate, didn’t hesitate.

“It’s been 35 years,” Twombley said. “She moved away; we never hooked back up until 2011. It’s amazing how Facebook brings friends together again.”

They now both have grandchildren and are thinking about life goals they want to accomplish. At the end of next month, they’ll be boarding a plane for Georgia where they’ll start the Appalachian Trail, following spring northward toward the trail’s terminus at the mile-high Mount Katahdin.

At roughly 2,180 miles, the “A.T.” is the longest continuously marked footpath in the world. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, the trail meanders through 14 states. The easiest hiking can be found in Maryland and West Virginia. The toughest is in New Hampshire and Maine.

The idea began after Twombley hiked Mount Washington last year and met many A.T. “thru-hikers.” She liked the experience so much she hiked the mountain three more times that year.

Scales said she did a lot of hiking and camping as a kid, but those pursuits came to a halt when she started a family. Since her father passed in 2008, she has a lot of motivation to undertake a personal quest.

“I really want to do something profound — spiritually and socially,” Scales, 48, said. “As I was thinking about what to do, I got the message from Sue on Facebook.”

Scales said it was a perfect synchronicity.

The friends now get together twice a week and train with the proprietor of Obie’s Fitness Center in Westbrook. They’ve got six months of training under their belts, with another six weeks before they board the plane for Georgia.

A hike of this magnitude takes planning. Twombley said they’ll be on the trail for six months and will need roughly 25 supply packs dropped along the way. Every seven to 10 days, they plan on taking a break from the trail and stop over in a motel for a shower and a good night’s sleep. In July, Twombley’s son might join them for part of the route, she said.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of it all,” Twombly said. “To be able to climb to the top of those mountains and say, ‘Wow, I did it.”‘

“I’m excited to meet other hikers and what I’m going to learn about myself.” Scales said. “Just having that experience for the rest of my life — being able to share that story with my grandkids — that accomplishment will be rewarding.”

A sendoff party at Stockhouse Restaurant in Westbrook is planned on Feb. 4.

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:
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