Decatur teacher to hike Appalachian Trail

Posted by Dena Mellick June 3, 2015
Natalie and Keith Brett at Sugar Mountain, NC. The couple plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Keith Brett.

Natalie and Keith Brett at Sugar Mountain, NC. The couple plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Keith Brett.

By Dena Mellick, Associate editor

A Decatur teacher is setting out on an epic adventure – to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail with her husband and her dog.

Natalie Brett, 29, taught science to middle schoolers at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Decatur until last week. She had taught there for the past five years, but quit in order to fulfill a dream.

“We decided that we were blessed enough to have this really unique opportunity to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s been on our bucket list,” Brett said. “We don’t have children yet. We wanted to do this before we started a family. … It just seemed like the best time of our lives to complete this epic adventure that we’ve been wanting to do.”

Her husband, Keith, 39, also quit his job. The two of them, along with their hound mix, Corinne, will hike from Maine, through 14 states, back home to Georgia.

They’re driving up to Maine this week, and will start the hike next week. They’ve rented out their home and plan to be on the trail for six months.

appalachian trail

(Left to right) Natalie’s brother and sister-in-law Senn and Camille Catchings, Keith and Natalie Brett, and Corinne, the hiking dog. Photo by Senn Catchings.

The couple has been training for a year, hiking with packs up and down Kennesaw Mountain and Little Kennesaw Mountain.

So what do Brett’s friends, family, and students think about the epic adventure?

“I’ve had mixed reactions. Most people just think we’re crazy. But we are crazy. I teach middle school for crying out loud! That’s crazy,” Brett said. “But most people are very inspired. That would be the majority of the reactions we get.”

Brett said her students think “it’s super cool,” and she’s excited to keep them updated on the science aspect of the hike through her blog, which she’ll be updating along the way.

St. Thomas More wished her well on its Facebook page on May 27, saying they were sad to see Mrs. Brett go, but excited for her.

Packing is no joke when you’re going on a six-month hike. Brett said they’ve been mailing supplies that they can pick up along the way, and doing things like dehydrating toothpaste into little drops, so they won’t have to carry a full tube. Even Corinne, the dog, has a pack and will carry some of her own supplies.

So what’s the strangest thing Brett is bringing?

“Probably my bear mace. That makes me nervous just saying it aloud. … I don’t want to use it!”

As for their favorite items?

Brett says her husband Keith is bringing along a pocket Bible.

“My favorite would probably be the GoPro. I would definitely say my video camera,” Brett said. She’ll be sharing the video and pictures on her blog.

Brett said she and her husband aren’t sure what the next chapter of their life will be when they return from their adventure.

“People keep asking what are our plans when we get back, and we just don’t have an answer for them. We keep saying well, we’ll have six months to talk about.”

Appalachian Trail hikers usually adopt trail names. Brett said “The Lion King” was the inspiration for their trail names: Hakuna, Matata, and Nala (Corinne).

“It will just be helpful to remember we don’t have any worries. No worries is our motto,” Brett said.

About Dena Mellick

Dena Mellick is the Associate Editor of

View all posts by Dena Mellick

  • tracie sanchez

    if you haven’t driven north yet you should pop into the second annual Georgia trail summit, starting tomorrow in Athens for 3 days. You’ll meet a 175 other trail hounds to cheer you on. Best of luck and happy trails.

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