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Hiker stranded in Damascus after someone steals gear on Appalachian Trail

Kaitlin Gardino with her husky, Jango, on the Appalachian Trail

A college student nearly had to call it quits 400 miles into her journey on the Appalachian Trail, after all her gear was stolen.

That was until our community stepped in to help.

Beginning in Georgia, 23-year-old Kaitlin Gardino, who goes by the trail name Nova, set out last month for a journey of more than 2,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail with her husky, Jango.

But 400 miles in, around Roan Mountain, Jango started to limp and needed to make it 9 miles to town to rest.

After resting for the night at a hiker's shelter, Gardino called a shuttle to pick her and Jango up at the end of a mountain road, roughly a mile away.

"I ran all of our stuff down there, like his pack, my pack, my trekking polls, because I figured I was going to have to carry him," Gardino told WCYB. "I went back to the barn to get Jango, and once I came back with him, everything was gone."

Gardino made it to Damascus with nothing but the clothes on her back, and a hiking companion with a hurt ankle.

With 1,800 more miles to go, the prospect of miking it to the finish line in Maine seemed unlikely.

"I was not ready to end my trip. I just wasn't. That was like the last thing I wanted to do," Gardino said.


But as it turns out, this isn't a sad story after all.

Fellow hikers from the trail, and locals in Damascus, started pitching in. A store owner sold a backpack to Gardino at an exceptionally discounted rate, while others gave her a sleeping bag, head lamp and tent. One man even gave Gardino $120 to ensure she had a safe place to stay.

"It's just crazy something that would make you lose your faith in humanity, could totally flip flop and be almost double the positive energy from the other side and it's brought me to tears. I still can't believe it," Gardino said.

Gardino will stay in Damascus for the time being, while Jango rests his ankle. But she's energized, and equipped, to head back to the trail soon thanks to a generous community.

If you have any information about the stolen items, contact a park ranger or the Avery County (North Carolina) Sheriff's Office.

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