Get Outside RVA: A man and a dog’s journey along the Appalachian Trail

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WRIC) — Joel Carpenter first met Sadie at an animal shelter in Minnesota.

He traveled 1,500 miles from his home in Portland, Maine to get there, and in doing so, spent all but the last of his money, which he then spent on adoption fees. All for a dog he had never even met in person and who was set to be euthanized due to overcrowding in the shelter where she lived.

“My first impression of her … was like, what am I getting myself into?” Joel explained while sitting in a Starbucks in Waynesboro, Virginia, just a few minutes drive from the Appalachian Trail. “But I kind of talked myself back into it … I figured if I just work with her she’ll be fine, and I was right because she’s the best dog.”


From there, Joel and Sadie had to find a way back to Maine. It turned into a big, cross country adventure which introduced the duo to new friends and forced them to rely on the kindness of others.

“I had the best experience of my life,” Joel said. “I realized the world’s not as scary as people want to think it is, and there’s a lot of people who will reach out and try to help you.”

Through ride-shares that Joel found on, the two were able to make their way to Grand Rapids, Michigan where the duo got stuck for a brief time. Joel reached out to local media and shortly thereafter, he was interviewed for the show “Inside Edition” who then paid for him to get the rest of the way home.

Joel and Sadie are hiking the Appalachian Trail and documenting their journey in a documentary film. In doing so, they hope to bring more awareness to issues relating to animal overpopulation.

Fast forward to today, a year and nine months later, Joel and Sadie are attempting a new adventure.

They’re attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, and while doing so, they’re also documenting their journey in a movie that’s going to be called “Together We Walk.”

As part of the movie, the duo is stopping at animal shelters along the way in an effort to raise awareness of animal overpopulation and the problems that led to Joel crossing the country to rescue Sadie in the first place.

“Roughly 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year,” Joel said, explaining the project. “I want to know why does this happen.”

As a result, Joel is doing things a bit differently from the average AT thru-hiker, traveling with a car, and at times, a film crew.

“The idea is we veer off into the towns along the way and we want to do as many interviews with shelters to advocate for their needs, what are they going through, what challenges are they facing?” Joel said.

Joel and Sadie are hiking the Appalachian Trail and documenting their journey in a documentary film. In doing so, they hope to bring more awareness to issues relating to animal overpopulation.

While Joel and Sadie are working hard on the project, they’re also grateful for the chance to spend time with one another, while making new friends.

“She’s having a blast, she gets to be with me 24/7 and be outside,” Joel said. “From my perspective, we’re doing something we haven’t done before, doing it together, having an adventure, and meeting new people along the way.”

Overall, Joel said that he wants the project to inspire others, not just to get outside and go on adventures themselves, but also to turn those experiences into something bigger and more meaningful.

“I would like for people to be inspired to get involved in animal rights. We have a lot of dog lovers, but not enough animal activists,” Joel said. “I just want to encourage people to get involved by doing things like volunteering at your local shelter, donating food to the shelter, donating money. I want to just show people how they can help, and I’d like to inspire them to get involved.”

If you would like to get involved in helping Joel complete his project and help raise awareness of these issues, you can do so here.

Joel and Sadie will also be making an appearance on Good Morning Richmond June 19 at 9 a.m. Be sure to watch to learn more about their story.

Also, check here for more information about animal shelters and animal advocates here in Richmond:

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Got an idea for an outdoor adventure story, profile or event? Email with your pitch.

Looking for more local outdoor stories? Check here for more from Get Outside RVA.

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