Patricia Lowe: Worldwide Adventuring, One Step at a Time
By Janice Eaton, Development Director
Members make critical contributions to Georgia ForestWatch and those contributions are as varied as the members themselves. Georgia ForestWatch is pleased to feature our Donor Spotlight as our way of saying, “Thanks” to our supporters and to share their special stories with you.
Whether it’s been step by step toting a backpack up the Appalachian Trail, flying out West every year in a private plane with husband Roy at the controls, or globetrotting with friends, Patricia Lowe has had adventures in more places than many of us can dream of. After getting her B.S. in Nursing at the University of Florida and Masters in Public Health at the School of Public Health, UNC-Chapel Hill, Patty served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and surveyed hospitals and nursing homes for Medicare/Medicaid compliance. For the final 26 years of her work career, Patty was Director of Public Health Nursing for three Metro Atlanta counties. Living in Sautee-Nacoochee with her cairn terrier Dolly in a cabin built of yellow pine from trees felled in a storm, a cabin that she also shared with her late husband of 43 years, Patty has memories that are still vivid.
Solo or with friends, Patty has backpacked the Appalachian Trail from its southern terminus to Rhode Island in sections, and she’s hiked, backpacked, boated, and/or canoed in Siberia, Iceland, and Portugal; the Italian, German, and Swiss Alps; on the Camino del Santiago in Spain; 100 miles along Scotland’s West Highland Way; the Brooke Range of Alaska; and the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and Glacier National Parks, Nowie Range in Idaho, and Olympic National Park in Washington. In addition to all those adventures, her non-hiking travels have taken Patty to the Everglades, San Juan Islands in Washington state, Africa, Cuba, Costa Rica, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, the Adriatic, Alaska three times, and Canada three times including Nunavut, Canada’s newest self-governing province and seat of the Inuits. She has also followed the path of famed British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in Antarctica.
Patty laughs at some of her earlier, bolder adventures. Having grown up in St. Petersburg, Florida where hiking was not part of her growing up, Patty says her fearlessness was largely due to inexperience. In Maui, a place that gets the most rainfall in the world, she and a group decided to follow an ancient trail that showed evidence of big washouts. It started to rain, and the inevitable occurred. The washouts became impassable roaring currents, and the backpackers had to make their way down to the volcanic rock shoreline and cross through surf to get to their exit point. On another adventure in Molokai, despite locals’ amusement, her group persisted in following a trail—which turned out to be a feral hog run. Fortunately, Patty didn’t encounter any tusks that day.
“As I got smarter, I got more leery,” she now says. But one adventure that could have had a very bad ending still sticks with her, and it’s a caution for all hikers. Back in the States, Patty and her late husband Roy flew out West for two weeks every year, car-camping in all the Western states. Because Roy was a confirmed fly fisherman and Patty the avid hiker of the two, he would frequently drop her off at trailheads and she would take off for a day of solo exploring while he fished to his heart’s content. In the Medicine Bow wilderness of Wyoming, after camping overnight and a visit to the local Forest Ranger office to confirm she could follow a trail on an old map, Patty waved goodbye to Roy and took off on her day hike, while he departed for a lake. The trail had not been maintained, was very faint, and ultimately disappeared. Patty kept going, using her compass towards her destination of the lake where Roy was fishing.
“There were no cellphones in those days,” she said. “I should have turned around but kept going.” After circling, finding nothing, she encountered two hunters who were more upset that she was disturbing the wildlife than concerned for her predicament. They did direct her up to cairns on the Continental Divide, saying she could possibly then spot the lake and bushwack her way to it. The day was getting on, dank and cold, and Patty contemplated sheltering under leaf litter for the night. Then in the distance, she spotted two men in green uniforms: Forest Service! It took some talking, but Patty persuaded the two technicians to give her a ride in their truck all the way to the lake—where a frantic Roy and search party were gathered, getting ready to go to look for her the next morning.
Interest in environmental causes ran high in the Lowe household. Fly fisherman Roy Lowe was active in Trout Unlimited, concerned about clean water and stream restoration issues, and served on the Board of Directors of Soque Watershed Association. Since the 1980s, Patty has been a member of Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, Georgia Botanical Society, The Nature Conservancy, Wilderness Society, and Wild Edibles, the forest foraging group founded by famed late naturalist Marie Mellinger. Somehow Patty also found time to volunteer for Meals on Wheels (17 years) and for Sautee-Nacoochee Community Association as a front desk receptionist (14 years).
And how did Patty get involved with Georgia ForestWatch? She was friends with some of the folks who started Friends of the Mountains, a group that helped found ForestWatch. Elmer Butler and Marie Mellinger were especially influential in sparking Patty’s interest in environmental causes, and she loved visiting gardens with her late friend and GFW supporter Maureen Donohue, a past president of Georgia Botanical Society. Patty continues to hike with Georgia ForestWatch, mindful of the limits of her stamina as her eighth decade approaches. But getting outdoors and regular yoga are part of what keeps her fit. As for gardening, she has some pollinator and native plant beds but largely lets nature take care of it. She hasn’t even bothered to fix her broken lawn mower!
Over the years, Patty has directed the bulk of her giving to Georgia ForestWatch via very generous responses to ForestWatch Appeals and sponsorships of special events like the Wild & Wooly Fall Festival. Why does Patty continue to give?
“Pressures are growing on our national forests. I support Georgia ForestWatch’s mission to preserve, protect, and restore the CONF and I like the leadership position that ForestWatch is taking to protect our mountain treasures,” said Patty. “I also appreciate the thoughtfulness and expertise of Georgia ForestWatch leaders, and how they network with other organizations.”
Georgia ForestWatch is grateful for Patty’s support. If you’d like to know options available through ForestWatch’s Legacy Giving Program, contact GFW at (706) 867-0051, or email Development Director Janice Eaton at email@example.com.