YORK, Maine — “He is the most majestic cat I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed a student in York Middle School teacher Tony Beaumier’s sixth-grade English Language Arts class last Wednesday.
Rico, a 1-year-old Siamese cat, spent a few hours last week exploring Beaumier’s classroom, interacting with his students and napping in Beaumier’s desk chair. Although an exciting escapade to the classroom for Rico and the students, this is not the biggest adventure Rico has had in his year of life.
Rico was with Michael Beaumier, son of Tony, and a recent champion of the Appalachian Trail. The 2,158-mile Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to northern Maine. Michael Beaumier, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on the trail, had finished his “through-hike” of the Appalachian Trail just four days before his and Rico’s visit to the classroom. Although Beaumier completed the last half of the trail alone, the first 1,000 miles he was accompanied by Rico.
Beaumier explained to his father’s students, through a photo slideshow and anecdotes, how he was able to accomplish this feat, and how Rico made it as far as he did by his owner’s side.
“If you get them out there early enough in their lives, they get used to it,” he said about cats, an uncommon species of hiking companion.
A “trail name” is something every through-hiker is given by other hikers on the trail, usually based on quirks or characteristics of the hiker. Beaumier was bestowed with the name “Pocket,” as he would carry Rico in a kind of “pocket pouch” when the cat was tired. Beaumier joked as he showed the students a picture of himself with Rico in his pouch on the trail that it made him look a bit like a pregnant woman.
Despite Rico’s love of the trail and Beaumier’s fondness of his companion, Beaumier was faced with the truth about 1,000 miles into the trail in Pennsylvania that he was not hiking fast enough. Due to Rico’s hiking limitations, the pair were not scheduled to finish the trail by mid-October. This would mean Beaumier might not be able to reach the ending point of the trail at Katahdin, a section of the Appalachian Trail that often closes due to weather in the latter half of October.
After Rico was sent home, Beaumier was able to hike more quickly. His father met him in the Berkshire region in Massachusetts and the two hiked together for a couple of weeks, giving Beaumier a hiking partner once again.