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Posts from the ‘Appalachian Trail’ Category

What a Month: From the Appalachian Trail to the Joshua Tree Desert

Instead of being fully present on the trail, in the total immersion in nature that I had enjoyed so far, I found my thoughts drifting ahead and growing chaotic. My busy brain abandoned the beautiful simplicity of trail life before my body did.

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Off the Trail, on to the Next Stage of My Life

It's strange, watching the landscape roll by without having to work for it.

I write this from a bus, hurtling down a highway from Blacksburg to Roanoke, VA. I am borne passively along in a cushioned seat, my pack--constant companion of these last two months--occupying the spot next to me. I'm not using my muscles, and the views are spooling past much too fast.

I have left the Appalachian Trail after 660 miles of foot travel. I have received the job offer I've been working towards for the last right years: a permanent position at Joshua Tree National Park with more responsibility and more room for creativity than I've had before. It's a phenomenal opportunity, an offer I couldn't refuse.

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Ask a Thruhiker: Your Questions Answered

In which I answer your questions about life on the Appalachian Trail! Ever wondered how many women are on the trail? Or if there are any things duct tape cannot be used for? Read on.

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Curious About Thruhiker Life?

I’ve been on the Appalachian Trail for six weeks, and have passed the 500-mile mark. Are you curious about what life is like for me and the other thruhikers out here? I will write a blog post answering your questions.

Ask anything you like in the comments below or by tweeting @RangerCathy, #AskAThruhiker. Be prepared to wait a week or two for my response – I don’t have many good opportunities to write while I’m on the trail!

Right before starting my hike, I posted a thruhike FAQ here. If you know you have something you want to ask but aren’t sure what it is, that might spark some ideas.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Coming Soon to a Forest Floor Near You

By the end of April, I’ll have hiked the first 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It has been a delight to watch spring begin to unfold on the landscape. Hiking up and down and up again, I’ve had the chance to see all shades of the season, from leafy green valleys to still-wintry 6,000 ft. summits.

If you live farther north or at higher elevation, here’s a preview of some of the beautiful spring ephemerals – those all-too-fleeting wildflowers that bloom before the trees leaf out – I’ve been seeing over the past few weeks.

One of the very first flowers to appear is bloodroot: 20140428-213713.jpg

Bluets are another very early bloomer. I was seeing these tiny little flowers even in very early April in the Georgia mountains:
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There are several different species of violets in shades of yellow and purple:

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But it is spring beauty, this lovely little white flower (often with pink rays on the petals), that really signals to me that spring has come:
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Not long after the spring beauty, and often intermingled with it, the cheery yellow blooms of trout lily will begin to appear:
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Subtly tucked in amongst the showy flowers are the more discreet green blossoms of jack-in-the-pulpit:

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Several species of trillium, like the toadshade featured at top or the painted trillium here, also make an appearance:
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So if you’ve been hankering for spring, never fear, the ephemerals are here!

At Last! A Trail Name!

The past few days have brought some significant milestones in these early days of my AT thruhike. I’ve crossed my first state line; taken in expansive views from high points like Blood Mountain, Standing Indian Mountain, and Mt. Albert; and passed the 100 mile point from the trail terminus at Springer Mountain. I’ve hiked on beautiful spring days and hunkered down in a trailside shelter to avoid a major rainstorm.

Now that we’ve been on the trail for over a week, my fellow thruhikers are starting to feel comfortable introducing themselves by their trail names in place of their real-world monikers. I’ve chatted in recent days with Zen, Down Dog, Mama Bear, Cornflake, Osprey, Yellow Beard, and Viva. Read more

Almost Time

All planning complete,
all logistics done, I am
now growing nervous.

I benefit from
abundant experience
of backcountry trips,

But I am also
acutely aware that
this is different.

I cast myself on
the waters of the world, and
Hope they bear me up.

My Appalachian Trail adventure begins this week at Springer Mountain, Georgia.  It will end when it ends.  I don’t know when that will be, but I hope I know where it will be: Mount Katahdin, Maine.

Thoughts on Depression and Time Spent Outdoors

Three days ago, on March 26, I announced that I would dedicate my 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hike to HIKE for Mental Health, a nonprofit that directs donations to mental health research and preservation of wilderness trails. While building my fundraising page, I hesitated over what dollar amount to set as a goal. I settled on $500, which seemed a modest but attainable figure.

I vastly underestimated the generosity and caring of my friends, family, and readers. Together, we surpassed that $500 goal in just two days. I decided to step it up and go for a new reach goal of $2,185, or one dollar for each mile of the AT.
That new goal seems unattainable to me, but perhaps that is fitting: for many people, the very notion of walking all the way from Georgia to Maine must seem like an unrealistic fantasy. Lots of things are like that, though, unimaginable right up until you try.

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Frequently Asked Questions About My Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Why am I taking time off work to go for a months-long walk in the woods? To address that question, and others that I'm hearing a lot, I present this FAQ regarding my 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

"Thru-hiking the AT"? What does that mean?

"The AT" is hiker shorthand for the Appalachian Trail, a long-distance footpath stretching through fourteen states along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park. "Thru-hiking" refers to hiking the full length of the trail in a single, continuous journey.

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