A 2013 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Success Story: Rainbow Braid
In case you haven’t noticed of late, I like sharing fan e-mails. Many are far too good to keep buried in the depths of my inbox.
The purpose of sharing the following message is two-fold:
- To share a real-life example of how Appalachian Trials helped one thru-hiker to not throw in the towel on a day where many others easily could have and,
- Showcase a great writer – and fellow backpacking blogger.
Read her note. We’ll meet below. (Bolding is my own)
My name is Carlie Gentry and I am from the Atlanta area. I set out on March 3rd to thru hike the AT and reached Katahdin on August 22, 2013. It’s almost harder to believe it now than before I started, but after about 5 million steps and approximately the same mount of tears, laughing fits, angry yells and psyched whoops, I made it! I think one of the more worth while ways in which I prepared myself was definitely your book. It only took three days until I realized the priceless value of the information I had gathered from reading it.
The day I scrambled down into Neels Gap and saw the stone building of Mountain Crossings was ‘psyched whoop #1’ of many more to come. I had woken up in the Lance Creek campsite to an ice and snow covered tent after the thunderstorm from the night before took a chilly turn. My water was frozen and my stove wouldn’t light but that was okay because even by day three I was done with instant oatmeal. I ripped down camp and set out to hike the 8 or 9 miles up and over Blood Mountain with half a Clif Bar in my stomach and the other half in my hand. The wind was vicious and the snow and sleet stung my face. I had hiked in rain plenty before in my lifetime but this SUCKED! Somewhere just before the base of Blood Mountain I ran into another hiker who I had met several times before and we affirmed one others beliefs that this was indeed wretched. Then we continued on hiking with the unspoken agreement that we weren’t going to leave each other out there to freeze to death. We navigated the steep, snow covered rock face of the northern side of the mountain as best we could and put the Jamaican bob sled team to shame skidding down on our packs when feet weren’t an option. But at long last, Walasi-Yi appeared! The storm had brought down trees and power lines throughout the area and the hostel was shut down until the power was up and running. Nonetheless, we were elated to be under a roof sitting over four solid walls. We ate lunch as we thawed out in the outfitter and I pulled out my journal to look at the tiny printed lists taped in the covers. Another hiker walked by and gazed down at me. “Lookin’ at the lists, huh? Yeah, I had to read over mine after today as well.” And he pulled a few tightly folded sheets of paper from the pocket of his down jacket.
I looked over my list for why I was hiking the AT many times until eventually it began to fail me. I had satisfied all the things on the list. I had bad ass stories! I had met absolutely amazing people! I was traveling in a very unique way and really seeing the heart of America in the places I went. Thank God you told me to make other lists!! After a while I needed to be reminded less of why I was doing this and more of why I didn’t want to go back home before I finished it. Folkin’ Brillyent! As they say in Ireland.
Anyways, Zach, I am glad you some how birthed that book out of your brain in what seems to be about five months time according to the timeline on your website. How in the hell?! What did you do, come home and sit in your room on your computer banging out pages of material in between applying for jobs you weren’t getting because the job market is so bad that you just kept writing to keep you’re mind off of your waning bank account?! Yeah, me too.
Okay, this time I’ll ask seriously. I have always enjoyed writing and people tell me I am good at it. I kept a blog while I hiked and I can’t even remember how many times I’ve sheepishly blown off comments telling me to write a book. Sure, I’d love to, but let’s be real. That’s damn near impossible. It’s like walking 2,189.5 miles in six months with everything you own on your back kind of impossible… oh, wait. So, do you have any comments or suggestions as to how you got this idea in your head turned into a book in your hands (I trust your ability to properly guide absolute strangers now).
Thank you for having read this wildly large document disguised as an email. And on the off chance you are now well enough off to have a personal assistance who can summarize it for you, may God bless their now weary soul.
— Carlie Gentry (formerly, or maybe forever, Rainbow Braid)
The blog if you’re interested:
PS: The uneaten half of the Clif Bar made it up and over the mountain and into the trash can at Neels Gap. Also, the other hiker I mention became my partner for the entirety of the trail because of this incident.
First and foremost, I love these emails. Hearing your success stories has been by far and away the most rewarding part of writing this book. Future (and former) thru-hikers: let this be a formal declaration – please do share yours with me ([email protected]).
Carlie, to answer your book-writing question, follow these steps and you’ll be golden:
- Have a subject/topic you are insanely passionate about.
- Share your thoughts on said subject with as many people as possible.
- If people respond with enthusiasm, you have something.
- Spend 1,000% more time than seems necessary constructing an outline.
- Punch a wall.
- Contemplate scrapping the whole project and lash out at anyone that gets within a 1,000 ft. radius of you.
- Find great editor(s). (I had two, my mom and Binaca Hanson-Macdonald)
- (Optional) Make the cover of your book as offensively colored as possible.
Follow those 18 easy steps and you’ll have a book before you know it. Seeing as you already have a great website which many fans really enjoy, skip to step #4.
Oh, and to the rest of you, I almost forgot to share my favorite part of the message. See below 🙂
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