Dandelion Blooming: Hiker Spotlight Interview with Trek Blogger Trishadee Newlin
Hi y’all, Oats here! I’m the Social Media Wiz for The Trek back on IG Live with another interview from the Appalachian Trail. The interview I have for you today hits close to home because Trishadee is a Trek Blogger who has been providing phenomenal updates from her journey since before she took her first steps.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The full recorded interview can be found here @appalachian.trail on Instagram. All photos courtesy of Trishadee Newlin.
In your Blogger Bio on The Trek, you mention that you ran a mile for the first time in your life at 30 years old and that you’ve been moving the goalposts back ever since. How would you say you got to the point of the goalposts eventually stretching from Georgia to Maine?
I actually injured myself training for my last half-marathon. I think I tore something in my hip flexor about a month before the race and still ran anyway (because sometimes we don’t make good decisions), and that kind of put an end to my running career. Then I found myself asking, “Well, what’s next?”
I was living in Albania at the time and walked everywhere because traffic was crazy, and my grandfather grew up deep in the Appalachian Mountains, even more so than I am right now on trail. So, with all my walking recently and growing up around the mountains, I did a 450-mile LASH back in 2019 and knew that wasn’t enough. That meant it was time to move the goalposts further back and I decided to go for all 2,200 miles this year.
I understand your trail name is Dandelion – can you tell us the story behind it?
Dandelion was given to me on my LASH in 2019. Obviously, I have a ton of hair – it goes all the way down to my waist. I have a tiny little brush I carry with me on trail, I can’t keep my hair in braids like some girls do. So, I was brushing my hair out at camp one night and a girl noticed I was making little “dandelion puffs” out of what was coming out of my brush. I think it fits, I have quite a lion’s mane! I’m actually here at Angel’s Rest and the shuttle driver who picked me up said, “Oh you’re Dandelion!” That happened in 2019 too, my reputation precedes me, and I sure hope it’s a good one!
What life experiences would you say have helped you in adjusting to life on trail?
The biggest adjustment, and something I’ve had to learn in the last 10 years of my husband’s career, is independence. We did a couple of embassy assignments where we were in a much smaller community. The trail community is small, too, in comparison to the rest of the world. We were diplomats meeting people from all backgrounds, cultures, ages, and much more.
I really developed that skill of meeting people different from me and navigating a smaller community and it’s turned out to be a huge benefit for me out here – I’m comfortable around pretty much anybody and you’re not going to get any version of me other than the one standing right in front of you. I know who I am and what I can bring to the table. Having that experience outside of my own culture really helped me develop.
I am somebody who travels at a speed that it seems not a lot of people travel at on trail, (read Trishadee’s latest post on her pacing as she makes her way down the trail) so I’ve been spending a lot of time alone which is very foreign for me. I think a lot of my life experiences have strengthened me to manage that time alone though. I’ll sometimes go days on end without talking to people (which is something I doubt my family would believe), as I always say I’m genetically predisposed to talk to a rock if necessary.
One of your favorite articles of mine is “Surviving the Snow in the Smoky Mountains.” The pictures of the snow on the shelters and the wind pushing in on all the tent flys and ground tarps that were hung over the open side – it really took me back to my hike. Can you tell me your biggest lessons learned from going through those mountains? How does going through that challenging section make you feel about what still remains ahead of you?
People up the trail are going to be so sick of hearing about me getting stuck in the Smokies because it was such a grand adventure. I call it “Breakfast Club: Extreme Outdoor Edition.” The crew I went through with all came in separately as nine solo hikers that didn’t know each other at all before stepping foot on the trail. One of the biggest lessons that experience taught me is to never underestimate the people you’re around. There were 18 – 60-year-olds, and we all had a skill we could provide that got us through. One of our youngest guys was a rock climber, so he climbed into the rafters to hang more tarps to keep the wind at bay. We had a nurse among us.
You can look at somebody and so easily make a snap judgment – I get a lot of looks because of my size – but you never know what somebody will bring to the table. That’s a skill that we all can build.
Going into the mountains, I knew the storm was coming, and I had a plan. But I started stressing about my gear because I heard other hikers start getting fearful about their own kits, and we all had very different setups. I started reaching out to other hikers (shoutout to ‘Murica from AT Class of 2019!) to get another set of eyes on my kit and alleviate some of my fears. I blame him for the storm – he told me, “You know, it really looks like mild weather, anyways!”
Just don’t let other people’s fear and anxiety stop you. Don’t wear their anxiety on top of your own.
When I did my LASH in 2019 I did it from Delaware Water Gap to Hanover, NH. I’ve already heard some hikers tell me, “Oh, just wait ‘till you get to the Whites!” I truly think that’s the thru-hikers version of WAAH-megeddon.
Can you tell me a little about your 450-mile LASH and time serving thru-hikers as a trail angel?
This past summer I spent a month as a trail angel following a group of hikers from Salsbury, CT heading north. My husband and I were “homeless” because we had just gotten back from working overseas, and I loved setting up with some drinks, giving shuttles, and camping around everyone. I set up in VT for almost a week because the temperatures were over 100 degrees in early August.
I really got to experience a whole breadth of hikers: the NOBOs, grisled and slightly feral, getting ready to go into the Whites; the SOBOs coming in like puppies, bouncing around having just finished the Whites expecting everything to be easy now; and the NOBO Long Trail thru-hikers on Day 2 or 3 having existential crises with broken gear and blisters galore.
Watching all three of those groups interacting together was like a sociologist’s dream. One of the things I picked up from there is that everybody is going to have their own attitudes towards climbing. ‘Murica told me his group did marathon days through the Whites, which just blew my mind, but he told me something that I keep in my brain to this day. He said, “Yes, we did. But we were broken when we got to Southern Maine and it wasn’t the smartest idea for us.” So I’m just going to climb and take it one day at a time.
So at the beginning, we talked about the goalposts always moving… with that in mind, what awaits you after you reach Mount Katahdin?
I’ve had plans that if Katahdin doesn’t break me I’m going to take a week off and then do the New England Trail because I live along it. Nothing would make me feel more fulfilled than southbounding because I can end my thru-hike with a walk into the water on the Long Island Sound, hop on a ferry, and visit some family with some time to soak my feet!
A huge thank you to Trishadee for her time during this town day, you can subscribe to her posts on The Trek at her Author Page or follow along with her journey on Instagram @wanderingtdee.
I’m Oats, signing off until next time – Happy hiking!
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