Dirt Barbie

The seed of hiking the Appalachian Trail was first planted in my mind when in 2007, I hiked the Debsconeag Trail in Maine with my friend Sandie, aka “Bluebearee,” who hiked it in 2002.

Guess who is the A.T. hiker and who is not? Hint: The one with the incredible Hulk on their back is definitely not a thru-hiker. And yes, I am well aware that I have toothpick legs.

I struggled under my heavy pack, trying to keep up with Sandie, who apparently sprouted wings on her feet.  I was fascinated that she had hiked such a long trail and I peppered (or rather, pestered) her with questions about it.  This is where she taught my first lesson about the Appalachian Trail – hike your own hike – which she left me to do just that.

The other lesson, which is probably obvious, has to do with pack weight, but we will get into that another time.

This was for a 3-day hike. Impressive, no? Shameful! It's a wonder my toothpicks didn't snap under the weight.

A year ago, I made the firm decision to hike the A.T. in 2013 and I have been in planning mode ever since.  As part of that preparation, I read Appalachian Trials because as my friend Bluebearee says, “It not the gear that’s going to keep you on the trail.”  She is right, of course.

For those of you who rock climb, and most especially lead climbers, you already know that it is a big mental game.  I have backpacked quite a bit, but never a long thru-hike and I figured that the same rules apply.  Get in the right mindset and you can accomplish anything.  But finding and keeping that mindset, well, that’s the trick of it all, isn’t it?

If you have read Appalachian Trials, you know that Zach suggests telling everyone you know, and even those you don’t know, that you are hiking the A.T.  I started by announcing it on my Facebook page and then working it into every conversation I have.

Lady at grocery store:  “You can go in front of me since you only have a few items to check out.”

Me:  “Thank you!  Gosh, I hope people are this friendly when I hike the Appalachian Trail next year.”

Lady:  “The what?”

Me:  “The Appalachian Trail.  It’s a trail that runs almost 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.”

Lady, with look of disgust on her face:  “Why would you do that?  That’s crazy.  How long is it going to take you?”

Me:  “Probably around 6 months to finish.”

Lady, still looking disgusted and now shaking head: “So you’re just going to live on the trail?  How will you get showers?  Won’t you get really dirty?”

Me:  “I like dirt. Dirt doesn’t bother me – I consider myself a dirt Barbie.”

Lady with look of horror and disgust and still shaking head:  “Aren’t you afraid of bears?”

Me:  “No.  Bears need to be afraid of me.”

Lady, now avoiding eye contact and inching away ushers me forward to check out.

Zach also suggests that we write down our reasons for hiking the trail.  At some point along the trail, be it on day 10 of rain and dreariness, or the fact that there is no such thing as a “good hair day,” or you have narrowly avoided stepping on a rattlesnake stretched across the trail while you were daydreaming about food, you are going to ask yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?  Why am I hiking this mother effing trail when I could be enjoying all the comforts of home?”

In order to fully commit and keep my motivation, I have made my list and will be carrying it with me to reference when and if I need it.

I am Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail because…

  • I love the outdoors and I love adventure – the A.T. provides the full package.
  • Life is too short to not pursue your dreams.
  • I am 46 years old and my body does not recover like it used to.  I want to hike the trail while I am still physically able to.
  • I have worked at soul-sucking jobs for a good portion of my life – it is time to get back to nature, put away the electronic toys, and reset the mental batteries.
  • There is a sense of community among the hikers that I have a strong desire to be a part of, while still maintaining my independence and individuality.
  • Get more fit and for just for once in my adult life, just for once, I want to be able to eat whatever I want without having to read how many calories are in it first.
  • I have no doubt this will be a life changer – there is something to be gained from the perseverance of hiking such a long trail.  I am here to learn whatever it is the trail has to teach me.
  • I am hiking the A.T. in memory of my sister, Mae, who passed away in 7 years ago, and my mother, who passed away a year after her.  They both loved the outdoors – my mother was an artist that painted scenes of nature, and my sister loved to hike and shared many trail miles with me and I know she would have hiked the A.T. with me.

    My sister, Johnnie Mae, on our hike of Mt. Pinos, California, in 1997.


What are your reasons?  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



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Comments 1

  • Cynthia Dion : Dec 22nd

    Hi Ladybug,

    I was hunting for information about the A.T. and found you on a pinterest page. Liked what you had to say. Was wondering what date you started your hike and the weather. I’m planing to thru-hike 2016 March 5th. Gearing up for cold and possible snow conditions.


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