Dirty, Broke, Beautiful and Free

I found myself sitting in a bathtub, sipping on whiskey; it was June 2014. That is when I decided to start this journey.  That is when I decided I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. In between sips of whiskey, I made my first trail-related list.  The following is a compilation of rambles, lists, and how I long for the freedom and beauty that comes from letting oneself become dirty and broke.

The “Button’s first AT list” list

1) Hike the Appalachian Trail in 2015

2) Don’t not hike the Appalachian Trail because of fear or doubt. 

Since informing loved ones, coworkers, bosses and acquaintances of my aspiration, I have been posed the questions most will-be-thru-hikers get posed to them. I have had good reactions, bad reactions and everything in between.  It has been easy to get lost in an array of others’ input and questions.  It has been easy to forget about my own questions, my own reasons. It has been easy getting lost in an array of deciding on gear, working long hours and playing Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube—thus has been my life since I moved away from Texas into my partner’s parents’ house (to finish saving up money and brace my southern body for the trail with a Chicago winter) in a small city in Illinois that goes by the name of Glen Ellyn.

I am so damn lucky. I have the best partner for the AT.   is my best friend, my lover, my partner in life.  We have each other to inspire and motivate for this venture. Alas, we are people and we have both faced similar feelings of fear and being lost during our preparation.

How to remedy this state of feeling lost?  Lists. Whiskey and lists.  After all, that’s how this whole thru-venturing thing got started.  Whiskey is wonderful because it can whiskey you away. Lists are wonderful because they are reminders of not just goals, but of reasons for those goals. They are journals. Looking back on an old list can be awe-inspiring.  It can kick you in the ass and cuss you out for not finishing it.  It can reaffirm your actions when doubt starts to creep in about achieving your goals.

Enter Exhibit A.  Here you can examine the first list me and  made when we got to Glen Ellyn:

I plan to achieve becoming a Super Saiyn Dinosaur while on the AT. Looking at this list also kicks my ass, remind me I had 6 months to make cds.  I did not even start that goal.

I plan to achieve becoming a Super Saiyan Dinosaur while on the AT. Looking at this list also kicks my ass, reminding me I had 6 months to make cds. I did not even start that goal. Shame on me.  I will record a new song.  YES! Motivation!


I present to you my two most current and important lists:

The “Button’s To Do before leaving for Georgia” list:

1) Buy rain pants, knife and ukulele. 

2) Prepare house before departure. (i.e.clean up mass amount of mess and disorganization)

3) Prepare people to take care of the most-best, most-weird cat in the universe- Miss Parsnip Moo while parents are out of town.

4) Return copious amounts of gear that didn’t make the cut to REI and various online stores. 

5) Package dehydrated vegetables, spices and then compile several drop boxes with them.

Miss Parsnip Moo, the road dog of cats.

Miss Parsnip Moo, the road dog of cats.


The “Button, Why the hell are you hiking the Appalachian Trail?” list:

1) Because at one point I thought it was a wonderful notion, and I decided to set that notion into play and make it a reality. I have yet to think otherwise.

2) I need some inspiration. 

3) For the adventure. (i.e. My extreme awkwardness and anxiety dissipate when I am surrounded by nature, by doing what I love to do and by immersing myself in adventure. Thus, I have chosen to make my life an adventure.) 

4) Walk it out. I need to walk so much shit out. (i.e. What cannot be worked out can be walked out.)

5) I like shitting in the woods.


My neighbor in the forest also lived in a tent.  Here, both house and tent people congregate to make dinner.

There was a time when I lived out of my tent in a forest next to a house full of folks who had built community and a sense of home by building gardens.  I took some of my best shits out in those woods.  I had a tent neighbor.  Here, both tent and house dwellers congregate for dinner and drinks.

6) Most importantly, the happiest times in my life, the times I have learned the most from can’t be summed up very easily.  It is difficult to put into words. But,  in some of lyrics of a song, I found the perfect caption for all of those times.  The song is called The New Mexico Song.  It was written by Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains.*

“…and in my dreams, I am dirty, broke, beautiful and free…”

When I was living on the road, it was common to refer to society as Babylon. I placed myself far away from Babylon. I slept on stoops, under bridges, random people’s floors.  I played my guitar on roadsides to make money.  I learned so much from the beauty of being “Dirty, broke, beautiful and free.”  I grew immensely,  and started accept myself for who I am. Since those days, I have often found myself forgetting what that freedom feels like. It can be easy to forget the beauty of not worrying about things like money, in this bigger-better-faster world it can be easy to forget the beauty in frugality. That’s why as hard as I am working now to save up, I don’t want to think about bank accounts on the trail. I enjoy living minimally.  I need to immerse myself in a reminder of what I can do, what I can endure.

I long to be on the trail. I long to once again be dirty, broke, beautiful and free.

* To listen to the whole song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqexThzOOC0    Caution, this link will bring your ears some of that folking punk shit. This song is not about hiking. It is not about the AT. I believe my favorite line from it applies, though.  Take what you will, what you want from it.

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Comments 7

  • lswindell4 : Feb 5th

    Great post! It actually takes me back to my mindset in the late 60’s early 70’s! Very refreshing!
    I look forward to following your progress!

    • SoniaButton : Feb 6th

      Thanks for the support!

  • Dylan Emad Zitawi : Feb 5th

    Rainbow family, by chance?
    great article regardless!

    • SoniaButton : Feb 6th

      Funny you should ask. I’ve been to one national and one regional a few years ago. Yourself?
      Thanks for reading, happy you like it.

  • Cora : Feb 5th

    Yo Buttons/Sonia?! Finding yourself in the woods…on the trail…oyi! Theres nothing better man lots of love and peace to you on your adventure! Keep faith on your journey knowing that this road is the best road we could come by. Let me know if you need a hiking buddy! Also~admitting you love pooping in the woods…man thats as good as it gets! Happy Trails! ~Cora~

    • SoniaButton : Feb 6th

      Hi Cora! I agree. Enjoy the road your on, love the steps you take. Perhaps we will cross paths on the trail. Thank you for the encouragement! Happy wandering to you as well.

  • Henry : Jan 15th

    Hiking is not another usual activity of mine to spend my spare time rather it is my passion that inspires me to do something unique and extraordinary. Source study clerk helps in write research paper for me online. After reading your story, I have made my mind of hiking in the Appalachian Trail.


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