AT 2019: Five Female Hikers You Should Meet

There are hundreds of women on the Appalachian Trail this year.

A few of the big Instagram names have already been featured on The Trek but here are a few you may not have seen yet.

Their stories are incredible, and I am honored to share their journeys.

Jessica Sacks, “Rosie the Fearless”

Thousand Oaks, CA

What made you decide to attempt a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail?

I want to hike the Appalachian Trail, initially wow, because I was six months out from an awful breakup from a very toxic relationship. When I looked in the mirror I did not recognize myself anymore and the person who I saw looked weak, broken, and lost. Not where I thought I’d find myself at 34. I don’t have a college education, I don’t have a place to call my own, I don’t have a relationship or children. It felt like my life was lacking in every way. Full of have nots.

But at some point I realized. I can do whatever I want right now. Who among my high school friends on Facebook I was comparing myself to could actually say that. I began to see my position as one of freedom and power over my life. I wanted to get strong and challenge myself to get back to that fearless girl I had always been. I needed to figure out what I was made of, what potential was lying under the surface.

What do you hope to gain from thru-hiking?

I want to find my spirit again. I want to prove to myself that I am resilient and self-sufficient. I want to learn to be patient with myself and be proud of my accomplishments.

Follow Rosie the Fearless on Instagram @fearlessgirlwonder

Laurissa Widrick, “Data”

Watertown, NY

What made you decide to attempt a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail?

I’ve always loved hiking and being outside; I grew up near and worked at a summer camp in the Adirondacks for most of my life. But the idea of a long-distance hike was never even in my mind until a couple of years ago. From the moment I first heard about the AT and started following others on their journey, especially women hiking solo as I’m currently doing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it. Two years worth of planning, working, saving, and consuming every book, article, podcast, or YouTube video I had access to, and here I am, finally out here.

What do you hope to gain from thru-hiking?

In the past couple of years I’ve been working through a personal loss that has left me feeling groundless and without a sense of identity. I have always felt most at peace with myself when I spend an extended amount of time outdoors. It’s where I feel the most centered. I’m hoping I’ll be able to use this journey not only to heal, but to rediscover who I am and where I belong in this world. Also, I’ll be able to say I hiked 2,192 miles! Me, by my own power, with my own strength and will.

Any other thoughts or background you would like to share with us?

I’m currently 250 miles in, still hiking completely solo, and I love it! It’s not nearly as scary as people think, and I don’t think it should stop any woman or anyone from being out here.

Follow Laurissa’s inspiring solo hike on Instagram: @laurissawidrick

Heather Gilchrist

Pompano Beach, FL

What made you decide to attempt a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail?

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article about the trail right after a friend had spent a month in the Shenandoah section with his wife and daughter. I just instantly knew I wanted to thru-hike the trail, mostly for the personal challenge. I’ve been angling to accommodate a thru-hike for a few years, and the time never seemed quite right. In the past year, that friend (who gave me my earliest AT advice) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I realized that there will never be an ideal time; that I would have to make the time and make it work. So when another friend committed to a departure date, I decided that I would make it happen so that I would have someone to start with. We’re two weeks in now and I’m loving the trail and all of its rigors!

What do you hope to gain from thru-hiking?

The hike has already given me a sense of calm that I appreciate more than I can articulate. I’m gaining perspective: it is making me realize how much less I need than I used to believe I needed. I’m thoroughly enjoying the physical challenge, and I’m really looking forward to the sense of accomplishment that I’m earning every day on trail. And perhaps most importantly, I wanted to take a breather before we head into another too-long and likely very contentious presidential election season to remind myself of the good in people and the beauty to be enjoyed in America.

Follow Heather’s journey on her social media links below
Instagram: @heatherontheAT


Julia Dimmler, “Giggles”


What made you decide to attempt a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail?

I always loved hiking. As a little kid, we always went hiking as a family.

Before I share more, I feel that I need to describe how hiking is different in Switzerland. There are several day hikes very accessible, and you can reach very different trails with only a one or two hours drive by car or public transport. Almost every town, even if it’s very small, can be reached by bus or train. There are also huts in the mountains (like in the White Mountains). Due to this most hikers don’t sleep outside.

Nineteen years ago I hiked for ten days in Norway with a friend. For the first two days, we didn’t meet anyone. We stayed in camp every night. I just loved it.
Ever since I’ve dreamed of doing a multiple day hike again. I was looking for someone who would be my hiking partner but no one was up to it. In addition, I was worried if I would be fit enough to hike multiple days. These concerns kept me from thru-hiking.

Last year I broke up with my long-term boyfriend. During that time a friend from the US told me that he was planning to hike the AT in 2019. The thought of breaking out of my life was intriguing and hooked itself to my brain. After months of thinking and confirming I wasn’t making a rash decision, my worries melted away when I convinced myself: There’s no need for a hiking partner. I will be perfect by myself. 90% of the thru-hikers are solo hikers. And regarding my condition: I will get fit by doing it. I decided to take on that adventure. The moment was just perfect. No apartment to pay for, no partner, just pure freedom.

Final decision was to be made: should it definitely be the AT? And by getting more information on the different trails, I felt how much the community around the AT attracted me and that I want to be part of it.

What do you hope to gain from thru-hiking?

I will get to know myself better than I ever did before and better than anyone else. By being with myself I hope to find balance in life, which is sometimes hard to keep. By knowing myself better, I will know what to work on or change to be balanced. And I will have some great stories to tell.

Any other thoughts or background you would like to share with us?

Although I would call myself an experienced hiker, this thru-hike is a complete different challenge. Not only being out for such a long time. There are also a lot of things I never experienced: How will I react when I first see a bear or a rattlesnake? Will I recognize poison ivy? Will I make friends? How will I handle being apart from home and from my (new) boyfriend? Luck is that after deciding to go on my own, I was found by a like-minded. The trail provides?

Follow Julia’s journey on Instagram @jules.hikes (German)

Jennifer Williams

Washington State, North Carolina

What made you decide to attempt a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail?

About ten years ago I decided that when I retired from the military I wanted to thru-hike the PCT. I ended up retiring in North Carolina. My husband is still active duty and we still live here. The AT was logistically a better fit for now.

When I originally considered a thru-hike, I didn’t realize how much I needed it. I like backpacking and it seemed like a good idea. Fast forward ten years and backpacking is where I recharge. During planning for the trip an airman I used to work with killed himself. He’s the eighth veteran suicide that affected me personally. I want to use this hike to raise awareness of veteran suicides as well as find my own healing.

Follow Jennifer’s awareness hike on Facebook (link below)

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