Hiker Introduction: Better Late than Never
I am over 700 miles into my thru hike and I’m way overdue for my introduction to Appalachian Trials. I’m Melanie, but on trail I go by Peanut. I am a 2016 Appalachian Trail northbound thru hiker. My hiking partner is a one year old Catahoula Beagle mutt named Boo Radley. I am from Nashville, Tennessee but I’ve spent the past couple of years in Boone, NC obtaining my Masters at Appalachian State University. My MA is in Appalachian Studies.
My passion for the Appalachian mountains came well before I decided to study them, when my mother began to section hike the Appalachian Trail. After doing a couple hundred miles with her, I realized that I was not as patient as her and I needed to do the trail in the form of a thru hike. So here we are.
I have been attending school for over twenty straight years. I went from highschool to college to graduate school and I need a well deserved break. Now it’s time to walk through the region I’ve been studying for the past three years.
During my time at Appalachian State I focused on the culture of Appalachia. My area of focus was “with signs following” churches and demystifying the stereotypes that surround the practices that occur in these congregations, including serpent handling. The traditions in these churches are extremely misunderstood and my goal was to complete a thesis that sheds light on some of these false labels. My thesis is now completed and it sits on a shelf that will inevitably gather dust and rarely get read. But, I’m proud of myself for accomplishing something I never thought I could do, the same feeling I will eventually have when I summit Katahdin.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the practices of these churches, it is time to broaden my horizons and explore Appalachia outside of the classroom.
What I’ve learned/Highlights thus far
Zach Davis warned me about them. My mother warned my about them. I warned myself about them. I still didn’t think it would happen to me, but it does. I sometimes have bad days.
There are days where hiking seems impossible and I can’t seem to get out of my tent. I’ve learned to accept that that’s okay.
I’m a planner. For those who know me, they would say that’s a major understatement. I’m trying to learn that things don’t always work out the way they were supposed to. Sometimes I’m not going to get as many miles as I had planned to. Other times, it’s okay to stop at a hostel I wasn’t originally go to stay at. On the Appalachian Trail, it’s just better to go with the flow.
Going with the flow is much easier when the springs are actually producing water. Up until Virginia, I had been spoiled with a water source almost every other mile. I stopped looking at my map and my watch obsessively because it was getting to be way too stressful. It was going great until I didn’t fill up my water before a ten mile stretch without a source. It was hot and both me and my dog were dehydrated. I felt so dumb. When I finally heard water I ran down the hill and my dog jumped straight in the water pack and all, both of us chugged at least a liter. Live and learn.
Go with your gut
People always ask if I’m hiking alone, to which I answer yes, to which they ask if that’s it’s safe to do so along with other questions that they would unlikely ask a man. Most of the time I do feel very safe on trail and I think many would agree with me. I am going to meet people both on and off trail that I do not wish to surround myself with. I met a person on trail that made me feel extremely uncomfortable from the beginning. I don’t wish to go into detail here, so I’ll make this brief. This person was a local day hiker and after a couple of days of unwelcomed encounters and harassment I had to be firm. A couple of days was too long for me to finally say what I should’ve said at the first encounter. Trust your instincts. Enough said.
Be Selfish (sometimes)
My trail family is the best and I love hiking with other people. However, I am not ready to commit to someone everyday until Katahdin.
For the first time in my life I was called selfish. I’m totally okay with being called that in this circumstance. I definitely help out my fellow hikers as much as possible and I would consider myself a nice person. However, this is my vacation, my thru hike, my money, my experience. This thru hike is for me and it’s okay that I don’t want to always go with other people’s agenda. I want to make sure I get everything out of this hike that I possibly can.
Until next time,
Peanut and Radley
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