Introducing Frog Hat
I don’t have any significant personal reason for wanting to attempt a thru-hike of the AT. I’m not out here expecting some kind of spiritual awakening – I just want to hike it because it’s there. Because I can, so why not?
Alright, here’s a little backstory: I only really started hiking a few years ago. I was 22 and had just graduated college via zoom, the pandemic was in full swing, and we were all going a little crazy. I decided the morning after my brother’s wedding that I was going to get in my car and go exploring. Over the course of a month, I drove all over the US and visited national parks, state parks, and national forests to find fun places to hike. I learned so much about myself on that trip, and developed a passion for the outdoors. I made mistakes (and learned from them!), including a poor decision that led to me spending half the night lost and alone in Arches National Park waiting for a ranger’s assistance. My first stop on that adventure was Yellowstone National Park, a place I had vivid memories of visiting with my family a decade earlier. It was just as I’d remembered it; and just as before, I found myself wishing I had more time to spend there.
Once I returned from my trip, I started a very demanding graduate program at THE Ohio State University, which included my Dietetic Internship (aka 1200 hours of working as a Dietitian but not getting paid for it). I did manage to go on 3 more (3-11 day) hiking trips throughout the 2 years of grad school. I finally finished school and graduated in May of 2022 with my Masters in Dietetics and Nutrition, and two weeks later I sat for and passed the Registration Exam for Dietitians.
So, after six years of school, dozens of case studies, hundreds of patient charts, and thousands of dollars, what does a 24 year old fresh grad do with her new credentials? Get a job, of course!
Oh, you wanted me to get a job in my field? I must have missed the memo on that one. Anyway, now I am a Registered Dietitian working at and living in Yellowstone National Park as a tour guide. That job means so much to me – it’s so exciting to share in someone’s first Yellowstone experience as Old Faithful erupts or they see their first wolf. While it’s breaking my heart to miss my favorite season at Yellowstone this summer, the AT has been something I’ve wanted to attempt for a few years now, and have been planning this attempt for over 2 years. It’s so surreal to me that I am actually starting it tomorrow. I remember being so excited thinking “I start the AT in 16 months!!” and then all of the sudden it was 16 weeks and then 16 days and pretty soon here it’ll be 16 hours. So much time and effort has gone into this already, and I haven’t even stepped foot on the trail.
I do plan to talk a decent amount about my nutrition on trail in my posts. In the recovery process of my eating disorder, I found fully embracing Intuitive Eating to be most helpful for me long-term. I no longer had “good” or “bad” foods, and I no longer had a number of calories or serving sizes dictating how much or what I was going to eat. I ate whatever foods I was hungry for, and I ate until I was satiated. Not full, just content. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked, and after a while of this I was able to break that binge-restrict cycle I had been trapped in for years. I thought I’d always be trapped by my issues with and fear of food, and for a while there, I thought the stress of it all was going to be what did me in.
The night I realized I was less than a year away from being an actual Registered Dietitian who was still struggling with the same eating disorder 9 years later because I thought real treatment was only for the emaciated, and that since I didn’t “look the way a person with an eating disorder is supposed to look” (hint: does not exist), I decided all I deserved was studying dietetics so that I could be educated enough to “cure” myself. Well, kids, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it did not work. Therapy was required. And helpful. 10/10 would recommend. I no longer fear butter!! Back to the point – I plan to talk about what foods I’m eating (I already miss fiber and fresh fruit), how much money I’m spending on food, how I’m feeling and recovering (I’m curious how long it will take for hiker hunger to kick in), etc. So, if you find nutrition interesting – stay tuned! And if you don’t find nutrition interesting – that’s not very cash money of you. Would it sweeten the deal if I told you I’m bringing my frog hat?
Like I said earlier, it’s here, so I’m gonna go hike it. Maybe mess around and make it to Katahdin.
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