Lets Get Acquainted!

Hi, my name is…

My name is Kristen (trail name Squirrel). I’m an Appalachian Trail Section Hiker with 2,000 miles under my hip-belt. I’ve been section hiking the trail since 2012. When Shenandoah National Park closed in 2020 due to the Pandemic, I was forced to put plans for my final trip on hold. My finish was further delayed by the birth of my two sons, aged 2.5 years and 3 months. Now that I’m healing from pregnancy and birth, I’m finally feeling ready to get back out there. This fall I plan to tackle 85 miles followed by my last 100-mile section next spring.

Standing on the summit of Mount Katahdin in 2016, where most hiker’s complete their thru-hikes. My finish will be in Harpers Ferry, WV.

A bit about me

Although I never did much camping as a kid, I’ve always loved the outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, growing up in central Jersey provided many of outlets to get out in nature. My childhood summers were spent swimming in the ocean. As I got older, I also enjoyed paddling on the local lake and taking walks through our beautiful county parks. One of the reasons I chose my college was for the school’s scenic landscape. Nestled in a valley below the Appalachian Mountains, my school was a mere five miles from the AT’s NJ/NY trail border crossing. Despite my proximity to the trail, I didn’t know anything about long distance trails until I’d moved out of state after graduation.

I caught the bug

In Pennsylvania, I spent most of my days working in the woods in the middle Atlantic states as a professional archaeologist. I wanted to get out and explore the local trails, but I didn’t know many people in the area. Tired of waiting to meet someone who loved hiking as well, I joined Meetup.com and signed up for a few day-hiking trips.

Hiker posing near a waterfall

My first Meetup day hike on the AT near Dunnfield Creek, New Jersey in 2012. Check the zip-off pants. That’s how you know I wasn’t messing around.

Soon after, I gathered some secondhand supplies off craigslist and signed up for my first backpacking trip. The trip was only eight miles surrounding the Delaware Water Gap, but it kicked my butt. My pack alone weighed a whopping seven pounds and was filled with all the wrong gear. That first overnight left me dehydrated, achingly sore… and grinning ear to ear. I was hooked.

Camper cooking in a tent

My original backpacking setup, complete with a 0° synthetic bag (in May), budget tent, cotton t-shirt, and frying pan.

Section hiking becomes a reality

After those initial ventures, I found myself spending every weekend I could in the woods. Over the course of the next year I ditched my heavy synthetic, cotton, and aluminum gear. I upgraded to down, merino, and titanium. Most importantly, I gained confidence. So much so, that I started leading trips as an admin for Meetup. These trips were specifically planned to tackle the sections I still needed to complete. By the time I’d pieced together a fair amount of PA and NJ, the idea to trying hiking a bigger, longer section of the trail started to come into focus.

Leading hikes as a Meetup admin gave me the chance to pick off my local sections one weekend at a time. Peters Mountain Shelter, PA 2014

Maybe, just maybe, I could try to section hike the entire thing…

The more I expressed my desire to hike a big section to others, the more negative feedback I got. While I never minded well-meaning caution of family (I have a brittle bone disorder and their fears are somewhat warranted), I didn’t appreciate the negativity of others who seemed to circle around one common thread: a girl like me didn’t belong out there alone. Using their doubt as fuel, I summed up my courage and booked a train ticket to Dahlonega, Georgia for March 2013.

If you’re going to start, you might as well start at the beginning.

Hiker at Springer Mountain

Posing at Springer Mountain, the Southern Terminus of the AT in March 2013, about to begin my first “long” Section Hike



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Comments 6

  • David Rothgeb : Jul 14th

    Come West!

  • trailgeeks : Jul 14th

    Best of luck on your journey, from a fellow archaeologist and historian, mom, Meetup hike leader, and outdoor lover. 🙂

  • Quiet Man : Jul 14th

    Great to see another section hiker getting some ink on The Trek! Looking forward to reading along.

  • Charlotte : Jul 14th

    How exciting to meet you! Delighted to follow your hiking adventures on the AT!

  • Lil’ Bear : Jul 15th

    Love when I see posts from a fellow section hiker! Best of luck on your final sections!

  • bob moss : Jul 15th

    Hi, Kristen, I’m a friend of Mary and Hugh and Julie. I know them through Jim Hebson, whom you may know or have heard of. His family lived near us, and Jim and I were in my father’s scout troop together.

    You may be interested in my father’s account of his backpacking trips on the AT in the 1930’s—a little different than things are now. Dad was by no means an end-to-ender, or anywhere close, but he did a lot of the Trail in Pennsylvania, NJ and New York. He did far more backpacking than I’ll ever do, with his scouts (I quit the troop in an uncharacteristic act of rebellion) and his hiking club friends, in the Adirondacks, Green Mountains, Whites and, umm, somewhere south, the Shenandoahs or Smokies.

    Hiking the Appalachian Trail Before World War II

    My hiking career started in 1933 when I was 10 years old. My relatives sent me to the New-ark YMCA boys[’] camp, Kamp Kiamesha, to give my mother a break after teaching third grade all year. (She was our sole support with many health problems, which disappeared when I moved out of the house. Then she lived to almost 100.) The camp was on the east side of [the] Kittatinny Ridge below Rattlesnake Mountain [Stillwater Twp., N.J.]. I spent seven wonderful 10-week-long summers there, the last three on the staff. I was in charge of hiking and camping in my last year.

    In the last summer, I led two overnight hikes on the Appalachian Trail, one from High Point to camp and one from just above the DWG [Delaware Water Gap] to camp. On the latter hike we slept on the platform of the Catfish Fire Tower near Camp Mohican. On that night northern New Jersey had what must have been the most spectacular display ever of the northern lights. Rays of light in three colors spread across the sky from the north and moved back and forth across each other. And here we were on one of the highest points in the state. There was little sleep that night.

    My favorite hike, about 10 miles, was to Silver Spray and Walpack Center. We hiked over the mountain to the falls [Silver Spray] using a long-gone trail that led from the AT to the falls, had lunch at the cemetery, and then ice cream at the General Store in Walpack (kept cold with dry ice). Then we followed [the] Tilman Ravine stream back up the mountain, stripping for a dip whenever we came to a pool, and took the AT back to camp. In the 1930s, Silver Spray had beautiful evergreens, much larger than those that are there now. It was logged for the war effort and impassable afterward. Now it has recovered. We camped there many times. The week before I left for the army I had three picnic dates there.

    In 1940 and 1941 I did two memorable hikes on the AT. The first was three days and 50 miles from Bear Mountain to Vernon during a Thanksgiving weekend. On the first night two of us climbed halfway up Agony Grind in the dark and rain and spent the night squeezed into our only sleeping bag on a narrow ledge. We had no tent and no ponchos. The second night was clear and cold and we enjoyed sleeping while leaning against a cliff with a fire in front of us and a view of much of New Jersey to the south. We ended up at the General Store in Vernon and waited till midnight for our ride—a friend was on a date with my car.

    The second hike was to be 36 miles from the Delaware River to the Lehigh River. On the first night three of us climbed Mount Minsi in the dark and camped on the platform of the fire tower, where we watched the trains come up along the river and through the gap. The second night was spent just above the old road through Wind Gap. From our campsite we watched an outdoor movie that was being shown at a bar on the road below us. On the third night we were rained out eight miles short of our goal. We spent the night kneeling under our only poncho until daylight permitted us to go down in[to] the valley and thumb a ride to a bus station. So as not to offend the other passengers, we sat in the back of the bus, dirty, wet, and unshaven.

    During the depression we did not have the fancy equipment that exists today. I hiked in old leather dress shoes, wore old clothes (I still do), carried a roll of two blankets over my shoulder, and heated canned food over open fires. I used chlorine tablets in my water. I had no rain gear. With canned food, the weight of the pack reduced [decreased] dramatically as the hike progressed. One can of food per hiker per meal was sufficient. With two hikers a meal had two different items on the menu.

    These years were a memorable part of my life and eventually led me to hikes with my [Boy] scouts, with the UCHC [Union County Hiking Club], FVTW [Frost Valley Trail Walkers], and into the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, and many other areas.

    —Bill Moss

    Published in 2003 in the Heath Village newsletter.


    Silver Spray is the next ravine south from the better-known Tillman’s Ravine. It is formed by the outflow of a wetland visible from Rattlesnake summit. Proceeding south on the AT from Rattlesnake, the trail reaches a level area and crosses a footbridge built (2005? 2006?) by a Boy Scout troop. Shortly after the bridge, the trail makes a sharp left and starts ascending. If one proceeds straight instead of making the left, in about a quarter mile one hits the Woods Road and the outlet of the wetlands, which proceeds down the hill through Silver Spray, which is not presently accessible by a trail. (Dad might contend that “Silver Spray” refers only to the waterfall at the bottom, not to the ravine.)

    On the way back from Walpack, “took the AT back to camp” is an abbreviated description, probably to avoid unnecessary detail. They took the AT back to the trail that led down to camp.

    Bill Moss presently (January, 2014) lives in Heath Village near Hackettstown, N.J. AT 91, he has suffered brain damage from multiple small strokes, and is confined to a wheelchair.


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