Rainbows and Butterflies or Blisters and Bears?

Hello friends!! My name is “Froggy” and welcome to my first blog entry! This time next year I will be in the midst of my Flip Flop Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail. It’s kinda hard to believe, especially since I am writing this from the comfort of my air conditioned home, drinking water I don’t have to filter and a bathroom with a flushing toilet. Next year I’m trading my comfy foam queen sized mattress for a slim, still comfy air mattress. I’m trading Dr. Martens for trail runners, contacts for glasses, air conditioning for cool mountain breezes. I’m trading spending every day with my wonderful husband and two elderly Chihuahuas to….well…. I’m not sure yet! I have a romantic notion of what trail life will be, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, stunning views, exceptional people, lots of wildlife, too much junk food.

And though I know those wonderful things will happen, I have to be realistic too. I fancy living the simple nomadic lifestyle, but need to be tough mentally to accept that the trail is going to kick my butt. My inner dreamer hippie chick wants to deny the trail will be anything but rainbows and butterflies, but the reality is, this is a brutal way to spend six months. There’s going to be rain, bears, insane elevation changes, ticks, bears, heat and humidity, bears, mud, spiders, pointy rocks that want to rip your feet off, and did I mention bears?! Also rattlesnakes. And bears. But in addition to that there will be vistas, sunshine, chipmunks, breezes, birds, waterfalls, frogs, trail friends, happiness. And Ramen. Lots, and lots of Ramen.

I know I’ll have to get through the bad sucky stuff for the awesome unforgettable stuff. It’s just another tradeoff, and I think I’m coming to terms with that. If my practice hiking/camping trips have done anything it’s knock me down off my dreamy rainbow and firmly on my achy feet. Which is a good thing. I am learning a lot about myself and my gear every time I go out, so once April comes I will be ready. Mentally and physically.  In September I have an ten day section hike planned to really dial everything in. I’ll let you know how it goes. I will also go over my gear and other fun training sessions in future blogs. Until then, hike on and “hoppy” trails!

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Comments 8

  • TBRwalker : Sep 22nd

    Chihuahuas on the trail … never seen the little guys out there!

    Reply
    • Sarah Southard : Sep 22nd

      Yeah, my little guys won’t be able to hike on the AT with me, but I did run across a married couple at an overlook while section hiking in Shenandoah National Park who had 4 Chihuahuas with them! It was pretty awesome!

      Reply
  • Tony Massey : Sep 22nd

    Can we get updates vía email?enjoy your journey

    Reply
    • Sarah Southard : Sep 22nd

      Hello Tony! If you go to my author page you can subscribe and receive notices of new posts. I’ll also let everyone know via Facebook when I have a new post up. Thanks for your support!

      Reply
  • Kelsey Jo : Sep 23rd

    I’m planning a 2018 thru-hike during a milestone year, too. I’ll be turning 30 in April and will hopefully be 300+ miles on the AT when the big day arrives! Happy Trails!

    Reply
    • Sarah Southard : Sep 23rd

      Kelsey Jo, that is so great! I think it adds something extra special to celebrate a big milestone birthday while on the trail. Hopefully I will see you out there! Happy trails to you too!

      Reply
  • Ruth morley : Sep 23rd

    Exciting plans! Enjoy the process of preparation, it can also be fun and rewarding (and overwhelming).

    As someone who did tons of training and a weeklong shakedown hike but still got injured on the trail, I STRONGLY recommend following the ATC’s recommendation of modest mileage the first 2-4 weeks. I followed that advice the first week, with 8-12 miles a day. But I found very logical reasons (justifications) for upping it to 13-18 miles by week two. But the body doesn’t process justifications. Week five: out for the season with severe tendinitis in my right foot/shin and plantar fasciitis in left foot. Still painful after a month at home.

    Please take this advice to heart. I have a lot of experience and knew better, but it’s easy to be swept along with what other folks are doing. Resist the sirens’ song!! Next spring, I’m writing on my arm with a sharpie: “8-10 per day!” And will follow that for a month.

    Best of luck! It’s a tough trail but it can totally captivate you.

    Reply
    • Sarah Southard : Sep 23rd

      Ruth,

      Thank you so much for the advice! I will definitely take it to heart. I agree with you, I did the biggest miles I’ve ever done on my 10 day shake down hike, and am still tired! I learned it’s much more safe and enjoyable to do less and let your body ease into it, instead of pushing it. I will definitely make a point of sticking to that. I’m sorry you got injured, but Im glad you’re able to get back out there, hopefully we can cross paths next year!

      Reply

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