The Past, Present, and Future of Dirt
I have my gear list more or less dialed down. I shelled out for new a new pack and a nice underquilt for my hammock. I tested everything from my stove to my shoes. I had a couple of good shakedowns, including one where the promise of a Raising Cane’s box dinner propelled me through 18 miles on a still-recovering ankle. I’ve pored over the Guthook guide nearly every night. Like it or not, I’m ready to hike this damn trail.
With my departure from Harpers Ferry just under two weeks away, I find myself lost in my thoughts a lot. Who do I want to be on the trail? What am I hoping to accomplish? How will my life change? Y’know, the usual stuff. Right now, all I want to do is dump out all my feelings somewhere. Maybe even a website read by thousands of people.
Oh, hi there. Let’s go back in time a little.
Born to Walk
If you’ve known me for a while, you know I have a habit of pacing in circles. It’s the most obvious of a myriad of tics and behaviors I have thanks to the cocktail of ADHD and Autism that governs my brain. I do it when I’m happy, when I’m anxious, really whenever; for me, it’s a subconscious act no different than standing or sitting. Folks always found this odd if not off-putting. Doesn’t help that I’ve never been the most socially adept person, either. It’s a cosmic coincidence my pacing feet are about to clock 2000+ miles in one calendar year.
There’s a lot about myself that I’m not always happy with and tends to rub neurotypical people the wrong way. Social cues and communication were a huge part of it. I’ve worked through a lot of them, but plenty still persist today. On my hike, I don’t expect to be cured of anything; in fact, I don’t want to be “cured.” My stims and tics are a part of who I am and I’ve come to embrace them and understand them. But I do think the open air will be a good space for reflection, and walking can be meditative. You could even call it a form of recreational therapy.
In fact, other trails have helped me understand who I am already.
I Become Dirt
My high school-college years were where I really began using hiking as a medium of reflection and self-discovery. Stimuli were reduced around me and the beauty around me was a reminder that I’m part of a greater universe. I’d say it even helped me come to understand my gender and sexuality after being uncomfortable with it for much of my life.
The AT will find ways to kick my ass, but that’s all part of the experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself on ass-kicking trails before. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Can’t draw conclusions about who I’ll be before I’ve even stepped foot on the dirt.
As for the trail itself, there are some specific aspects of it that have been on my mind…
The Dream of Safe Passage
Lately, I’ve been reading up on Benton MacKaye, the man who first came up with the idea of the AT. There’s a lot about him I see in myself: the idealism, the chafing with the professional world, the love for nature (duh) to name a few. But his specific dream for what the trail would become is what I admire most. In short, he wanted it to be a place to escape industrial life, to have a corridor in the east where people can travel safely. Of course, the trail is still far away from being a safe space for everyone, an issue that goes far beyond the scope of this post. But it’s something I think about a lot, especially in regards to my own safety.
Anti-queer hate crimes have happened there before. Conspiratorial graffiti litters certain shelters. Man, this is really beyond the scope of this post, maybe I’ll go in-depth another time. Point is, the trail is not quite a safe passage for all. But I think it can be someday (yeah, I’m definitely doing another post). In spite of all this, and admittedly thanks to privileges I have (read: I’m a white folk who can pass as male), I think I’ll be able to carve out my little notch. Maybe I’ll be further proof that the sky is the limit even for bad-brained genderqueers. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to look good in this skirt.
I tried to make my thoughts follow a logical path when writing this. Ultimately, I decided to let them stay a chaotic jumbled mess. There’s a lot I’m still figuring out, and I have time to do so.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think the trail will be the space of self-discovery and challenge I need, and I hope it can be for others. I hope to travel safely and find kinship with my fellow hikers. I’m gonna keep dreaming; I’ll need dreams to make it through some rough stretches.
Hope y’all will follow along.
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hell yeah to hiking skirts!! they are the best!! and cant wait to read your future post about intersectionality and the trail!! keep doin cool stuff!!
I’m so proud of you 🤗, can’t wait to hear more about your journey… get in touch when you hit roan mountain if you need anything at all. Even if it’s just a pep talk. Much love and understanding from my family ❤️