This Guy Thought the AT was Gonna be Fun!

And ya, of course it has been fun and it has also been this (see above facial expression). That was after hiking up kelly Knob at the end of my first 15 mile day. That was also right before finding a mouse inside my tent. So ya, fun wouldn’t be the first word I use to describe the AT.

So Why Am I Out Here?

Well of course I love hiking. I love feeling connected to the bigger heart beat of things! To the birds and forest and ridges. I love waking up to the sun peaking through my tent and am starting to love waking up to the sounds of hikers doing their morning milling about.

But more importantly, I just turned the big ol’ 30 and I don’t even know where my 20s went. I’m not ready to be the 30 year old I want to be in the world.

I spent too many years of my 20s in a bad place. I spent years struggling with gender dysphoria and mental health challenges. I was “stuck” for a long time. My internal ecosystem was in a drought and subsequently it took so much energy to tend to, so much watering, just to make it through the day and keep life alive.

But now things are not like that. I’ve done a lot of work to introduce ease, joy, and meaning into my life. It’s great, but suddenly I’m 30. And I’d like some of those “bad 20s” years back, for whatever they are worth. Not just the joy, but the development, the growth, the perspective. I’m hoping the 6 months I spend hiking the AT can give me some of what I missed from those years. So far I think it’s possible.

The Peaks and The Valleys

Time out here kind of feels like it’s on steroids. The highs and lows are real high and real low.

My first night, about 10 days ago, I slept behind the visitor center at Amicalola State Park in a little lean to/cabin type structure with about 5 other hikers.

After registering in the morning, I began the approach trail and climbed those treacherous infamous stairs. They were about as challenging as I heard they were, but the beauty of the waterfall kept me motivated.

I cried on top of Springer, not believing it was even possible to be where I was at. I felt blessed, and even then the reality of what I was doing had yet to hit. I was walking on clouds in a way. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. An older women looked at me on the summit and said “I’d never dreamed I’d see this moment.” Her words broke my dream state and I started tearing up. What a privilege to be on this adventure.

What’s on My Back

I only had about 23 pounds on my back the day I started out, with about 4 days of food and 2 liters of water. I meticulously counted ounces while picking out my gear over the last 5 years. My big 3 includes the Zpacks Duplex tent, the Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 bag, and the Katabatic 15 degree quilt.

I’ve assured every piece of my gear is basically essential. Although I have a few “extra” items, like the Nemo Fillo Elite pillow and my AWOL guidebook.

I’ve been really happy with my gear. I’ll do a more detailed post about this in the future.

Since that First Day

I’m still bright eyed and bushy tailed but maybe a bit more hardened (at least my feet are). I’ve now had several cry sessions that were less about the awe I felt on that first day and more about the…. awful? Okay not thaaaaat bad. But there has been homesickness and pain and exhaustion. All things I’m sure I need to experience to make it home to Maine. The homesickness has been the hardest, which I didn’t expect at all. At night, when time moves slow I miss my people back home. Or during the day, when I feel a bit on edge being the only visibly queer person around, I miss the comfort of my familiar faces.

I’m starting to learn more about type 2 fun or that type of fun that isn’t actually fun, but is fun when you look back or fun in a miserable slap happy type way. The kind of fun where you spend 15 min chasing a mouse out of your tent and all you can do after is laugh at the absurdity of the situation you put yourself into. That’s kind of the type of fun I think the AT might be.


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Comments 11

  • Kelly : Apr 1st

    Rooting for you asher!! You have a journey ahead of you. The best things in life aren’t free and don’t come easy. You can do this!!

  • Jackie : Apr 1st

    The very reason you did this proves your hutzpah. A determination that shows focus, commitment and strength. Amazing. Glad you smile inside when you think of your peeps back home.

  • Mikey : Apr 1st

    Nice story. Enjoyed writing it. Could hear your voice ringing through.

  • Sophie : Apr 2nd

    Beautiful writing and story telling as always. Can’t wait to read more about this big adventure!

  • Joy Fournier : Apr 2nd

    Ash, I’m so excited to read about your adventure and praying for your safety everyday as you explore the trail and I’m super humbled about your sacrifices that you are facing as you walk this journey!

  • Nancy Campbell : Apr 2nd

    So in awe that you’re actually doing this! Love reading your journal so far. Enjoy your adventure and stay safe. Go with strength, perseverance, and pride! (Juli’s Mom here,)

  • Jen McCausland : Apr 3rd

    Fellow Mainer cheering you on. When it gets tougher than hell, please remember those of us who would give anything to be on that trail with ya. Good luck and happy birthday- 30s beat 20s any day!

  • Heidi Corliss : Apr 3rd

    Wow! Inspiring!

  • Camden : Apr 3rd

    Thank you for sharing some of your highs and lows so far! Good luck and I hope you enjoy this journey!

  • Rue farley : Apr 4th

    Dude you definitely make the top ten list for the most badass and handsome hiker out there. I’m missing you like heck. Keep writing. Keep hiking. Love you bro.

  • Jordan Peterson : Apr 6th

    Sorry boy but if you think being a man is going to be fun you haven’t registered for the draft yet.


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