Trans Continental: A Sober LGBTQ Thru-Hiker’s Introduction

Who Am I?

Name: Lyla Harrod (she/her)

Trail Name: Don’t have one yet!

Age: 33

Thru-Hike Direction: NOBO

Start Date: Late March/Early April 2021

Astrological Sign: Aries

Favorite Ninja Turtle: Michaelangelo

Hey friends, Lyla Harrod here. I’m writing from a laptop in my living room with Josie, the elderly dachshund snoozing on me, and my second cup of coffee well underway. Let’s talk. 

Some basics, I’m a 33 year old sober queer trans woman who’s planning to hike NOBO in late March/early April 2021. I live in the Boston, MA area and I work in youth development! I’ve been backpacking for about a decade, but never anything longer than a few days at a time. I started backpacking when I was 23 while living in Seattle, where the Cascades and Olympics were always in easy reach for me. I moved back to the east coast about eight years ago and my love and respect for the Whites and Berkshires deepens each year.

Why Am I Blogging for The Trek?

Well, it’s certainly not my outdoor pedigree. My biggest goal is to contribute to the pretty thin library of experiences documented by transgender women on the AT. I haven’t found many solid resources related to thru-hiking as a transgender woman, so if you know of others please DM them to me on my instagram @seltzerskelter so I can read and share them!

Blogging for The Trek is a way to share my experiences with friends, family and the outdoor community, but also as a way to document my experiences for myself. My absolutely terrible memory (years of unbridled substance use will do that!) necessitates something concrete to look back on to keep me close to the trail, long after I’ve hopefully summited Katahdin, so blogging it is!

Why Am I Hiking?

I’ll eventually share my list a la Badger’s recommendation from Appalachian Trials, but in short… I’m hiking the AT as I stand at a crossroads in my life after tackling major life challenges over the past 3 years. Getting sober when I was 30 years old, it became painfully clear that I had the “adulting” abilities of a 14 year old. I slowly learned how to live and stay sober with the help of a 12-step program of recovery.

After I stopped drinking and using drugs, I was able to address the other massive elephant in the room, my gender. Only after quitting alcohol and drugs was I strong enough to face myself and to speak the truth I’d known deep down, that I’m transgender. That first realization was only the first challenge in the rollercoaster ride that became my life for the next 3+ years as I came out personally, socially, and professionally and went through the long process of gender transition. 

Now that those challenges have receded into the background, I’m looking forward. I’m healthier and living more authentically than I ever dreamed possible a few years ago. When living in active addiction, my world was small, my options were narrow and my capacity for growth was zero. Now that so many doors have been opened for me, I’m faced with the exhilarating and horrifying reality that I’m responsible for my own life and that I need to decide what I want, what I value, and how I live. I hope that during my hike I’ll be able to develop a vision for my future that’s authentic to me.

What Fears/Concerns Do I Have Going In?

Funny how the things that scare me most aren’t even necessarily the most “dangerous”… I’ll write about these issues more in subsequent posts, so stay tuned.

In order of intensity of fear:

  1. Transphobia from folks in town (specifically in the South)
  2. Injury
  3. Ticks/Lyme Disease 
  4. Lack of trans competence from other Thru-Hikers (getting frequently misgendered, intrusive questions from strangers)
  5. Running out of money
  6. Staying sober

What Am I Looking Forward To Most?

There’s a billion other things, but these are the ones that bubbled up so let’s go with it.

In order of intensity of excitement:

  1. WILD PONIES AT GRAYSON HIGHLANDS!!!!$^(##^$(#%
  2. Getting to hike all day every day
  3. Not having to work
  4. Time to reflect and envision how I want to spend the next chapter of my life
  5. Making lots of new friends who appreciate the outdoors like I do!
  6. Hiker hunger
  7. Swimming holes

Follow My Trek!

If you’ve made it this far, hell yeah. Thanks. With that in mind, I’d love to have you follow along with my experience, pre, during and post my thru-hike of the AT. The best way to do that is to follow my Instagram, @seltzerskelter and to subscribe to my posts directly on The Trek!

I’m excited to share myself and my experiences with you all, and I would love to hear from you too!

With love,

Lyla

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Comments 56

  • Avatar
    Kevin : Nov 24th

    Good luck on your adventure thru the AT. Looking forward to your updates!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thank you so much, Kevin! xoxo

      Reply
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      John : Nov 25th

      Best of luck and go with no fears! Hike your own hike and enjoy the experience! Look forward to following your hike!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

        Much appreciated, John! I can’t wait!

        Reply
    • Avatar
      Blitz : Nov 26th

      I wish you well on your height. It was a trans person I met on the Appalachian trail who was very kind and really started me off becoming more accepting of that people group. I am sure at the end of the trip you and many people you have met will wind up better people. I wish you the best on your journey. Former bigot

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Lyla Harrod : Nov 26th

        Hey Blitz, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m so happy you changed your mind and now understand that we’re people like everyone else who are deserving of love and respect!

        I need to work on consistently remembering this… I know for a FACT that I can change… and I need to remember that others can (and DO) change too. Be well!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Tina : Nov 24th

    What a wonderful setting for your next big adventure! Looking forward to reading your posts. You can do hard things!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thank you so much, Tina!!! Can’t wait to get up there to get nice and wet and cold and hike up and down, up and down for months and months!

      Reply
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    Hannah Knouse : Nov 24th

    What an honest, articulate and powerful first post. Thank you for telling your story, your perspective is clearly underrepresented and so needed. I can’t wait to follow your journey! 😍 You are so brave! WILD PONIES!!! 🐎

    Reply
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      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thank you for the kind words, Hannah! Yessss, I’m a sucker for animals of any kind, but wild ponies… hard to beat!

      Reply
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      Alyson : Nov 24th

      Wow! This sounds like it’s going to be an epic journey. I’m so glad you decided to blog on The Trek! Hopefully your bravery in tackling -and documenting- such an incredible adventure, encourages others to do the same.
      Cheers to sunny days and happy trails!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    David Murray : Nov 24th

    Very well written blog. It is going to be exciting to read about your adventures during this journey. YOLO and this experience is going to bring your spirituality to a higher level. Will be sending virtual love and support during your hike.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thanks a ton, David! I agree and truly hope it does bring my spirituality to a higher level. I find meditation valuable in my daily life and I’m definitely planning to lean into that when I get out there.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    MEGAN LUCE : Nov 24th

    Go Lyla!!! Can’t wait to read about your experiences and perspective on this journey. Yay!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thank you, Megan! So thankful to you and the staff and volunteers at the AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program for your support, and for investing so much time and energy in me to help me grow as a leader and a person <3

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Emily Marrs : Nov 24th

    Can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures! Sending love and luck!!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Thanks a ton, Emily! I’ll take all the love and luck I can get 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Alexander Tucciarone : Nov 24th

    Lyla – I cant wait to hear about how this adventure goes for you and the insights you are able to share on the other side. Safe journey!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thanks so much, Alex! Hope you’re doing well!!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Wes Laudeman : Nov 24th

    Great post, Lyla! Hope to see you out on trail! Happy hiking!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 24th

      Thanks, Wes hope we meet out there! I just read your post and made a small donation, love the idea of bringing two important causes together under one umbrella with Hike for Mental Health!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Wes Laudeman : Nov 24th

        Hey thanks so much for the donation!!

        Reply
    • Avatar
      Alyson : Nov 24th

      Checked out your page after seeing it on Lylas and made a small donation 🙂 Love what you’re doing and look forward to following!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Alyson : Nov 24th

    Wow! This sounds like it’s going to be an epic journey. I’m so glad you decided to blog on The Trek! Hopefully your bravery in tackling -and documenting- such an incredible adventure, encourages others to do the same.
    Cheers to sunny days and happy trails!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Julie : Nov 25th

    I’m looking forward to reading all of your posts!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Joel Williams : Nov 25th

    This is so great, I’m looking forward to following your adventure. I hope that your list of fears (specifically other people’s attitudes) are washed away quickly. Very proud of your sobriety and also for taking on this challenge!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Hey Joel, thanks for your support. I also hope my fears are washed away quickly, and I truly believe that they will be. I guess I hope by admitting those things scare me in this post, that other trans folks in my situation might see that it’s not just them with those fears (which are completely valid) floating around in the back of their heads when they contemplate thru-hiking the AT. Best wishes.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Morgan : Nov 25th

    I am looking forward to following your journey! Keep us posted on your preparation for the trail!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Thanks, Morgan! I’ve got most of my gear dialed down so I’ll do a perfunctory “gear list” post soon. I also want to do a more complete explanation of my what I’m looking forward to/afraid of lists I put in this post so people know where I’m coming from a bit more. If you have any ideas for posts you’d like me to write about though, please message me on instagram, I’m all ears! Take care 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Michael Casper : Nov 25th

    Lyla, your courage in confronting substance abuse, gender transition, and months on the Appalachian Trail are inspirational! I am looking forward to reading your posts and tracking your progress on the trail and even more, with sharing your experiences with those I know would benefit from them. Thank you for letting me and all of your audience partake in your adventures!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Michael. I would be so honored if you would share my posts with folks who might benefit… tell them to reach out to me directly on Instagram too @seltzerskelter I’d love the opportunity to talk to folks in similar life situations and discuss shared struggles. Best wishes.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Karen Wiley : Nov 25th

    You are off to a great start already! Thanks for sharing. Best of luck to you!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Karen, thanks a bunch, so ready to get out there!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Geo Sherwood : Nov 25th

    As a retired Veteran, I would proudly hike every mile by your side. If only you were hiking in 2023…
    You’ve got this, kid! Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way!! Hooah!!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Hi Geo! I love this comment so much, thank you! I’ll do my best, please be sure check back in once I’m out on trail!

      Reply
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    Jamie : Nov 25th

    You are about to embark on an epic adventure. On my hike in 2019 I met up with a fellow hiker who was transitioning. I do remember that she was very depressed most of the time. For days we hiked together with a ‘loose’ tramily that would end up in the same campsite or shelter and sit around and talk. Along the trail she would stop at AA meetings that were convenient to get to. My heart went out to her in her anguish. But I knew she was in the right place at the right time. She was walking it out. I wrote this long post to encourage you that everyone who hikes regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual identity, has a trail ahead of them that will reveal what kind of person they are and will be. Happy trails! Looking forward to hearing what your trail name will be 😃

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Bamboo Bob Sartini : Nov 25th

    Lyla, you’ve got the right attitude. People around the AT will be nice to you everywhere. Yes, Southerners too. I’m a three time AT hiker. We do trail magic in Vermont so I hope we see you. Look for me right before Stratton Mt.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Hi Bob, I appreciate your reassurance, and I do truly believe in the kindness of the AT hiking community. And heck yeah, I look forward to seeing you up by Stratton! Fingers crossed!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sam Cermak : Nov 25th

    Great post, Lyla, thanks for sharing! I hope to see you out there!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Thanks, Sam, looking forward to (hopefully) seeing you on trail!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Piglet : Nov 25th

    Lyla,

    I am a transman and was very excited to see your post. I transitioned 25 years ago and things have improved so much.

    I have been working locally in NC to get more transpeople out on the trail. A hiker once told me “the trail loves everyone”.

    For me hiking is my free and happy place and I want others from the LGBTQ+ community to feel that amazing feeling.

    I am hoping to do some sections of the AT in 2021 would love to hike some miles with you.

    I dream we could find trans people to hike with you at different times to help, share and encourage your journey.

    It sounds very important for you and you may not realize also important for the community.

    I know not always easy but I take the approach of answering people’s questions telling myself then they will know and not have to ask the next person.

    Hike your hike. Hold your head high. You are enough. You are a strong woman!

    Piglet.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Nov 25th

      Hey Piglet, so exciting to get your message! You’re right that it’s meaningful for me to be hiking the AT and sharing my story here on The Trek. I hope whatever I write is valuable to folks in the trans community, and as I mentioned in this post, I really would love to have other trans hikers reach out to chat about their experiences in the outdoors as well!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    432 : Nov 26th

    Good luck.

    Step one travel with someone you trust.
    Step two if nobody on step one, adopt a trail family.
    Step three, Lots of yoga if alone.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Debbie S Dunkle : Nov 27th

    Hi Lyla, you will not be the first trans woman to hike the AT and I wish you well. I’d elevate ticks above trans phobia though it does happen even among other hikers. Please email me as I would like to share experiences from my section hike of the AT 2011 to 2017 completion date. I will also be on trail this spring about the same time as you will be. I think if you look at my pics you will understand whay I am reaching out to you “Sister”

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Reid : Nov 29th

    Good luck Lyla!

    Sounds like an incredible adventure! Excited to see the pictures!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ari : Nov 29th

    It’s great to see some more content from queer and/or trans people here. Not that I don’t appreciate every author’s perspective on the trail, but my experience with the trail is a bit different than that of a cisgender heterosexual section hiker, and yours will probably be a bit different than that of some other thru-hikers, so it will be interesting to see how your experiences with the trail develop. I’m sure you have been thinking a lot in the last 3+ years about who you are, but being on the trail will give you even more chances to discover things about yourself you never knew (while being immersed in beautiful scenery alternated with periods of mud and rain).

    Best of luck on the trail, and feel free to email me if you want,

    Ari

    Reply
  • Avatar
    pearwood : Dec 1st

    Greetings, Lyla!
    My son of 35 years is now my daughter. She has our full support but it still taking time to wrap my head around thinking of Noelle instead of Nick. One day at a time.
    I just registered for a March 1 start date though June 1 is probably more realistic. Maybe I’ll see you on the trail.
    You can see more in my blog post from yesterday.
    Blessings,
    Steve

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Dec 11th

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for sharing, I’m so glad you’re supportive of your daughter Noelle… For me, the most important thing is always people’s intent in their behavior towards me… If Noelle is like me, as long as you’re doing your best to listen to hear and respect her wishes, then you’re doing great! Hope to see you out on trail!

      Lyla

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Andrew Carter : Dec 2nd

    Good luck to you. I have a trans son. As you can see from the comments, there are a lot of parents out there with LGBTQA kids. That’s true even in the South, although in the small towns this fact is often hidden.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Yuki : Dec 2nd

    Hi Lyla!
    I’m a trans man from Japan and a thru-hiker NOBO class of 2018.
    I my thru-hike, I didn’t introduce myself to other hikers as a trans because I couldn’t have any confidence to explain what I am in English lol…though, after coming back to Japan, I’ve got much easier-thinking and I started to come out to the close people around me.I believe my thru-hiking the AT gave me a power to live strong.
    I can say that thru-hiking would be one of the greatest experience in your lifetime, expanding your world. Good luck to you!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Dec 11th

      Hi Yuki, thank you for commenting! That so cool to know you had a great experience, I hope my experience is similar. Best wishes. – Lyla

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Scott : Dec 9th

    Good luck and have fun.. it’s on my bucket list to do. It’s totally awesome your doing it. Fearless ! Go kick ass!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lyla Harrod : Dec 11th

      Thanks, Scott! While I’m certainly not fearless, I am hoping to kick ass lol!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Nina Martin : Dec 22nd

    Hey Lyla,

    From one trans woman to another….wishing you good luck and happy hiking. Perhaps we’ll cross paths as I set off NOBO last week of March.

    This will be my second attempt. What I learned during that first attempt, and I’m being totally honest, no one cared, misgendered or was transphobic in any way whatsoever.

    As a hiking community, you’ll get grilled over your base weight, how many miles you hiked, and gear questions/comments, that no one will pry into your life. After time on the trail, you’ll meet great people who you may open up to. I met a lot of great hikers that I did share my life with.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Alyssa Chrisman : Jan 21st

    Lyla! I’m so excited to follow your journey 🙂 (and low-key jealous that you’re thru-hiking).

    I wish for all the safety and health for you <3

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Priscilla : Feb 20th

    So looking forward to following you on such an awesome adventure.

    Reply

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