What It Means to Be the Finnisher

“What’s your name?”
Oh, he must be really serious, thought Goose.
“Where are you from?”

How I Became Finnisher

In 2015 I was studying to become a ballet teacher. As much as I was enjoying my studies I was exhausted. I was exhausted by the sheer amount of people bustling around. What I desperately needed was some peace and quiet, to be alone.

I had recently seen the movie Into the Wild. The film portraying Christopher McCandless’ eccentric adventures and ultimately his death in starvation in Alaska. It had pushed on a movement within me, this urge to leave it all behind. To be honest, I had always wanted to disappear. An escapist, you might say. A romantic – true as well.

Then one day I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a black and white photo of an elderly lady holding a sack on her shoulder. It was a post from the Mighty Girl page – one sharing empowering stories of remarkable females. I started to read the story and I learned about Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

I was astonished. This little old lady had hiked a trail that was 3500 km (2200 mi) long. What is this thing? Is this something that people actually do? Down through the rabbit hole I went, into nights of endless Googling, until one sleepless night laying in my bed I made a decision: I’m going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

Dancing has been an essential part of my life and is now also a profession. (Photo courtesy of Terhi Töyry)

Fast Forward to the Great Smoky Mountains

This was where I first met Goose and her girlfriend Andies. During our first discussion they had thought that I was horribly serious about finishing the trail (perhaps I was), until they found out that I was really from Finland – therefore literally Finnish. The trail name Finnisher was given me by a former thru-hiker, who was doing trail magic near the Georgia and North Carolina state line. He thought it would help me to finish the trail.

I carried my trail name with pride, all the way to the summit of Mount Katahdin. And down along the Knife’s Edge. When I had successfully finished thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I felt so ready to return to the society. But underneath was still that movement within me. That restlessness, that longing for freedom only long-distance hiking can fulfil.

Russel Field Shelter in the Smokies – that’s where the discussion about my trail name happened.

When You Grow Stronger, Hike Longer

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017 changed me in ways I did not expect. For most of my adult life, I’ve had a “nothing to lose” attitude towards life. I’ve learned that life can end any day and we must chase our dreams now. Nevertheless, the AT gave me more strength to trust my voice and more courage to reach for things I thought were impossible. I also regained the faith in benevolence and learned to trust the “kindness of strangers” as Blanche says in the Streetcar Named Desire.

After finishing the trail, I already knew I was going to attempt to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail as well. It was not the question of “if,” but “when.” And now the time has come. I am in the situation in my life where it’s possible for me to leave for six months and I have had the time to save the money. The worldwide pandemic is also hopefully starting to fade away or at least international travel is possible.

If everything goes as planned, in April I will set my foot on the Pacific Crest Trail and start hiking towards Canada. I hope to be able to share that journey with all of you – whether you have hiked the trail, are planning to do it or just want to enjoy the views along with me. On the AT I was able to live up to my name and I wish to repeat that on the PCT.

Finnisher has finished – and now he is trying to do it again on the PCT.

Featured image courtesy of Dimitri Lisitsyn.

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Comments 5

  • DaddyLonglegs : Feb 15th

    Hey Now Finnisher!
    Hiked the AT some with you (and Goose, Andes, Hodge Podge,etc) in 2017. Will be thru-hiking the PCT beginning in late April’22 as well. Hope to see you out there!
    Happy Trails!

    • Finnisher : Feb 15th

      Daddy Longlegs!
      I remember you well! How lovely to have a fellow AT hiker on the PCT at the same time. I will be starting early April, but you might catch me anyway. I’m so excited about the possibility to see a familiar face!

  • Bill Jensen : Feb 15th


    I’m pumped to see you doing the PCT and blogging about it. I will meet you for a beer in Cascade Locks if I’m in town. I’m doing the TransAmerica Bike Route this summer (4218 miles) starting in mid-May or so. Not sure how long it will take, but now I have a good reason to get back to Oregon. Happy Trails!

    77 (the year I did the PCT)

    • Finnisher : Feb 18th

      Hi 77!
      I’m happy to hear that you are as excited as I am! Wow, that sounds like some serious pedalling for you. I really wish to get to see you while I’m on the trail. I will email you my US phone number, when I get one.


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