Panic? I Don’t Recommend it.

Meet Panic.

Hi, I’m Lauren. Allow me to actually introduce myself! I’m a 31-year-old backpacker who goes by Panic on-trail. When I’m off-trail, I’m a community-focused small business owner and regional outdoor leader living in eastern Massachusetts. I live with my boyfriend, Tarzan, and our sassy and sweet, gray tortie kitty named Mimi. In 2018, I quit my corporate job in pursuit of true work-life balance in a society that wasn’t set up to reward those who seek it. An unusual choice for a successful 26-year-old however, I don’t regret my path.

I’ve been hiking and camping in New England since I was in middle school but only picked up backpacking when Tarzan left for the AT in 2018. 

Here’s the obligatory list of my accomplishments:

  • 2022 Long Trail NOBO end to ender
  • 2020 Monadnock Sunapee Greenway end to ender
  • 47/48 NH 48 4Ks – Need Owl’s Head.
  • 13/52 WAV NH
  • 52/67 NE 4Ks (ME peaks and Owl’s Head left!)
  • 45/90 miles on MA’s Midstate Trail
  • 128/230 miles on the Bay Circuit Trail
  • Sections of the Appalachian Trail in VA, PA, CT, NY, MA, and NH.

The Origin of Panic

I started backpacking about the same time and called myself “Sluggy.” Believe me, I know how cringe naming myself was. I was a noob and had a horrible propensity to self-deprecate. I felt it was necessary for my mental health and the need to control the public’s perception of me to let everyone know that I was slow before they could make a judgment on their own. It was easy to feel like I did not belong and that I’d never keep up especially being overweight and fairly seriously asthmatic.

Judgement and Fear

Not only was I slow but I also was afraid to sleep outside, had minimal outdoor backcountry experience, didn’t understand the importance of salt and electrolytes, and fought all gear that seemed to be trendy instead of trying to see what the fuss was all about (I rejected injinji sock liners for a year, even calling them stupid once.) Even with all of my self-doubt, fear, and inexperience, I somehow remained determined to make space for myself in the backpacking world.

The Fitting Moniker

I received the name Panic on a SOBO section hike of the AT in Massachusetts with my trail sister April. I had been panicking about logistics, worrying about bears, among a plethora of other things. She finally turned around to me as we were crossing some really mucky trail and told me flat out, “You’re Panic.” and she wasn’t wrong! I just about died laughing. It wasn’t meant to be an insult, just straight up the truth and with love. Panic. It described exactly how I was moving through life. Everything fear-driven, it was the PERFECT moniker. I immediately adopted it. I had no idea how much meaning on trail and off it would hold in my life. It’s become a mission in some regards, transcending in meaning as time passes on and off the trail. 

Embracing Panic

Since 2018, I’ve been able to face my fears more directly than at any other point in my life. I learned to prioritize myself and dug deep to discover what fills my cup without fear of judgement from others. Through therapy I tackled my imposter syndrome that affected my work and my personal relationships. I faced my fears and learned not to PANIC—at least not nearly as much. I looked for ways to lift others up with me, especially women! More opportunities came my way and I became an ambassador and leader for a women’s hiking group. (Which I later started my own regional set of groups when my values no longer aligned with the original international group that does not support trans women.) I began taking more and longer backpacking trips with the experienced and inexperienced.

The Long Trail pt. 1 – Heartbreaking Lessons on Fear

Within a year, inspired by Tarzan’s successful feat of the AT, I set out to hike the Long Trail in 2019 solo and failed. I saw the mileage (273) and thought wow, piece of cake. Unbeknownst to me, I had signed up for one of the hardest long trails mile for mile in America. It was a miracle I made the 104 miles to Killington. I just wasn’t ready. It was heartbreaking and a lesson in fear and I learned I’m my very worst critic. In truth, most of us are.

Intermission on the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway 

In 2020, my plans were sacked for the Long Trail, but a new friend from my women’s hiking group got me to take five days on the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. It took everything I had and we gave it all! 

The Long Trail pt. 2 – Lessons on Patience and Humbleness

In 2021, I wasn’t going to let COVID push off my LT end to end plans any further. Tarzan was on board this time and we set off together from the beginning again. Getting to VT RT-140 was emotional, it was the first place I got off trail in 2019 in the rain. I was sick to my stomach about going further.

After a lot of time sitting on that guardrail, I swallowed my fear and got to walking. We made it as far as Burnt Rock Mountain and my dreams of end to ending were shattered again. This time by a simple slip on a benign rock. I was so dead set on getting to Montclair Glen that I wasn’t listening to my body. Fear took over and I wasn’t being careful. I broke my dominant wrist. Luckily, we had a great tramily and the trail provided as we were able to safely self-rescue. Ultimately, it was yet another lesson in fear learned…

The Long Trail pt. 3 – The Transformational End to End

By the time we hit trail last year, I was still anxious to see how the trip would go. We were travelling with our buddy Sketchy who we met last year, so it was off to a good start! I had learned so many lessons in the previous four years—immersing myself in trail culture and I repeated my favorites to myself every day. They helped me to address whatever fear or challenge I had in front of me. 

  • If you’re scared, you’re stuck
  • All you have to do is walk today!
  • Put it in your belly
  • You’re closer now than you’ve ever been before
  • Hikers gonna hike
  • The trail provides

The name Panic became a reminder of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned about myself.

I learned not to sweat the small things. Eventually, all of this intense work I had been putting in was finally paying off both physically and mentally. Our 2022 end to end took a whole week longer than expected, but we did it! It’s the highlight of my life and I can’t get enough.


The Northville Placid Trail 2023—Why I’m Actually Blogging on The Trek! 

I haven’t done much hiking in NY state, nothing of significant length and certainly not upstate in the Adirondacks. After being so beat down by the Long Trail and finally completing it in 2022, it was time to try something new. Naturally, I marked off the Northville Placid Trail. Half the length and not nearly as strenuous in elevation gain and loss as the LT. Instead of janky mountains, it’ll be mud, blowdowns, and bugs. Most of which I’d encountered over the years in my many attempts of the LT—how bad could it be?

This blog is going to consist of trail updates during my time on the NPT. So, I guess we’ll find out how well my mind’s eye imagined this trail! Because frankly, it’s pretty blurry and varied right now. Looking forward to keeping you all updated and I’ll certainly try not to panic. Hope you’ll follow along!

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