Top Five/Bottom Five (summer edition)

Top Five/Bottom Five

It’s July and I’ve been on my NOBO trek since the last day of February.

So far, coming to the halfway point of the A.T. has been a much more challenging endeavor than I had ever expected. Physically, mentally, and even socially. It’s also been extremely rewarding and fun.

Let’s go over my top five and bottom five things that are most and least enjoyable about the trail (as of mile 1525).


1. The Trail Family

It is a huge game changer to have people you can always turn to when things start feeling low, as well as being there for new friends. The trail family has changed the hiking game for me. The term often heard amongst our trail fam is Popping the Top. Letting loose, or literally taking your shirt off for a long mile or super hot day. Once the weather started getting over 80 every day, I started embracing the Popping the Top mentality. Literally, dipping into water without a top when possible and making big mile days as a personal challenge.

2. Meeting people again after 350 miles.

Although some people are around day after day, there are some that you only see once a month. It’s another wonderful aspect of the trail to be able to recognize someone after weeks apart, and to check in with their story. Something about reconnecting with the kindred spirits is reviving to our souls.

3. Trail Magic!

The generosity, kindness, friendliness, and culture of people involved in this hiking community have astonished me day after day. The old and the new. Any amount of trail magic left in a cooler on trail brings a smile to a hiker’s face. Anyone who comes out to spend time with us and opens up conversation reminds us of the support we have.

4. The Trail Community (trail family part 2).

If there is a fire pit, someone will build a fire. If there is an instrument, someone will play it. If you are lonely, an old friend may appear to give you a hug. Reaching out to anyone you have met on trail is a good way to connect with the community the trail provides. I’d also like to include the natural community of animals and wildlife. The flora and fauna bring me joy daily.

5. Sleep!

A good night’s sleep is hard to come by these days, considering all the loud snoring near shelters, the slope of the ground under most tent spots, the shared space and lack of silence or total darkness. Finding a good night of sleep can be costly, so getting a good night of sleep is a true top five item.


1. Wet shoes

The issues caused by wet socks in wet shoes compound throughout the day (blisters, chafing, moisture).. if it is raining, those soggy steppers will have to keep stepping. Since you have to take care of your feet for top performance, this means either trying to bypass the rain or making shorter miles. Putting shoes on is already my least favorite thing to do, and when they are wet, the misery compounds.

2. The Hot Baking Sun you can feel by stepping out of the shade

The bright light pouring through the trees as you walk also produces an interesting effect on the eyes much like strobe lights. It’s the sunlight that you can feel scalding your skin, and leeching the hydration from you in sheets of sweat. The feeling is completely draining and the peak of discomfort.

3. Turtle Shell Rocks

Walking with intention ALL DAY is exhausting. It’s easy to feel constrained by time and pressured to get through the rocks as if it were an easy dirt path, but plenty of people end up hurting themselves with this mentality. I’ve had to come to terms with slowing down on the rocks and being cautious of each rock I step on, and still have to contend with the rocks shaped like turtles.

4. Social Anxiety, ironically

As a natural introvert and weirdo, it’s easy to connect with people on this trail but it also can induce a lot of awkward behavior due to the solitude of hiking compounded with meeting new people every day. Thankfully, the trail has been teaching me a lot about patience, identity, confidence, and that everyone is out here doing the same thing.

5. Soggy clothes

If you aren’t soaked from rain, you’re probably drenched in sweat. The change in weather brings a change in… well, everything. All bug spray is washed off and you can’t touch anything. Forget about sunscreen staying on. The weather has been over 90 for several days,, and each new day in New York has been extremely challenging because of the heat in addition to the terrain becoming more difficult. All my hiking clothes need to be replaced, since they were primed for winter and spring, and now I’m learning that they aren’t working for summer. But being soggy can’t be all that bad, since taking a dip in a creek or lake is another option, and although the rainy days are tough, they are beautiful.

It’s best to realize the bads aren’t that bad, and the goods make it so worth it. Let me know what you think of these top and bottom fives. Do you relate? What else is on your hiking list of top or least favorites?

Find me on instagram and youtube @Amara.Gardner to follow my hiking journey!

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Comments 2

  • Ron Torres : Jul 13th

    Thank you for putting your thoughts to paper (or electronically). Been dreaming for a while and hoping I can get healthy enough one day. Living vicariously through blogs. Keep it up.


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