Trail Correspondents: S4 Episode #6 | The Social Experience

Welcome back to Trail Correspondents! This is episode 6: the social experience.

This episode isn’t just about the “tramily” most hikers will invariably and organically find themselves a part of – it’s about the trail angels, the people who give you rides to town, the clerks at the grocery stores, the attendants at gas stations and so on. 

When you’re on trail, you’re on a mission and its gravity is palpable. People see you with your pack and assign you a special special status. It feels like being an important member of a close knit community.

Life on trail is edifying, nourishing, validating, and to be honest, a little addicting. 

Today we hear about how our correspondents are getting along with those they’ve met on trail in addition to the wider world enveloping them and though this episode does sadly see us saying goodbye to another contributor, all the stories contained within have a similar undertone of conscious appreciation of how the presence of those sharing in this rarefied experience we call thru hiking is one of the most enriching parts of the entire endeavor. 

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In today’s episode we hear from:

Abbey Turnbull
Harking from the South Coast of the UK, Abbey, aged 26, is swapping the rolling hills of the South Downs for the mountains of the Pacific Crest. A thru-hike of the JMT last year confirmed what she thought to be true – hiking from Mexico to Canada was her destiny for 2023. Loves good food and wine, Taylor Swift, American hospitality, and mountain vistas. Hates steep downhill slopes, her own unfortunate susceptibility to altitude sickness, and oatmeal.

Abbigale (Abby) Evans
Abby Evans (she/they) has a hankering to shave their head and hike the AT and now they will get to do both! They will be fulfilling their vagabond-dirtbag-poet dreams and aspire to one day become a creative writing professor. They’ll be listening to seventies folk music and reflecting on their life as they wander through all the states they grew up in: they were born in Maryland, grew up in New Jersey and went to college at Virginia Tech. Abby is excited for this Bildungsroman and hopes to celebrate their 23rd birthday (August 24) near Maine.

Aly Pagano
Aly is local to the southern Appalachians in western North Carolina. She has spent her life hiking, trail running, fishing, foraging, and farming; she aspires to increase her own knowledge and awareness of traditional Appalachian folk medicine, music, and skills as in an effort to live harmoniously with the mountains around her. With a degree in Ecology, Aly focuses on seasonal changes, flora, and fauna while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Iris Hartshorn
A queer Alaskan, Iris, aka Panther, strives to build adventure into their life. The last years have been filled with world travel, skiing, packrafting, hiking, backpacking, vanlife, and epic trips across Alaska. This year’s highlight is to walk from Mexico to Canada. Or, at least, just to keep walking somewhere.

David Firari
David “Good Soup” is excited to be sharing their northbound Appalachian Trail with you! This is their first ever backpacking trip and they hope all the reading and shakedown hikes they did pay off. In addition to being a novice backpacker, Good Soup is also managing a schedule of recurring medical treatments back home in Wisconsin in order to make this trip happen.

Derek Witteman
Derek is a 37 years young Northern California native, presently thriving in San Antonio, Texas. In no particular order he is a physician, veteran, hiker, nerd, and jokester. In his free time he enjoys taking selfies with wildlife, and thinking of spirit animals the represent his current mood.

Eddie Arriola
Eddie is a travel PTA, physical therapist assistant, who’s been dreaming of the PCT for four years. In his spare time he enjoys photography, karaoke, and has other eclectic hobbies. He’s originally from southern Arizona, Tucson, and is excited to get back to his primary partner and dogs after the trail.

Elke Pabst
Elke comes from Germany and wants to thruhike the AT with her dog Tilli. It is her first stay in the USA und doesn t hiking before. She has 3 nearly grown up sons and a husband who take care of everything while she is hiking with her 9 year old dog Tilli.

Emily Russo Miller
Dreaming of being on trail is Emily’s favorite pastime. A 37-year-old journalist from Juneau, Alaska, she risked it all a few years ago (left her job, sold all her belongings and moved to the Lower 48) in pursuit of something new and beautiful. She found it in thru-hiking and hasn’t looked back since. You may know her as “Bear Spray Girl” from her LASH on the AT in 2021, or “Legs” from her PCT thru in 2022.

Jake Landgraf
Jake is currently on the AT attempting his first thru-hike. A proud Wisconsin resident, he enjoys beer, the outdoors, and the Green Bay Packers. On trail, Jake is known as “Radioface” and is obsessed with cosmic brownies. Follow Jake on his own, daily podcast at

Mary Garcia
Mary is a boring woman who likes to make various things, especially her hiking gear. She also has problems completing a thru hike. She did half the PCT in 2017 and a month on the CDT in 2022.

Summer has had an adventurous spirit since she was young, having spent her most of her childhood traveling around the world with her family. She’s been dreaming of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail since 2020, when she moved to Oregon and fell in love with the mountains of the PNW. While it’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting year for the PCT, she’s excited to see whatever the trail has in store.


Check out Appalachian Trials and Pacific Crest Trials.

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