Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Appalachian Trail Community

Written by: Emily Ginger

The Appalachian Trail is a different experience for each person who hikes it. For the hikers who have held and hold the record for the fastest hike, it's a race. For those seeking enlightenment or a new life, it's a spiritual journey. For those who are looking to escape the stress and pressures of everyday society, it's like a vacation. For me the Appalachian Trail is an athletic performance like running a marathon or competing in an Ironman. I personally get excited by the athletic challenge that the Appalachian Trail offers me. So, to clarify, I am not here to compete or race with anyone I am merely here for the ride. However, being a competitive athlete my entire life I can't help but fall into the patterns I am familiar with when it comes to athleticism. Everyday when I wake up I have a quota of miles to meet before wrapping up my day, and everyday my goal is to hike those miles as fast and as hard as I can to improve my stamina and strength. I'm kind of like Forrest Gump when it comes to physical performance- just point me in the right direction and I go (hard) until I am told to stop. I go even faster when I have someone in front of me, it's just part of my nature. I enjoy going fast, that's why my trail name is "Lightning."

Though I am thoroughly enjoying my speed hiking by myself during the day, my favorite part of this hike is the close-knit community that I have encountered- a different and refreshing change of pace from Chicago. It seems that everyone knows everyone out here. There have been several occasions when I have approached someone and before I have the chance to introduce myself, they say "you're that girl from Chicago," or "oh, you're the one who flies down the trail." Nearly everyone I have met has been extremely friendly and hospitable, it's cool that I get to have "real" conversations with people I don't know (when you are the only people out there in the middle of nowhere, you share your thoughts and emotions with people you barely know). Not only are the fellow hikers friendly, but the people in the towns are extremely welcoming. Anyone from town who finds out I am a thru-hiker is eager to assist in whichever way they can whether it be a ride into town (to resupply on food), a free load of laundry, or a piece of fresh fruit. I am enjoying the people I meet and the friends I am making, I hope I can continue to see them out there on the trail.


  1. these are just some of the rewards of the entire experience! enjoy them! i for serious am so proud of you guys!

  2. I know you were born this way. When you were four years old, you taught yourself to ride a two wheel bicycle, blow bubbles with your gum, and snap your fingers, all within a week. You worked at anything physical until you had it down and could do it better than everyone else! Too bad your sister isn't out there with you. You could have competed against each other, as you always do!!!! Keep hiking the good hike!

  3. Go Emily! We are cheering for you. I told my whole fam and everybody at my office about how far you have hiked already. Jake says don't get scurvy.


  4. That sounds just like you Emily. How many miles have you gone now?

    Do you know about the hornet's nest you stirred up on WhiteBlaze.net on Saturday, March 20?

    Those folks entered no fewer than 140 posts in response to your post just before this one.

    Some of the 140 were sensible. They thought before they typed. Too many, however, didn't.

    Some, for example, claimed -- over and over -- that you were insulting southerners. That's because they took Brandon's comment about a thick southern accent completely out of context, attributed it to you, and then played the resentful victim.

    Never mind that Brandon's whole point was that people in GA have been much more considerate than people in Philadelphia and NYC. Never mind that you too commented on the hospitable reception you got in GA. No ... they had to pick, fault-find and play the helpless victim. Or maybe they just don't bother to read and are mostly concerned to rattle off their own unfounded opinions.

    One resorted to the name-calling route of all child-like people, saying that you're all three "overeducated" ... whatever that means. Maybe I should infer that being educated is a liability in his or her circles and that ignorance is preferred. If so, I'd like to remain as far apart as possible from such attitudes.

    Another was even more petty, picking out the fact that Kate attended law school at UIUC and claiming that admissions there are as crooked as two IL governors that the commenter says are in prison. That, presumably, is an indictment of you, or of Kate or of all of you.

    In fact: (1) Kate isn't you; (2) admissions, which never should be skewed for any purpose, were skewed for a very few people relative to the student body as a whole; and (3) insofar as they were skewed, it was for undergraduate admissions, not for the law school or for other schools. Oh ... and while we in IL do have deplorable levels of political corruption, there is at the moment just one former governor imprisoned. But factual errors aside, how any of that related to your blog comments or your hike is beyond me ... way beyond me ... way out in the stratosphere in fact.

    Maybe you get the picture of the many people with apparently little constructive purpose who like to gang up on others at the slightest provocation. I would have hoped that most people on WhiteBlaze.net are more thoughtful. But it looks like I'm wrong.

    For those interested in the idle carping, click here:


  5. don't forget to let yourself breathe and take in what you're flying by. i have to remind myself of that, especially when i'm going hard and fast uphill. notice how water delves it's route, become a birder, make yourself slow down for just 20 minutes. how often do you get to take trips like this in a lifetime (well, hopefully a lot), don't miss anything!

    Sooo jealous.


  6. While I'm glad you've come to this conclusion, it seems a far cry from your assertion earlier that the AT community is comprised mostly of men with a "frat boy" mentality who don't respect women... a change of heart for the better, that's for sure, given the extreme silliness of that earlier post.

  7. Regarding Old Man's comment, a lot of that thread was pretty stupid. I would hope, though, that Emily would take the constructive criticism from it (ie, bring a tent at all times, don't make your hike into a race in which you need to prove yourself to people, don't generalize the entire AT hiking community, etc) to heart. Because while a lot of the folks on whiteblaze were out of line, that last post Emily made about "putting the men in their place" was also somewhat out of line.

  8. This is to Kaye who has left comments on this blog several times so far. Why are you so scolding? You are the one that is generalizing about Emily. You don't know her personally. Emily's post, which obviously got your knickers in a twist, was clearly between Emily and several very specific men, and one in particular, that she felt was not very welcoming. This had nothing to do with you or were you there? In my experience, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Emily detected a "frat boy" mentality from those guys. As a woman, I know I have many times in my lifetime. Besides, it's her call, as she is the person who experienced it and she has the human right to perceive and respond to things in any way she chooses. I'm glad she "put them in their place" by showing them that she is strong, competent, and capable of hiking on that trail. Also, Emily doesn't need "constructive criticism" from me, you or anybody else about hiking the trail. This is her hike and she can feel or say or do anything she likes. She can hike with or without a tent, she can hike fast or slow, she can hike in her bare feet or on her hands or backwards even. I don't understand why you care. Don't read her blog if her hiking decisions are so "out of line".

  9. Gingers, don't read my comments if they get YOUR knickers in a twist. Emily and the others hiking in her group opened this blog up, posted links on multiple other sites, ASKED for feedback and ASKED what others thought would happen on their hike. If they don't want comments, they can shut them off. Her original post regarding this topic generalized the AT community said, "the thru-hiking community is predominantly composed of men, many of whom neglect to show me respect and aknowledge that I exist." She did not cite "several very specific men." Since you weren't out there either, don't assume - It has nothing to do with YOU either. You're right, it is her call to turn the hike into a race and generalize the "thru-hiking community," as SHE put it, as a bunch of frat boys. It's MY call to say that to do such is out of line. Why do you care? Again, you're right - she can hike her hike however she wants. But if she is going to put blatantly inflammatory things on the freaking Internet for God sakes, then post links to the blog on other Web sites and SOLICIT comments, I would assume she can handle a few points of constructive criticism. Apparently, though, you can't.

  10. I loved hearing your stories on the phone today Emily. I hear the excitement and happiness in the tone of your voice. I am very envious of the experience you are having. I want to hear more about the new friends you have made and more about the wonderful people you have met. As dad and I have always said, most people in the world are good and lovely people. It's your hike and I know you are hiking it your own way and on your own terms. Enjoy!

  11. For a group that has sponsors and was making a film you are certainly the quietest bunch out there. Where is all that marketing savvy you had when you started? I hope it is going well for you. Weather is improving all up and down the East Coast.

  12. According to white blaze we aren't quiet at all. Video clips and photos will be on the blog shortly. Only delay there is due to technology.

    We're loving every minute of the experience, and hope to share as much as we can with our viewers as we go along....

  13. Mom and Dad,

    Thank you for your comments (Dad you had me laughing)! I can't believe that my last post created such a stir. Those who know me well interpreted it appropriately and perceived my personality. I know Erin laughed when she read that I wanted to pass all the men on the trail, in high school I lifted my 215 lb theology teacher on my shoulder and spun him around in circles. I like that I am strong and can physically keep up with men. You know this, my siblings know this, etc. My family and friends know that I try not to take life "too seriously," and therefore they understood that I was by no means trying to put anyone down in my post, I was merely expressing my observations in an unpretentious way. We live, we learn, we love, and everyone in their own way. I'm enjoying every bit of my experience out here. Thank you for your support!