There's nothing better than summiting Mt. Katahdin and knowing that you just completed the ENTIRE Appalachian Trail. Our Hiker's Highlight this week was with Kristen "Brightside" Geary, whom just crossed the finish line on July 11th! After seeing her progress and success on the trail, we had to reach out to her to find out all about her bucket list check off.
"The magnitude of the trail never scared me; the fact that the trail would be hard, rugged, and long only made me want to hike it even more." - Brightside
What made you want to start thru-hiking?
I’ve always been adventurous, and in my mind, the bigger the adventure, the better. I loved the thought of the independence I would gain on the trail since I was planning a solo hike. I was excited about the challenges I would face, both physically and mentally, hiking day in and day out for over 2000 miles. Lastly, I was intrigued by the trail community I had heard so much about, and I knew I would never understand it until I was a part of it.
Are you a solo-hiker?
I started hiking the AT by myself, but I met so many wonderful people on the trail and
ended up hiking very little of the 2190 miles alone. I hiked with 3 guys for over 1,000
miles, and it was a lot of fun to have a little “trail family” to hike with.
How did you physically and mentally prepare for your thru-hike?
My biggest physical preparation for my hike was distance running. I ran two marathons
(26.2) miles in October and November 2016, and after that I continued to do long runs so
I had good endurance when I started hiking. All the running paid off, and I was quickly
able to get comfortable hiking 15-20 miles a day. I also had some previous backpacking
experience, so I had reasonable expectations of what life would be like on the trail. I
knew it would not all be fun, and I mentally prepared myself for the difficulties I was
sure to face.
What was your biggest fear when starting to solo-hike?
I was most afraid of unpredictable illness and injury. I felt that I had what it took to
mentally complete a thru-hike, but I was worried about getting hurt and having to get off
the trail to recover. I was never worried about safety even though I started hiking alone.
What trails are you planning on hiking now that you're done with the AT?
I don’t have any plans set in stone at the moment, but I am moving to Denver, CO so the Colorado Trail is on my radar. If I have the opportunity for another long trail, I would look into the PCT or the CDT.
What nitty-gritty advice do you have for women looking to distance hike?
Know what luxury items make you happy. While on a thru-hike you can’t carry too
much, but having a luxury item or two (something you don’t need to survive) can keep you happy and comfortable on the trail. Maybe it’s an extra pair of cotton underwear to sleep in, exfoliating face wipes (these were my favorite!), leave in conditioner, or a razor to keep your under arms shaved. I shaved my legs every other week on the trail and I always felt great after doing so! Just because your out in the woods doesn’t mean you have to give up all your feminine habits. However, if you want to let go completely while in the outdoors, go for it! The great thing about being on the trail is that no one cares what you look like, how you smell, etc.
What do you do to stay in shape off of the trail?
I have been a runner since I was in middle school, and I recently got into long distance
running. I have completed 3 full marathons. I also enjoy cycling. I rode my bike across
the country Savannah, GA to Los Angeles, CA when I was 17, and since then I have
continued to ride to stay in shape.
What was your main goal when starting off on the AT?
My main goals were to enjoy each day to the fullest, to live in the moment, and to get the
most that I could out of my experience on the AT. In the middle of my hike, another goal that
came to the surface was to live by the “smiles before miles” mantra. While I was out there to hike, it was more important to keep smiling. If that meant stopping short one day, or hanging out in town for longer than I had planned, that was okay, as long as I was happy.
What was your favorite part of Virginia?
Tinker Cliffs. It was my favorite place to watch the sunset on the whole trail.
What clothing do you pack for the thru hike?
While I was packing for my thru-hike, someone told me when it comes to clothes, if you can’t wear them all at once then you have too much. However, because I started in February I had to prepare for cold weather. For hiking clothes I started with shorts, leggings, a t-shirt, and a mid-layer quarter zip. For sleeping I had a pair of fleece leggings, a long sleeve shirt, and a fleece. I also carried a North Face puffy jacket with me the entire trail. I always had two pairs of hiking socks and one pair of camp socks. I had two sports bras, and two pairs of underwear (the running shorts I hiked in had a liner so I did not always wear underwear).
A big congrats to Brightside on her epic journey on the AT. You can follow all her adventures and look back on some of her favorite AT moments here:
Instagram | Blog
A very impressed,
Back Country Momma
*All photos belong to "Brightside"*