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July 28, 2023

Lane Rosen

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What I Learned on the Appalachian Trail as an LGBTQ Hiker



July 28, 2023
Lane Rosen

lane-rosenLane Rosen (they/them) is a Point Foundation alum who recently hiked 628 miles for two and a half months along the Appalachian Trail. In this blog, they’ll answer some FAQs and share their insight on taking on the famous trail as an LGBTQ person.

Is the Appalachian Trail a difficult hike?

I had this grand idea of breezing through the trail at a speedy pace, but reality hit hard after I forced myself to go ten miles on the first day. My second day I was so wiped out that I couldn’t even manage three miles. Walking on the trail was nothing like strolling on a sidewalk. I quickly realized that taking breaks was crucial for walking longer distances. With rest, proper nutrition, hydration, and a better understanding of my abilities, I eventually found my stride. By the time I finished hiking I was doing 20-mile days in eight to ten hours with only a lunch break! Sometimes I would even jog on the downhills because apparently, I had a strong desire to fall on my face. You just have to remember it’s all about starting at a walk, not a run.

Is it safe to walk the Appalachian Trail alone?

Even though I embarked on this trail solo, I was rarely alone. Unexpectedly, I found myself surrounded by other hikers most of the time (with a surprising lack of solitude for listening to the podcasts and audiobooks I had downloaded). Together, we formed great teams, splitting tasks and lightening the load. Folks who were traveling as couples shared gear, and groups divided the planning work—it made everything easier. This lesson translates to real life too. Having a support system to share life and burdens is crucial for success.

As a queer hiker, I faced unique challenges. Meeting new people every day meant repeatedly deciding whether or not to come out. Hanging out with an older age group often meant educating my peers on LGBTQ matters. The trail community is incredibly supportive (mostly with food), but more awareness of diversity, equity, and the need for inclusion would be great.

 

If you’ve decided to take the journey, here’s some advice on a couple of important practical matters:

You can sleep on the Appalachian Trail, but it’s very important to know your limits. One morning on the trail, my friends and I woke up to a camp completely covered in ice. Everything, including my shoes, was frozen solid. I remember saying something along the lines of “I don’t care if I have to sleep in someone’s garage, I’ll pay $1,000, just get me off of this damn mountain.” Thoughts of helicopter rescues raced through my mind as we faced freezing temperatures, icy terrain, sleep deprivation, and a ten-mile hike to safety. My limit had been reached. Thankfully, a hotel bed, an Olive Garden, and a valuable lesson about what never to do again awaited me.

Wash your hands. There isn’t a moral or emotional lesson behind this, it’s just a reminder. Wash your hands. It's challenging when you're out in the woods every day, but hand sanitizer can only do so much and norovirus is … well, I prefer not to dwell on that particular misery. I beg of you, wash your hands.

What is the biggest lesson you took from your adventure?

I set out to conquer the 2,198.4-mile hike from Georgia to Maine, but circumstances (Norovirus? Food poisoning? Who’s to say?) stopped me in Southern Virginia. Initially, I felt like a failure for not achieving my goal. However, I realized that hiking 628 miles was no small feat. I had transformed from a non-hiker to someone who embraced the trail life, accomplished personal goals, and found fulfillment. I reframed my journey as a section hike, celebrating the miles I had achieved. Success comes in various forms, and it's okay to adjust your goals along the way.



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