My name is Ryan, and in 2016 I hiked 1700 miles of the Appalachian Trial from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, to Killington, Vermont. At this time, the majority of posts on this site chronicle that adventure. You may hear me refer to myself as “Dirty Girl” within some of the entries. This is the trail name I was given by my friend Monica “Flo-Mo” during my first 100 miles on the AT. Check the “Hiker Slang” page for more information.
In October of 2015 I found out I was being laid off from my first real career job. My boss gingerly broke the news on the same morning that my wife was moving out our apartment, in preparation for our coming divorce. As you might imagine, this was a very tense and uncertain time in my life. I was already an avid weekend warrior backpacker, and daydreamed about the AT often. I’d read blogs like this one over lunch, and devoured hours of YouTube on the subject of long distance hiking.
In every difficulty, there are opportunities as well. Being laid off granted me both a substantial severance check, and a newly cleared schedule. Separating from my wife forced me to stop blaming others, turn my attention inward, and start taking responsibility for my life. Hiking the AT gave me the space to start the difficult work of building a new life after these two shifts.
Today I am ever grateful those two events came to pass. I have a bit of reverence for the chaos that lead me to the simplicity of long distance hiking. While I did not actually finish hiking the whole trail in 2016, the affects of those 133 days have been far-reaching. I’ve become a more confident and peaceful person. I’ve found community and a better sense of identity.
My ex-wife and I still talk. She’s remarried now, and we are both much happier. It’s a blessing when two can grow together, but often people need to part to find their truth. We were among the latter. As for my former career in valves, I’ve applied those lessons forward into new endeavors. My boss is still a great mentor, and I am happy to call him a friend.
My intent going forward is to share my 2019 thru-hike, again on the Appalachian Trail. I’m looking forward to the new lessons it has to teach, and the peace of being “home.” Please feel free to follow along, and as always, be kind to yourselves.
-Ryan (Dirty Girl)