Hiking the Appalachian Trail | Interview with an AT Thru Hiker

Thru hiking the Appalachian Trail |
One Woman's Journey

Published on: November 8, 2020

In 2018, Audrey thru hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Her trail name was "Glowstick" and she tracked her adventures on her blog and on her IG account @audipayne

How did you get into hiking?

I grew up out in the country, in the forest in Western New York, and my parents were very much into hiking, camping, and all things outdoors. I've been hiking before I could walk - it was always part of our family culture.

Why did you decide to thru-hike the AT?

I had read "A Walk in the Woods" for the first time while I was dealing with a debilitating back injury. I've always been a very active person, and that injury took away my ability to be.

I was smitten by Bill Bryson's description of the southern forests and of the AT in general, and I promised myself that if I was ever well enough to do so, I would thru-hike the AT.

That day came at a time when I was itching to move on from Washington, D.C., and luckily for me, I had a friend ready and willing to do it with me.

How long did it take to complete the AT?

181 days - just shy of six months

woman at the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine with trek poles raised in the air in victory amidst clouds and fog

How did you train for your thru-hike?

I did not train, though once on the trail I wished I had. I was active beforehand, but a harsh winter made it harder to get out hiking as much as I would have liked in the months before getting on trail. Instead, I walked everywhere, did yoga, swam laps, and occasionally hiked leading up. I will have a much more intense training program leading up to my next thru!

Do you have any tips for first time thru-hikers or any recommended preparations/reading?

Yes! Train beforehand, with your backpack. Getting your body used to the weight of the pack beforehand will go a long way in helping you get through those first few weeks. Also, buy the lightest gear you can afford. Marching up and over mountains all day every day will be easier with less weight!

Describe one of your most memorable hiking moments of all time.

This is tough - I've had so many! But when I was in college, I studied abroad to Madagascar for a semester. I lived in a rainforest at a research center, studying rainforest ecology and primate behavior.

One day, when I was off hiking in the forest, I came across a family of Milne-Edwards' sifakas, which are a type of lemur. They're incredible jumpers/ climbers, and quickly took off through the trees.  One stayed behind, however, to check me out. I stood on the trail watching as he leaned out from the tree as far as he could, looking straight into my eyes. It was incredible.

If you had only one word to capture what you love most about hiking, what would it be?


woman enjoys vista views during midday on the Appalachian Trail overlooking lakes from bald mountain tops

What are your essential non-essentials for the trail?

My favorite trail dinner is this fancy ramen called Indomie, and I take it on most of my backpacking trips! I also eat a lot of sugar when I'm out there - I can never have too many Welch's gummies! I also can't function without coffee so I always bring that along.

Do you have any favorite gear?  What is it, and why?

Of course! I can't pick just one - I am so attached to my hiking gear! I'd be dead by now without my Black Diamond trekking poles - they've saved me from falling so many times. I love my Oboz sawtooth lows (hiking boots) and Darned Tough socks - I got one blister on the entire Appalachian Trail.

And, I just got a new lightweight sleeping bag that I am obsessed with (the Western Mountaineering ultralite) - it's under two pounds, super warm, and it feels like I'm sleeping in a cloud!

What hike is on your bucket list?

The Pacific Crest Trail. I can't stop thinking about it. I'd also love to thru-hike the Colorado Trail sometime.

Is there anything you would like to share that we haven't talked about?

If you are dreaming of a thru-hike, find a way to do it. It's an incredible experience - it's hard to describe how meaningful it is, but despite being dirt poor and having to apply for jobs and deal with a move across the country while dealing with post-trail depression, I could never in a million years regret it.

My AT thru-hike is hands down the thing I am most proud of. I still tear up thinking about how incredible it was.

Make it happen!

Thank you so much Audrey for letting me share a piece of your story here.

woman hiker with backpack hugging a tree with large diameter in a forest - tree appears to be pine with its bark

two hikers on a mountain top at sunset high fiving each other silhoutted against the purple, peach, and yellow sky

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