Note from Jill: Misti/Ridley is not only an AT thru-hiker, but she's also a Florida Trail (FT) thru-hiker. When I first visited her site, I tore through the updates from both hikes. I've always been curious about the FT and I loved seeing her pictures. And check out this FAQ post on the FT - so great! I also love that she and her husband hiked both trails together. Hiking a trail with a partner is both tough and amazing - I have a lot of respect for couples who find the joy in it and go back for more. Take it away, Ridley!
Ridley---March 13-August 11, 2010
2. Where did you start your hike?
Amicalola Falls State Park and the Approach Trail
3. Where did you finish your hike?
4. Did you start with a group/partner or solo?
I started with my husband, Panther.
Waking up somewhere new every day. The smells---oh man, the smells of the woods, they changed as we walked north. The little bits of beauty we'd find even if were bone tired---flowers, dew on the leaves, misty mornings, the sounds of the birds or even complete silence.
6. What’s the worst thing about hiking?
Wet shoes, walking in unrelenting rain, and the inevitable last mile of the day, which seems like it is five miles instead of only one.
7. Describe your best day on the trail
I think hiking up Katahdin was one of my best days on the trail, maybe *the* best day. We left Katahdin Stream at 2am, the earliest we were allowed to hike up the mountain, and hiked up the mountain in the dark. Coming around those first rocks above treeline in the dark is breathtaking and frightening all at once. It was a clear night but in the distance we saw clouds which freaked us out a bit, not knowing if they were storm clouds. We arrived at The Sign about twenty minutes before sunrise, but there were tinges of light already. It was pretty damn awesome to have the summit to ourselves for several hours, really not seeing anyone else until we descended mid-morning and were just below treeline. Of course the crappy part of that day was trying to hitch out of the park; we waited three long hours for a ride.
I don't know if there was necessarily a hardest day---there were hard moments and hard portions of days. Several moments stick out, climbing up Sassafras Mountain the second day on the trail was eye-opening, a chilly rain in June while hiking through Pennsylvania---there was nowhere to stop for lunch until we came across a small bridge that we huddled under hoping for the rain to stop. It never did and we slept there like hobos with two of our friends for the night. Another hard moment was hiking up the bare Gap. We'd just met a friend in town for lunch at McDonald's and had a full, greasy belly; the humidity and heat from the day was overbearing. We were nearly to the top when a t-storm came up on us and it began to rain. With the heat I thought I was going to pass out. The rain cooled us off and we continued on down the trail after, but it was not a fun moment.
9. Did you ever feel like quitting your hike?
Yes. We had to get off trail for five days to attend the funeral of my baby niece. Being home was exactly what I needed as I had been going through a bout of homesickness and I think this trip home helped me later on in the hike, but it was incredibly difficult to go back to the trail after seeing the anguish of my brother and sister in law. Hiking seemed so frivolous right then.
We lived in Florida before hiking the AT so we hiked on flat trails. It might have helped our endurance on some level and to prepare for wearing a pack and using our gear, but nothing can prepare you for hiking up and down and around mountains every day for five months other than hiking up and down mountains for five months.
11. Do you stay in contact with your trail friends?
Yes, as much as I can. Mostly through Facebook, some through email.
12. Would you attempt another long distance hike?
We did do another long distance hike six months post-AT, we hiked the 1,100 miles Florida Trail. We haven't done another trail since then, but our long-long distance trails are probably on hold for awhile. I'd like to do shorter distance long trails in the meantime.
13. Would you thru-hike the AT again?
Yes, probably when I'm older. Part of me wants to do it southbound but another part of me wants to experience the rush of the group heading north again.
14. Do you have any advice for the next class of thru-hikers?
It's all mental. Barring no injuries or bad illness, the mind is what you need to conquer. Take it one day at a time. There will be down days, accept them and battle through. Don't give up, the reward for accomplishing your goal feels awesome!