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The Appalachian Trail is a different experience for each person who hikes it. For the hikers who have held and hold the record for the fastest hike, it’s a race. For those seeking enlightenment or a new life, it’s a spiritual journey. For those who are looking to escape the stress and pressures of everyday society, it’s like a vacation. For me the Appalachian Trail is an athletic performance like running a marathon or competing in an Ironman. I personally get excited by the athletic challenge that the Appalachian Trail offers me.
So, to clarify, I am not here to compete or race with anyone I am merely here for the ride. However, being a competitive athlete my entire life I can’t help but fall into the patterns I am familiar with when it comes to athleticism. Everyday when I wake up I have a quota of miles to meet before wrapping up my day, and everyday my goal is to hike those miles as fast and as hard as I can to improve my stamina and strength.
I’m kind of like Forrest Gump when it comes to physical performance- just point me in the right direction and I go (hard) until I am told to stop. I go even faster when I have someone in front of me, it’s just part of my nature.
I enjoy going fast, that’s why my trail name is “Lightning.”
Though I am thoroughly enjoying my speed hiking by myself during the day, my favorite part of this hike is the close-knit community that I have encountered- a different and refreshing change of pace from Chicago. It seems that everyone knows everyone out here. There have been several occasions when I have approached someone and before I have the chance to introduce myself, they say “you’re that girl from Chicago,” or “oh, you’re the one who flies down the trail.”
Nearly everyone I have met has been extremely friendly and hospitable, it’s cool that I get to have “real” conversations with people I don’t know (when you are the only people out there in the middle of nowhere, you share your thoughts and emotions with people you barely know).
Not only are the fellow hikers friendly, but the people in the towns are extremely welcoming. Anyone from town who finds out I am a thru-hiker is eager to assist in whichever way they can whether it be a ride into town (to resupply on food), a free load of laundry, or a piece of fresh fruit.
I am enjoying the people I meet and the friends I am making, I hope I can continue to see them out there on the trail.

In 2010, Emily “Lightning” Ginger, right, thru-hiked the A.T. alongside best friends Kate “Ringleader” Imp, left, and Brandon “Monkey.” Together the members of the “Traveling Circus” captured the peaks and valleys of trail life in a documentary called Beauty Beneath the Dirt. You can check out the film ( as well as their blog) at www.beautybeneaththedirt.com.

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