Trail Butter Pro Heather 'Anish' Anderson is an endurance athlete with a love of hiking, climbing mountains and running really far. Heather just released a book documenting her 2015 Appalachian Trail self-supported FKT called Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail (published by Mountaineers Books). Learn more about Heather's incredible journey in her own words below and follow us on Instagram for a chance to win a copy of her new book!
In 2015 I thru-hiked the 2,189 mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia...in 54 days! I was self-supported, carrying all my gear and walking into towns to pick up my resupplies that I'd mailed to myself. In this picture I'm on the high point of Maine and the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It's a 5 mile mostly 3rd class ascent to even get to this starting point! A good introduction to what lay ahead....
The Appalachian Trail is mostly mud and rocks. There's a lot of class three scrambling to be done, especially in the northern portions of the trail (looking at you Maine and New Hampshire). I thru-hiked the AT in 2003 when I was only 21 years old...and having done almost no prior backpacking or hiking. It was a steep (literally) learning curve! But I fell in love with it. So much so that I went on to hike other trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail. But nothing compares to the mossy, ancient spine of the Eastern US.
In 2015, I re-hiked the AT for a lot of reasons. But the reason I set out to do an FKT on it was because I wanted to know if my FKT on the Pacific Crest Trail two years prior had been a fluke. I didn't know the term at the time, but imposter syndrome is prevalent among high achievers...especially women. And women athletes are no exception. The wonderful thing about trails is the way they take you back to your very primitive self: food, shelter, sleep are paramount. And in this space there is time to really begin to understand yourself more clearly. I think this is why I always have the best ideas in the middle of a run...and somehow manage to forget them by the time I get out of the shower!
Here I am at the end of the hike...successful in my attempt to hike the AT faster than any other self-supported person. (It would be two years before the mark was lowered). The things I loved most about this hike were how hard I had to push myself and how every day was a success in and of itself. There's a distinct level of focus and presence that pursuing an overwhelming goal brings into your life. When coupled with the beauty of nature it's the most transcendent of experiences. In addition to being a grand adventure, this FKT was really a time of self-reflection. Those 54 days were so incredible, I wrote a book about them. Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail (published by Mountaineers Books) was just released and I'm thrilled to be able to share this story with the world.