Meet The Chief Hiking Officer
Kristen Musselman is an avid backpacker, trail runner, adventurer, and overall nature enthusiast. Growing up nearby the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, Kristen learned to hike and camp at a young age, but it wasn’t until a trip to Big Bend National Park while studying at the University of Virginia that she became serious in her pursuits to get outside. After college and a brief sojourn to India, Kristen moved to southwest Colorado to become a wilderness therapy field guide in the Rocky Mountains and canyons of Utah. There, she led backpacking survival expeditions as a member of a therapeutic treatment team, ultimately discovering her own passion for guiding others in the belief that the wilderness changes lives.
Kristen seems to spend 99% of her free time hiking, camping, and talking about getting outside. When you see her on the trail, ask her what she’s reading, give her a tip for your area, and let her pet your beautiful dog.
The Journey Begins
I didn’t find any peaches, but I did find friendship in Hammer, Sue, Juliet, Uncle Aldo, and comfort in the camaraderie of many countless faces on the trail. Georgia is a state of beginnings, where the trail to Springer Mountain guides thousands of fresh-faced hikers along their first steps of a daunting, tremendous, 2190-mile dream. At Springer Mountain the energy is buzzing with anticipation. When I finally approached the very first white blaze of this iconic sojourn, I was surprised by my own grief that this year will not be the year to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Not yet. My journey will be circuitous, serpentine, handmade, but this year it will not be a thru-hike.
In Georgia I didn’t know what I was doing. Finding a place to sleep each night felt like the biggest feat of the whole trek. I arrived outside Savannah, for instance, after a three hour drive only to learn that tent sites would not be offered in the surrounding area due to COVID. Another night bright-eyed and bushy tailed I came to Cumberland Island National Seashore expecting to walk onto a ferry I should have booked weeks in advance. Trail magic would slip me a ticket nonetheless. Trail magic arrived again and again: a bottle of wine with strangers now friends, a late-night entry to a park when I should have been turned away, friendships where I wasn’t expecting.
I drove North to South, East, and back North, from Cloudland Canyon to Providence, to Cumberland Island and the start of the AT. Georgia taught me to plan well and expect change, to make home wherever I go. Onward to North Carolina!