An interview with author and hiker, Christine Reed
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa
For some, fear dictates every facet of life. It can represent the unknown, the unbearable, and uncomfortable. We are afraid of embarrassment, failure, and insecurity to name a few things and as a result we may live cautiously, tiptoeing around untold truths and challenges. Author of the book Alone Wonderland and avid hiker, Christine Reed begs to differ. She encourages us to not only own up to our fears but embrace them entirely, hell even thoroughly researching them.
It sounds a bit like playing with fire but it’s the kind of courage that has traversed Reed through not only life’s grief and malaise, but the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains and the Pacific North West’s famed Wonderland trail. For the latest on the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with Reed about facing your fears and finding yourself in the face of life’s adversities.
For someone who’s written a book about her trail adventures, Reed didn’t get into hiking until after college. Other than some “pretty miserable” hiking dates, her first experiences with hiking were quite unpleasant in the humid hot air of Arkansas, where she attended college in Little Rock. But it wasn’t until happening upon a blog about the Appalachian Trail that she decided to give the outdoors one last chance.
Sure, the views are amazing, but Reed was wanting something deeper from the experience, she was looking for personal redemption.
“I saw this an opportunity to prove the past wrong,” Reed explains. “I had had really bad experiences with day hiking, and I felt a lot of shame about my body--like a failure of sorts…I saw the Appalachian Trail as an opportunity to devote myself fully to the challenge.”
The Appalachian Trail is a six-month journey, a far more strenuous trek than a casual day hike. It’s not only a physical journey but a mental and deeply personal one as well.
“It seemed like a lot of people went on the trail because they were searching for something within themselves,” Reed says. “I had just graduated from college and was feeling a little lost in terms of knowing where my life was headed. And I thought maybe this could be like my epic coming of age journey.”
Reed readied herself mentally, physically, and financially for the next year in preparation for the trek. She even moved to Yosemite National Park working the gift shop there as she hiked the trails for practice. Finally, in March of 2015, Reed began her long journey on the Appalachian. But not only four days in disaster struck; Reed’s mother had passed away.
“I was pulled off the trail and went to her memorial service,” she laments. Reed took some time to heal but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she still needed to do what she had set out to do.
“I decided to just go out and hike for a while and see what I see. If I can get the experience that I was looking for then maybe going to Maine isn’t the only thing that’s important here,” Reed recalls.
In the end, Reed spent 70 days on the trail, hiking from Georgia to Virginia as she dealt with the loss of her mother. The rest of the time she had set aside for the trail she spent at home with her father which was a bit of a blessing; not often do we give ourselves enough time to grieve. The months dedicated to Reed’s physical journey were now being used on an equally challenging emotional one.
After dealing with the loss of her mother and processing her grief in the solitude of nature, Reed found the return of normal life a bit stifling. She lived in Denver for a few years trying to climb the corporate ladder but felt quite unenthused by the grind. So, in Spring of 2018 Reed decided to live in a van for a year and a half where she made her way to Mount Rainier in Washington and traveled the Wonderland Trail solo.
By now Reed had come a long way in her personal existential journey. From a person who was once intimidated by her own failings at hiking, to a strong woman who dealt with her grief while walking in the rugged Appalachians, and then conquered the 93-mile trek across Mount Rainier. Fear had once been a thing that intimidated her, now it guided Reed to her next formidable challenge. After embracing fear, she began to see the beauty in life and living without regret.
On the topic of fear Reed is blunt and to the point.
“A big part of fear is that a lot of it is not even our own. It’s the fear that’s put on us by others,” she says. “The first step is to name your fears…and understand that fear is normal and totally healthy and that is doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you love.”
In a reflective moment, Reed recalls the beautiful sight of the meadows of Mount Rainier in full bloom, like a spectacular rainbow of flowers. It’s a sight that Reed would have never seen if she had never dared to take that first step out into the trails all those years ago.
Often in life, the things we want the most are the things worth fighting for; Reed’s story is no different.
“I could go to Planet Fitness and lift heavy weights, but is that inspiring to me? No. You know, I want to see the wildflowers and I want to put my feet in the glacial river; I want to touch places that I had to work hard to get to. There's something beautiful about seeing parts of the world that other people aren't seeing.”
No matter where on Earth Christine Reed is there is one thing for sure; she certainly had to fight hard for her view. Such is the way to live our lives.
For Christine Reed’s full story, check out her book Alone in Wonderland which is available on her personal website, as well as Bookshop and Indie Bound. You can also follow Christine along on her travels via her Instagram @ruggedoutdoorswoman. Lastly, be sure to catch her full interview including more details on her beautiful solo hike along the Wonderland Trail on the Life in Motion podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify with Jeremy Lux.