My time in New Hampshire begins. At 4800 feet high, this beauty is enough to enjoy even on the soggy days. I enjoyed a soggy and spooky Halloween hike last Friday. I decided against a summit as I realized close to the top my sweetie would enjoy this hike too. Queerly speaking, each hiker I encountered seemed confused by my gender. Theologically speaking, all saints walked along my side and I feel these are my first steps to the AT class of 2026. That will be a journey of faith for me.
Mt. Race during COVID-19
July 27-29 was my first ever multi-day trip on the AT. It was hot, my pack was heavy and water was scarce. Even still, the AT did not disappoint. I found the usual suspects: wind bringing peace and cool, animals bringing company, sweat bringing reward and random people though fewer than typical for this time of year.
The southern portion of the AT in Massachusetts proves to be the understated gem of the Berkshires. Sages Ravine (in CT, technically) ascends into a magical peak of Mt. Race. The peak/peaks being similar (though much smaller) to that/those of Knife’s Edge on Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the entire AT. Hiking on such a peak, you realize you are not simply walking on earth so much as you are moving with all of the universe, however vast it may be. As a Christian, a faith walk becomes more palpable with each bead of sweat. I wish not to explain how but simply point to my truth in this regard (at least for now). As an LGBTQ person, the gender-less-ness of the earth’s connective tissue empowers. Mystery is revealed, once again.
My heart is already longing for my next encounter with the AT. I’m thinking late August. Check out Instagram for queer gear reviews. My handle is preachersaraholla.
Near Big Bald
Last summer my father and I went to Pisgah National Forest – near Big Bald. He loved it even more than I expected; our hike was really wonderful. I believe he has been trying to get back ever since that day. We saw some amazing butterflies and sat with a simple snack. Somewhere along the relatively short hike we took, I was able to convince him to turn off the notifications on his phone. I remember it was counting his steps or something like that; it annoyed me every time it buzzed aloud. I remember asking him why he needed to know the number of steps and I attempted to remind him of the days gone by when phones did not count steps for us. I reminded him that we still enjoyed hiking before the pedometer / phone phenomenon. Despite the buzzing phone, we had a great time.
I am excited to go back to the AT this summer. I was unable to secure an entire sabbatical but I do plan to complete a good portion of the Long Trail (maybe all of it if I am lucky and plan well). We’ll see what happens.
Since my last post to qthiker.org I have been ordained in the United Church of Christ, gotten married to the love of my life, been paid in snack cakes to do stand up comedy, completed a marathon and lost one of my dearest friends. Life has been strange but the trail awaits. I know it will hold all my joy and pain. I can feel the peaceful and commanding presence of the mountains as I prepare for bed here in the greater Boston area.
Vermont’s Long Trail
For a super short queer gear review, find me on Instagram – preachersaraholla. For thoughts and more thorough review, keep reading!
On July 2nd, I was Long Trail bound. The Long Trail in Vermont is where the concept of the Appalachian Trail began years ago. Along the way, I picked up a couple of new trail names thanks to a thru-hiker I met that goes by WontGetUp. She was really rad. She first said, “I have an easy one if you don’t have one – Rev.” I explained my concept of QT (Queer Theologian) Hiker or just QT and she explained to me with all honesty and care that she simply did not see the name as something all hikers can handle. I decided her point was strong – Rev is likely more palpable for many people. I’ll save QT Hiker for those who I know can handle all of that / this. I am Rev, a Queer Theologian Hiker.
She also thought I could be called Carwash the Mystical Racoon. And just now I realized I could also spell Mystical like the rapper from the early 2000s – Mystikal. That could be fun. This one, however, was quickly vetoed by a number of other people present at Stratton Pond shelter.
Before I get into the majesty that was the AT the past few days, I figure it is time for me to qualify what it means to be a Queer Theologian Hiker.
First Queer – Yes, this word is loaded for a lot of people. However, for many young(ish) LGBTQ people it is the most inclusive way of identifying as gender variant and possibly gay or lesbian. Some queer people do not accept labels like lesbian and gay because those terms have often been pitted against other groups. It is a bummer. I identify as a queer / gender variant and gender non-conforming lesbian. In hiker speak, that means I’m the person who generally looks like she doesn’t belong in the women’s or men’s section at REI. There are A LOT of us. A LOT. I plan to try and do something about that. We should have a section, even if it was online.
Sure, queer can mean strange or odd. I hope to be queer in the absurd way – the positively absurd way. Like an abstract painting that seems off but is so noticeably perfect. Or . . . like a flying squirrel who is resilient and brave! Queer is not within the norm, it is outside the norm though sometimes hidden.
And, of course, queer, in this blog, means of the LGBTQIA+ type. No, I do not want to tell you want that means. If you have to ask, ask someone else. You would, however, likely figure it out based on context clues in this blog – so keep reading!
Okay – I hope Queer is making sense. Let me see if I can make some sense out of theologian. As a theologian, I am expected to speak some sense about God or experiences of the Divine, which I do hold to be ever present. I am a Trinitarian Christian, seeing God as revealed through Creator / parent / mother / father, Son / Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Theology is literally ‘talk about God.’
So, as the QT Hiker I take my queer experiential lens to theology which I find to be so very present on the Appalachian Trail and other trails like it! If you want to read up on Queer Theory, I suggest Judith Butler. If you want to read up on Queer Theology, I suggest Patrick Cheng. There are many others – hit up Google Scholar for more sources – they abound. If you do so, be ever aware of which voices are being honored / utilized. It affects the narrative and it matters.
As I took to Stratton Mountain this week, it became clear, once again, that God cannot be missed in the wilderness. You would think that with people like Thoreau and so many other contemplatives reminding us about the importance of the natural world we wouldn’t need to harp on this, but our earth is in trouble. It is clear that we need to be reminded of how God is made known through the trees, the air, the dirt, the rocks, the roots, the insects, the spiders, the chipmunks — ALL the members of these delicate ecosystems. Because of this fact, I’ll keep advocating for queer gear and providing reviews as I continue to seek happy trails.
Queer gear reviews
My main highlights for this review are of the Osprey Kestrel 48L pack and the REI youth L 650 fill down jacket. The pack is great – its pockets, its fits, its look, everything about it. I am not sure which gender it is ‘supposed’ to be assigned to but for us queer folx, this does not really matter. The dark red is perfectly androgynous. It doesn’t have me leave my gender identity at the trail head.
The REI youth L 650 fill down jacket was just great for the morning I woke up. To be cozy with the chill of the morning was super nice, super valuable. If you are a petite queer, you are lucky because the youth gear will be more affordable. If you are not petite, best of luck – REI (and most other companies) have not caught onto full gender inclusion. I would guess that the women’s and men’s are decent but not as good a financial deal and possibly not as queer a fit. Test out your options. Always, always, #queerit . . . In theory, the jacket would serve as a pillow. I did not find that as helpful. I will be taking my Marmot pillow next time, coming in at 1.2 oz. I believe it will be worth the weight.
My consigned Swatch Watch gets honorable mention for gear that is not usually seen as gear. It also reads as ‘queer’ in my opinion, which matters. If you don’t identify as queer and you are wearing one. . . . got ya.
Queer food mentions go to Alpine Start’s Coconut Creamer Latte. I was able to make 2 cups of coffee out of one packet and did not have to sacrifice my commitment to a more plant-based diet. Similarly, Mountain House Brand’s Pasta Primavera was just absolutely delicious. I will definitely be having that again – hopefully I’ll find a vegan one soon! If you are wondering where I get my protein . . . plants have protein. Also, the earth needs us and having a more plant-based diet is one of the simplest (and most affordable) ways to reduce your ecological footprint.
The SpotX gets an A++ for giving peace of mind. I really enjoyed being able to check in with my sweetie and mom during my adventure. Unfortunately, it did seem like the battery life was kind of poor. Only time will tell. Generally, I like it! SpotX is the two-way Spot GPS system. It could help with loneliness, to which all humans are susceptible.
Oh yeah – final review – Guthooks. It made map life way easier. You can download super specific trails for wherever you are hiking. Guthook’s Long Trail download was immensely helpful to me.
Final review – HIT THE TRAIL. Search for wisdom in the woods, be yourself and have fun.
Thanks for reading!
- Rev / QT Hiker / Carwash the Mystical Raccoon.
A Local Hike, a chosen piece of gear
I decided to run right out to Boston’s local Blue Hills Reservation today, one of the best hiking spots around this area. Goodness did I discover some beauty today! I hit up the Skyline Trail which is known to be the best to train on if one is interested in backpacking. Sure enough – I would rate the trail moderate to strenuous; closer to moderate, but some tough places. (I did not cover the entire trail today.)
Of the gear I had with me today, I wanted to make note of my favorites / noteworthy items:
Oboz Women’s Sawtooth mid-high height hiking / backpacking shoe. I call these a winning shoe all around, especially for a queer petite foot. The shoe is sturdy – I have had my pair for 3-4 years now and they are still strong. The color is for any person expressing any gender (mine are brown, a nice outdoorsy color). They are strong on the bottom, not too cushy inside and perfectly waterproof. I do not know the weight but for short backpacking trips and tough hiking they are perfect. I plan to look into lighter pair of Oboz for longer backpacking trips.
Osprey day / overnight pack – Talon 33. (I used a 2 liter Camelbak inside.) I have had this Osprey for 6 years now and it is as strong as day one. It is perfect for a day hike — especially for a partnered person who often carries more than just one person’s worth. I had extra clothes and all kinds of weird emergency stuff with me today. I do not know if Osprey still makes the Talon 33 but if they do I would highly recommend it. I also bet that for backpacking training purposes I could shove 26 lbs into the 33 liter space if I really wanted to do so. I have a red bag; it is likely meant for men but the gender police have not taken me away in 6 years so . . . . . . .
EMS techwick shirt – soooo much more affordable than the leading brands. I recommend. I love mine. I have many of different weights. These seem to be suitable with regard to a petite gender variant queer; I feel fully me in them. Try it out . . . don’t get me wrong – Patagoochie is great but this is a wallet friendly alternative for base layers.
REI traverse trekking poles (women’s – again, I have a small body but a big heart). These are great except the dark purple color. I suppose it is gender fluid enough, but I would prefer a more muted color. Like an earth tone green. For utility, they are good. I need to weigh mine for longer backpacking journeys; always, always, always keep weight in mind for long trips.
Thule trucker hat. So I look like a jackass; so what? There is an episode of Friends (sitcom from the late ’90s, early 2000s) where Joey – the pretty but dumb character – pretends he has a Porsche because a pretty young woman sees him standing next to one and she is immediately attracted. I suppose I have Joey’d myself on this one. I wish I had a Thule bike rack, I really do. The hat is practical and I messed up my Marmot full brim hat by washing and drying it. Pro tip – don’t mess up your fancy Marmot hat; you may end up making a jackass of yourself in a trucker hat. Anyway, I recommend Thule trucker hats. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the girl of your dreams while wearing one? Oh yeah, my queer friend gave it to me so ha. I’m staying strong with my Thule hat. I choose the hat.
The Dream Begins
In July of 2018, I woke up for the first time quite close to the Appalachian Trail (I had slept just off trail near Mt. Greylock). I did not know where my next 16 ounces of water was going to come from, I was tired, I had realized I knew nothing about ‘base weight,’ and I was worried. It was the best anxiety of my entire life. I should say I have biked in Boston and guided people on 3 hour canopy / zipline tours. Backpacking was better than both. As I found water that morning and approached my car on the final descent, I could not wait until my next journey. Almost 12 months later, here I am. The Queer Theologian Hiker. I should say, a queer theologian hiker (we are everywhere, after all). My trail name will be QT starting this summer when I take to the Appalachian Trail. I have a grand dream, one that I dare not type on to this page.
The morning I woke up inside my awesome Marmot tent and then first encountered another human, they did not know my gender. I am fine with that conundrum, but other people do not seem to be. We ended up having a great conversation; he was an idealistic SOBO (south bound thru-hiker). I just hold those gender variant moments with care and tact – at least as best as I am able. Since my obsession of the Appalachian Trail has developed, I have discovered that there is not enough trail writing specific for queer people. This page serves a dual purpose: 1) to be a resource for queer hikers and backpackers and 2) to offer theological reflection pertaining to my own lived experience of the Appalachian Trail. I will include reviews of gear, notes about hiking and backpacking and general reflections that relate to spirituality and my own Christian faith. I hope you enjoy some of this!
As Matt & Kim sing: “Let’s go!”
“If I have a faith that can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing.” 1st Corinthians 13:2b