The energetic founder of Trail Dames, a national hiking organization to empower female hikers, Anna Huthmaker is also a talented musician who runs a music store in the mountains of North Georgia. She took on the Appalachian Trail in 2003 despite her own self-doubts.
What makes the outdoors a compelling place for you to be?
The freedom I feel!! I feel so alive and so capable out on the trail. If I get sweaty, stinky and dirty…if I am out of breath from exertion……and if am sitting in a pile of leaves, I feel great because that is what being outdoors means. 🙂 Feeling nature so closely, whether it be rain or sun or even the buzzing of an insect just makes me feel totally connected to life and nature.
A place or interaction on the trail that made a major impression on you
There are a million of these! One that really hit home was when I was hiking the AT in 2003. In the beginning of my hike, I spent some time on the trail with three young men…all healthy, fit and nice as can be. As an overweight woman, I spent a lot of time back then swirling around in a cloud of “do I belong here” and “I am not good enough for this”. I broke my foot, went home for two months and ultimately returned to the trail in Virginia.
One day, I was hiking along and I ran into one of those young men. His friends had all gone home for different reasons and he was hiking alone. As we sat in a shelter having lunch together, he stopped, turned to look at me and said, “You know MudButt, you really belong out here. No matter what anyone says, you belong here. ” I have no idea what led him to think or say that, but it really rocked my world. And it made me feel so at peace with being out on the trail. If he could see that I belonged, then who was I to argue with that. 🙂 🙂 I will always be grateful to him for that.
A memorable challenge you dealt with on a hike
I pushed and I struggled and I hurt and I bled……but there came a time when it just wasn’t enough. Doing things really does come down to engaging the mind, spirit and body. Realizing that my body couldn’t keep up its end of the bargain was a serious blow. It was a lesson that came steeped in shame, fear, frustration and anger. But when it was all said and done, I learned to respect my body, and to go a little easier on myself. I ended up stronger for the lesson learned.
How you’ve helped other women to get outdoors
While I was out on the trail, I never saw any women that looked like me!! As proud as I would that a twenty-something young man would think that I belonged, it did not change the fact that a woman like me was an anomaly. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of me. 🙂 🙂 But when it comes to hiking and the outdoors, there is nothing that particularly makes me special. I think the only reason that I was out there hiking is that I just thought I could. If that is the case, then I decided to tell other women that they could as well. Several years after my hike, I started Trail Dames, a hiking club for women of a curvy nature. That was seven years ago, and since then, we have grown to ten chapters and over 3,000 members. We have a national conference for women in the outdoors and a non-profit foundation, and it is our goal to make every woman feel welcome on the trail. 🙂 If you are wondering what it is like to enjoy nature and dance your way up a trail, come join us!! We would love to have you!