One day, while driving together to do a story about the Appalachian Trail, Suzannah -- my delightful, intelligent girlfriend -- spoke to me in code.
First, she looked all around my small car to make sure no one was listening, although we were alone. She lowered her voice and gave me the dreaded "we need to talk" look. I was scared.
Then, she spoke:
Me, nervously, not having a clue what to expect: "What, honey?"
Suzannah: "What do women do when they ... when they ... you know ... on the trail?"
Of course I had no idea what she meant. As with most guys, she finally had to speak louder, move her arms, draw pictures and use words no longer than two syllables for me to "get it."
"How do women hiking the Appalachian Trail deal with having their periods?"
There are two kinds of people in this world:
As a member of Group 2, I had absolutely no idea how to answer that question.
Perhaps that will provide some insight into how happy I was when I read Megan "Hashbrown" Maxwell's blog, Appalachian Trail Girl.
Megan wisely posted the answers to this quandry, as originally written by guest blogger, Emily "Yellow Tail" Flynn -- a 2012 AT Thru-Hiker, student midwife and Childbirth Educator in training. (Those, friends, are worthy credentials.)
With the explicit written and verbal assent from Hashbrown and Yellow Tail, we happily present to you the article originally posted at Appalachian Trail Girl.
One more thing.
There are times when writers are territorial and unwilling to allow their material to be shared. Emily and Megan idealize writers who want to help hikers navigate the Appalachian Trail happily, safely and fearlessly.
AppalachianTrail.com is in their debt.
Here's the original story from AppalachianTrailGirl.com:
Here is something that's often asked from one outdoorsy chick to another outdoorsy chick, but which isn't often addressed openly: What the heck do you do when you're out in the backcountry and you have your period?
It's not fun, let's just be clear. It's hard enough to float through 3-7 days of cramping and paranoia about the back of your pants getting stained, now add: only possessing one pair of pants/one skirt at any given time, not showering for 7+ days at a time, seeing a flush toilet maybe every 5 days, worrying about Leave No Trace rules, having to conserve water, and being surrounded primarily by men for 6 months straight. Yeah, menstruating just took on a whole new level of nuisance.
Well, luckily, there are some interesting alternatives to the typical "feminine products" (oh how I despise all the terms for period aids) that offer some health and environmental perks on and off the trail. It may seem like some weird, hippie stuff, but many women report having more comfort and protection from the alternatives than traditional products, even while at home.
It's important to talk a little about Leave No Trace (LNT) when discussing having your period in the backcountry. I was totally unaware of most of the LNT principles on my first few hiking trips and had the great misfortune of having to learn how to pee outside AND deal with my period while deep in the Big Sur backcountry for 4 days. I've since been properly schooled on pack in, pack out, and keeping proper hygiene while maintaining trail etiquette.
Like any new gear, it's a good idea to test out the product before relying on it in the wilderness. Give your Diva Cup or sponge or whatever a whirl for a month or two before setting off with it for a backcountry adventure.
Emily thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012 and started off as a solo hiker. She is a birth and postpartum doula, student midwife, and Childbirth Educator in training. Originally from Philadelphia, she is in the process of moving to Durango, CO. She has written about legal issues, women's rights, birth options, and female adventures for various online and print sources. She kept a blog of her journeys along the AT called "Lincoln Logs and Barbies." You can read more of Yellow Tail's journey at www.eflynnand2000miles.tumblr.com.
This past year I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. In 2011 I graduated from the Ohio State University with a BA in English. My first section hike was a solo trip in 2010. I had no idea what I was doing, but I've been addicted to the trail ever since. I created this blog with the hopes that I can inspire other women to hit the trail and have confidence in their hiking and camping abilities. If you have any suggestions or comments, let me know. If you wish to be a contributor, email me with you ideas. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again to Megan, Emily and Suzannah.
Tags: Tourism, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Gear, Camping Gear, and US Forest Service
The valiant search for Gerry Largay continues on and around the Appalachian Trail in Maine.