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Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail

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Despite her success setting a self-supported Fastest Known Time record on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, Heather “Anish” Anderson still had such deep-seated insecurities that she became convinced her feat had been a fluke. So two years later she set out again, this time hiking through mud, rocks, and mountain blazes to crush her constant self-doubt and seek the true sour Despite her success setting a self-supported Fastest Known Time record on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, Heather “Anish” Anderson still had such deep-seated insecurities that she became convinced her feat had been a fluke. So two years later she set out again, this time hiking through mud, rocks, and mountain blazes to crush her constant self-doubt and seek the true source of her strength and purpose. The 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, did not make it easy. Anderson struggled with its infamous rain, humidity, insects, and steep grades for 54 days. But because she had to fight for every step, she knew when she reached the summit of Springer Mountain, the AT’s southern terminus, that she had fully earned the trail. Of greater value, she learned to love herself and her body, and to feel the depth of her power. Examining emotional scars as well as her relationship with her mother, Anderson’s deeply internal yet highly physical journey in Mud, Rocks, Blazes is an essential story.


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Despite her success setting a self-supported Fastest Known Time record on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, Heather “Anish” Anderson still had such deep-seated insecurities that she became convinced her feat had been a fluke. So two years later she set out again, this time hiking through mud, rocks, and mountain blazes to crush her constant self-doubt and seek the true sour Despite her success setting a self-supported Fastest Known Time record on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, Heather “Anish” Anderson still had such deep-seated insecurities that she became convinced her feat had been a fluke. So two years later she set out again, this time hiking through mud, rocks, and mountain blazes to crush her constant self-doubt and seek the true source of her strength and purpose. The 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, did not make it easy. Anderson struggled with its infamous rain, humidity, insects, and steep grades for 54 days. But because she had to fight for every step, she knew when she reached the summit of Springer Mountain, the AT’s southern terminus, that she had fully earned the trail. Of greater value, she learned to love herself and her body, and to feel the depth of her power. Examining emotional scars as well as her relationship with her mother, Anderson’s deeply internal yet highly physical journey in Mud, Rocks, Blazes is an essential story.

30 review for Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    So excited for this book! Thirst might just be my favorite trail account I've read, and I can't wait to go on another journey with Anish. So excited for this book! Thirst might just be my favorite trail account I've read, and I can't wait to go on another journey with Anish.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amy Moritz

    In another time and place, Heather Anish Anderson and I could be BFFs. At least that's what I'd like to think. I've followed her for some time, including having read her previous book. And while I'm not setting records or thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, let alone the host of others she has done, her draw to hiking, to the outdoors, to writing, all resonate with me. As does her struggle with self-doubt, the internalized conversations that we have with ourselves about our perceived shortcomings In another time and place, Heather Anish Anderson and I could be BFFs. At least that's what I'd like to think. I've followed her for some time, including having read her previous book. And while I'm not setting records or thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, let alone the host of others she has done, her draw to hiking, to the outdoors, to writing, all resonate with me. As does her struggle with self-doubt, the internalized conversations that we have with ourselves about our perceived shortcomings. In this book, I enjoyed her writing about the trail and her attempt to set the self supported Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail. It was clear that one of her motivations was to prove that her record on the Pacific Crest Trail wasn't a fluke. But there was something deeper. I kept waiting to hear more about it. Kept waiting. Kept waiting. And then it came. And it was so close to home for me. Right down to her pushing herself physically as her mom recovered from a stroke. While my mom didn't recover from lung cancer, there were many times when I pushing myself to do an ultra or a marathon thinking about her pain and how this didn't even compare. "The deepest scars were not the ones inflicted by others. They were from the wounds I inflicted on myself. These cuts came each time I had told myself I failed. That I wasn't good enough. That I was ugly, fat, worthless, incapable." "My strength, stubbornness, and my courage to face every fear -- except those within me." Wow. I haven't hiked the AT or PCT to open up and sit with those demons, but I've done my own work and it is HARD and I just want to say, I see you, Heather. And I feel seen, as well. And this line BROKE ME OPEN: "I missed my parents more than I had in 2003. I missed how healthy they used to be." And then, quite frankly, the entire end of Chapter 14.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    This was a “road trip listen” during our 47-hour drive around the country, and I realized that I have read/listened to enough Appalachian Trail books. They are all, basically, the same: food fantasies, crying/discouragement with bad weather, wrestling with wanting to quit, finding surprising strength that you didn’t know you had, and gutting out a finish. In this one, the author was also trying to get a Fastest Known Time, or FKT. The book was written well-enough, and I will say that the author This was a “road trip listen” during our 47-hour drive around the country, and I realized that I have read/listened to enough Appalachian Trail books. They are all, basically, the same: food fantasies, crying/discouragement with bad weather, wrestling with wanting to quit, finding surprising strength that you didn’t know you had, and gutting out a finish. In this one, the author was also trying to get a Fastest Known Time, or FKT. The book was written well-enough, and I will say that the author did a good job of getting the reader inside her head. It’s just that inside this particular writer’s head is not a very interesting place for me to be. It’s full of stress, worry, self-doubt, and other unpleasant things. It reminds me too much of being inside my own head at endurance races. Why would anyone want to hang out there? I don’t, and therefore, no more AT books for me unless they promise something really unusual. (Like a thru-hiker with a sense of humor, for example.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Gibble

    I had previously read Thirst and looked forward to this new book by Heather Anderson. I must admit that, at times, this book was difficult to read. Anderson's relating of her journey is one in which she is ripped open at the soul, baring her vulnerability and the difficulty of the task at hand. I can relate to her endeavor and the correlation between success and self-worth. It is a subject that often seems cast aside, yet Anderson puts it on the table to address. Because of all the various FKT a I had previously read Thirst and looked forward to this new book by Heather Anderson. I must admit that, at times, this book was difficult to read. Anderson's relating of her journey is one in which she is ripped open at the soul, baring her vulnerability and the difficulty of the task at hand. I can relate to her endeavor and the correlation between success and self-worth. It is a subject that often seems cast aside, yet Anderson puts it on the table to address. Because of all the various FKT attempts over the years I wasn't sure how the book would end, causing me to want to finish it, but afraid to finish it if the outcome was not what she desired. I've enjoyed following her endeavors over the years through social media. However, in this book, and her first one, I get a truer understanding of whom she is at the heart. This makes the book valuable to me and sets it apart from other thru-hiker accounts of long trails.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Beautifully written. Heather Anderson covers the beauty and inner turmoil of these journeys so well. Similar to her first memoir, "Thirst," I felt distinctly uncomfortable while reading the book. I think for me, her inward journey is just a little too familiar, and the subject matter hits a little too close to home. Anderson puts herself through a depth of suffering and I often find myself asking "to what end? To prove that you're worthy? Of what? What does a speed record accomplish in the end, Beautifully written. Heather Anderson covers the beauty and inner turmoil of these journeys so well. Similar to her first memoir, "Thirst," I felt distinctly uncomfortable while reading the book. I think for me, her inward journey is just a little too familiar, and the subject matter hits a little too close to home. Anderson puts herself through a depth of suffering and I often find myself asking "to what end? To prove that you're worthy? Of what? What does a speed record accomplish in the end, for anyone, including yourself?" Those who know me will see irony in my asking of these questions. So I appreciate this book for both Anderson's lovely perspective, and for her blunt honesty that caused me to ask myself some difficult questions.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Drew Boswell

    Hikers who write are many. Hikers who write well are more rare. Heather "Anish" Anderson is the latter. She deserves to be read, not because of who she is or what she has accomplished on trail, but for her ability to create prose that reads like poetry. I barely began reading "Mud, Rocks, Blazes" the day I bought it and immediately found Chapter One more than worth the cover price, bringing literal goosebumps. In just three short pages Heather evokes the transformative power of willing suffering Hikers who write are many. Hikers who write well are more rare. Heather "Anish" Anderson is the latter. She deserves to be read, not because of who she is or what she has accomplished on trail, but for her ability to create prose that reads like poetry. I barely began reading "Mud, Rocks, Blazes" the day I bought it and immediately found Chapter One more than worth the cover price, bringing literal goosebumps. In just three short pages Heather evokes the transformative power of willing suffering, a topic of great interest to me personally. This is a powerful, deeply personal story by someone who is turning out to be an impressive wordsmith. Forget the hiker; celebrate the writer. Read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I loved Heather’s first book about her PCT record, so reading this one about the AT record felt a little closer to home. There were so many places I recognized, so much that felt familiar, but I will never take for granted the ability I’ve had to enjoy each section and take my time as I go. Setting a record is a mind blowing feat of endurance that few will ever attempt. It’s a souls searching, body crushing, intense endeavor that leaves the reader aching in muscles and bones, imagining the sting I loved Heather’s first book about her PCT record, so reading this one about the AT record felt a little closer to home. There were so many places I recognized, so much that felt familiar, but I will never take for granted the ability I’ve had to enjoy each section and take my time as I go. Setting a record is a mind blowing feat of endurance that few will ever attempt. It’s a souls searching, body crushing, intense endeavor that leaves the reader aching in muscles and bones, imagining the sting of bad weather and a strong desire to quit. There are lessons on acceptance, on listening to that little voice inside, on pushing through pain and self imposed limits. This book is raw and beautiful, and I really want to take a quiet hike with her one day.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim Kuhne

    Heather Anderson is known for her Fastest Known Times on multiple long trails in the US. She is also an excellent writer! This is her second book and details her FKT effort on the Appalachian Trail. As she herself said in her book release event, the journey became NOT about the record, but her own self discoveries. Yes, this has a lot of hiking. Yes, you feel her pain and her struggles to reach her goal. Yes, non-hikers will appreciate the lengths some will go thru to test their limits and learn Heather Anderson is known for her Fastest Known Times on multiple long trails in the US. She is also an excellent writer! This is her second book and details her FKT effort on the Appalachian Trail. As she herself said in her book release event, the journey became NOT about the record, but her own self discoveries. Yes, this has a lot of hiking. Yes, you feel her pain and her struggles to reach her goal. Yes, non-hikers will appreciate the lengths some will go thru to test their limits and learn about their best, true selves. I flew thru the book, as if it was me trying to set the FKT!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Suslowitz

    Heather Anderson did not disappoint at all with her second book. As a matter of fact, I found it to be simply amazing! I read the entire book in a 24 hr period, hanging on every word. Her literary skills had me feeling her emotions and physical fatigue and pain right along with her. I cried with her, screamed with her and claimed victory with her on Springer Mountain. Anish, Please don’t ever stop writing - I will read every word!! You have given me permission to recognize myself as being enough Heather Anderson did not disappoint at all with her second book. As a matter of fact, I found it to be simply amazing! I read the entire book in a 24 hr period, hanging on every word. Her literary skills had me feeling her emotions and physical fatigue and pain right along with her. I cried with her, screamed with her and claimed victory with her on Springer Mountain. Anish, Please don’t ever stop writing - I will read every word!! You have given me permission to recognize myself as being enough and to demand the very best I have to offer myself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Weis

    Heather "Anish" Anderson is an inspiration. To every woman who grew up thinking that she wasn't enough: not athletic enough, not talented enough, not strong enough. Her stubborn determination takes the reader on a journey full of struggle and spits you out the other side. On top of all that, her writing is beautiful, and her anecdotes of trail magic and the angels she meets along the way are lovely reminders that the trail will always provide. Heather "Anish" Anderson is an inspiration. To every woman who grew up thinking that she wasn't enough: not athletic enough, not talented enough, not strong enough. Her stubborn determination takes the reader on a journey full of struggle and spits you out the other side. On top of all that, her writing is beautiful, and her anecdotes of trail magic and the angels she meets along the way are lovely reminders that the trail will always provide.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book was engaging, inspiring, and horrifying. Half of the time I was like "you go girl!" and half the time I was like "😱 just go home, why are you putting yourself through this?!?". I really appreciate that this book was fast paced and not repetitive. Through hiking is by nature a little boring. You wake up and walk all day every day. This book manages to make it all seem exciting. I'm not about that life, but it sure is fun to read about it! I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book was engaging, inspiring, and horrifying. Half of the time I was like "you go girl!" and half the time I was like "😱 just go home, why are you putting yourself through this?!?". I really appreciate that this book was fast paced and not repetitive. Through hiking is by nature a little boring. You wake up and walk all day every day. This book manages to make it all seem exciting. I'm not about that life, but it sure is fun to read about it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Johanna Garton

    A lyrical and inspiring narrative from one of America's finest thru hikers. A follow up to her memoir, Thirst, Heather Anderson takes readers on another compelling ride, this one along the beautiful Appalachian Trail. Holding nothing back, we're treated to the anguish and joys of a woman in search of meaning, validation and ultimately, love. A lyrical and inspiring narrative from one of America's finest thru hikers. A follow up to her memoir, Thirst, Heather Anderson takes readers on another compelling ride, this one along the beautiful Appalachian Trail. Holding nothing back, we're treated to the anguish and joys of a woman in search of meaning, validation and ultimately, love.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kimberlee (reading.wanderwoman)

    What a perfect adventure book/memoir. It was just what I needed and now I need to go buy her book Thirst! Anish brings us through her personal journey of trying to set the record for shortest time hiking the AT. As well as her personal journey to truly finding herself. I can't even begin to fathom the exhaustion and perseverance it must have taken to hike 40-50 miles A DAY. I devoured and loved every moment of this book. Thank you Anish for being so vulnerable and for sharing and taking us with y What a perfect adventure book/memoir. It was just what I needed and now I need to go buy her book Thirst! Anish brings us through her personal journey of trying to set the record for shortest time hiking the AT. As well as her personal journey to truly finding herself. I can't even begin to fathom the exhaustion and perseverance it must have taken to hike 40-50 miles A DAY. I devoured and loved every moment of this book. Thank you Anish for being so vulnerable and for sharing and taking us with you on this incredible journey with us. I felt as if I was right there next to you. I'm also still trying to figure out how one eats ice cream so fast.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Mezoff

    I enjoyed this book a great deal. I had read Heather's first book, Thirst, and was excited to find her second book about her AT FKT. Though any long distance hiking book is interesting from a hiking perspective, but this book was much deeper than most hiking journey books. Heather shares her journey inside as she dug deeper and deeper as she attempted another FKT (Fastest Known Time). I enjoyed this book a great deal. I had read Heather's first book, Thirst, and was excited to find her second book about her AT FKT. Though any long distance hiking book is interesting from a hiking perspective, but this book was much deeper than most hiking journey books. Heather shares her journey inside as she dug deeper and deeper as she attempted another FKT (Fastest Known Time).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    What a journey I am so glad Heather\Anish shared her story and her heart with us. I am amazed at her strength, stamina, and her resolve to accomplish so many good and amazing achievements. Bravo, Anish.

  16. 4 out of 5

    William Cottrell

    This is a good book for anyone to read. Heather covers this experience in a way that's better than I could have imagined. I do not have what she has. I hope that I do for a week or two some day on a trail I've yet to see. This is a good book for anyone to read. Heather covers this experience in a way that's better than I could have imagined. I do not have what she has. I hope that I do for a week or two some day on a trail I've yet to see.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    A beautiful book by one of my favorite authors! This book dives deeper into the internal struggles of going through a monumental athletic achievement. A page-turner and great follow-on to her first book, "Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home." A beautiful book by one of my favorite authors! This book dives deeper into the internal struggles of going through a monumental athletic achievement. A page-turner and great follow-on to her first book, "Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Estes

    Although I’ve never hiked the AT or the PCT, I feel like a small part of me has because I’ve gotten to walk with Anish in her books. I loved this book and thoroughly enjoyed following Anish’s trek on the AT and through her own mental and emotional struggles. I highly recommend this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    Incredible Anderson has written a powerful and incredible book about her transformative trek on the Appalachian Trail. It became much more than a hike, but a soul affirming race against her deepest fears and feelings of inadequacy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    "Anish" is seeking to set a fastest known time record for a self-supporting record on the Appalachian Trail. Heather's doubt about herself as a successful hiker and a person gnaws at her. By overcoming hardships, Heather comes to accept and love herself. "Anish" is seeking to set a fastest known time record for a self-supporting record on the Appalachian Trail. Heather's doubt about herself as a successful hiker and a person gnaws at her. By overcoming hardships, Heather comes to accept and love herself.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janae Welling

    I loved everything about this book!! An authentic look at life, and the journey toward fulfillment and happiness. The descriptions and writing are vivid and I felt like a VIP guest on this inspiring adventure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jodi Harstrom

    Another great thru hiking story from Anish. THIRST was the first book of hers I read. Both highly recommend for anyone interested in backpacking or challenging yourself in any way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Neilson

    I loved this book so much. So inspiring. The author has true grit. I also recommend her other book Thirst.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lori Gollobit

    Great writer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aimee E

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. You’re bravery and willingness to be vulnerable is an inspiration.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meg Dagon

    Liked it even more than “Thirst.” Moved along at a good pace, with lots of internal development. Anish is inspiring!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin Farmer

    This is a beautifully written account of Heather’s FKT attempt on the Appalachian trail. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on the trail, she describes it so well that you will think you have.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Wow, just wow! The human body can conquer some freakin amazing things when the soul is determined. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This woman is amazing, and I absolutely love her books!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Korra

    Great story! You can broaden your audience by publishing your story on Novel Star Mobile App.

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