#71 | Sarah Jones Decker on Appalachian Trail Shelters


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In today's episode of Backpacker Radio, presented by The Trek, we are joined by Sarah Jones Decker, author of the new gorgeous photobook "The Appalachian Trail: Backcountry Shelters, Lean-tos, and Huts". We learn what goes into a project as massive as doing a photo essay of all of the AT's shelters, Sarah's personal favorites, the history of these structures, which have the best privies, and much more. Sarah is also the co-owner of Root Bottom Farms, an organic farm based in North Carolina, and we selfishly pick her brain on how to suck less as plants.

We close out the show with a triple crown of things that start with "W", a pupdate, some suggestions for using trail runners on rocky terrain, and another edition of Backcountry Matchmaking.


00:03:00 - Sarah’s Backpacking Resume

00:04:00 - Sarah has hiked the AT twice!

00:05:15 - Differences on the AT in 2008 vs. 2018-2019?

00:07:37 - What was your inspiration to thru-hike the AT?

00:08:25 - Are thru-hikers now the same as when you were 16?

00:08:50 - What is your educational background?

00:10:37 - Give us the intro to your AT Shelters book!

00:13:00 - Have you always been into history?

00:14:00 - How did you document while hiking?

00:14:38 - What are the most inconvenient shelters to get to?

00:18:40 - Is breastfeeding ever an issue on trail?

00:19:30 - When did the initial shelter book idea come to you?

00:20:00 - Did you fall into any type of routine?

00:21:00 - Additional contributors

00:23:00 - Elevator Pitch of AT shelters

00:26:34 - How many shelters can you get pizza delivered to?

00:31:00 - Camera Gear Setup

00:32:55 - What’s your favorite shelter?

00:37:47 - What’s the most underrated shelter?

00:40:00 - Double Shelters

00:45:00 - What shelter has the most history?

00:47:00 - What is it like to release a book during a pandemic?

00:48:00 - How many events did you have to cancel?

00:49:15 - What is the oldest shelter?

00:54:09 - What’s the biggest shelter?

00:54:54 - Which shelter has the best view?

00:57:00 - Conflicting Information

00:58:50 - Best Privy on the AT?

01:07:20 - One shelter you wouldn’t sleep in?01:11:57 - What shelter has the best water source?

01:14:33 - What is the Priest shelter?

01:15:03 - Top tips for trail shelter etiquette

01:17:27 - The Shelter Graveyard

01:18:20 - The Only Shelter That Was Ever Stolen

01:19:20 - Tips for people who want to pitch a book to the ATC?

01:30:12 - Someone had a baby in her house and lied about it

01:33:18 - What tips do you have for starting photographers?

01:36:30 - You are a mom?

01:37:50 - Carrying a baby

01:39:54 - How does hiking change with a child?

01:41:38 - What about Falling with a baby?

01:43:17 - Advice for hiking with a baby?

01:45:17 - How do you manage diapers while hiking?

01:46:29 - Tell us about your poster of 444 different AT signs?

01:47:35 - The AT poster

01:50:25 - Can we talk about gardening? Introduction to Rootbottom Farm.

01:54:20 - What’s killing our plants??

01:56:30 - Tricks for a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

02:01:03 - Which plants are friends?

02:02:30 - 101 for starting a raised bed garden?

02:07:33 - Can you tell us about microgreens?

02:16:00 - Where to find Sarah?


02:17:00 - Triple Crown of things that start with W.

02:23:42 - Pupdates

02:31:20 - Did Chaunce watch the Last Dance?

02:32:50 - Mail Bag

02:37:28 - 5 Star Review

02:39:29 - Stickers?

02:40:26 - Backcountry Matchmaking

  • Katie, @katiecoryell
  • Ross, @Ross_Berry
  • Debi, Email: debirodriguez4@gmail.com Instagram: @Bluemoonrising2021, or Facebook: Debi Rodriguez (BlueMoon).

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111 episodes