Musings from Mercury

From Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine, my nearly 52 days spent on the Appalachian Trail were like a hyperlapse of rising and falling suns, moons, stars, storms, calm, mountains, valleys… it wasn’t so much a daily endeavor, but more like a singular continuous stretch, moving ever forward. I felt so confident and prepared going into it, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to endure, other than doing “the thing” itself. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. I learned and grew in a way I never have. The trail taught me so much about myself and the good of other people. It taught me that while it’s impossible to control your circumstances, you can choose how you respond. Every early morning I would think, “I don’t know how I can possibly do this”, and every late evening I would think, “I can’t believe I just did that.” The trail brought out my strengths, my flaws, my little experience and vast inexperience. I don’t know if I truly ever let myself believe I would make it to Katahdin until I was literally climbing the final ascent. I think the only way I could wrap my head around what I was doing was staying in the moment and putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t know what the future would bring, but I could keep walking. As a supported endeavor, this was truly a team effort with Warren, aka Jupiter. He was completely committed to the task and did everything to “help and not hinder.” I feel so thankful to have had him in my corner. The saying, “It takes a village…” is also very fitting as I had so much help from friends, family, and kind strangers all along the way. I was so happy to be able to share this journey with those it seemed to mean a great deal to- both in person and through Jupiter’s faithful updates. The AT is a very special place and it’s no surprise that so many people are completely captivated by the trail. I think it will take a while to unpack all I experienced. Most quiet moments throughout the day, my mind drifts to the trail. In my dreams every night, I am still hiking. My aching feet and healing toe are a reminder that it hasn’t been so long. I’m a changed person, and so grateful.

If you haven’t seen these already, you might enjoy the following:

Mike Walsh | Runner’s High: Mercury’s Appalachian Trail quest routes through Dalton – A wonderful news article that paints a really good picture of what the journey was like. The author, Mike Walsh, walked with me for about nine miles for the interview!

The Dower Duo | 2020 Thru Hiker Interview w/Mercury – Tara “Candy Mama” Dower did a video interview with me while walking on the trail (Tara walked a ton with me and she was amazing support)! This was maybe 5 days in- I share all about my early bear encounters and more fun things. Tara is about to attempt an FKT on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in NC. Follow her on Instagram here.

Thanks for all of the wonderful notes, texts, emails. It means so much to hear your stories and if this trek has inspired you in some way. If we met on the trail I’d love to hear from you and please share any photos. I can be reached at and Warren (Jupiter) can be reached at

Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

Newsletter 💫

Subscribe to Liz’s weekly newsletter full of inspiring stories about running, music, trails and life.

Success! You're on the list.