Real Fit Podcast: Ep. 51 | Shilletha Dragonsky Curtis, queer athlete, writer, and influencer of color: Facing mental health issues and racism on the Appalachian Trail

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Shilletha Dragonsky Curtis at the top of Mt. Katahdin
image courtesy of Shilletha Curtis

When queer athlete, writer, and influencer Shilletha “Dragonsky” Curtis lost her job right when the pandemic lockdowns started, the depression and anxiety she’d been living with for years kicked in — hard. She experienced panic attacks, and ended up doing intensive outpatient= treatment and when her program ended, the New Jersey native noticed everyone seemed to be talking about hiking.

As a New Jersey native, hiking wasn’t something Shilletha had done or knew much about. But she followed her curiosity, first to the trails of the Garden State, and eventually to thru-hike all 2190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a feat that most never attempt and that many never complete. And as a queer woman of color, Shilletha navigated a set of challenges that most backpackers don’t.

Today she’s on track to be the first lesbian Black woman to complete the Triple Crown of hiking and her memoir, Mountain of the Moon, is scheduled to release in 2024.

In our interview she shares her experiences with navigating mental health issues on and off the trail, how a Facebook post served as the catalyst for her entry into the world of freelance writing and later signing a book deal for her forthcoming memoir and becoming a sponsored backpacker, coping with racism on the Appalachian Trail, dealing with injuries, and so much more.

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