No items found.

Here at Sawyer, we’re grateful to have an Ambassador Program composed of change-makers and intrepid adventurers from all corners of the outdoor community.

We’re proud to announce another incredible individual is joining their ranks this summer: Shilletha “Dragonsky” Curtis! 

Shilletha “Dragonsky” Curtis is a thru-hiker on track to becoming the second known Black woman to complete the Triple Crown. New Jersey native, Shilletha thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2021 and recently published her powerful memoir, “Pack Light: A Journey to Find Myself.” 

Though named “Pack Light”, this book is not without its heavy themes. 

Oscillating between childhood memories and stories from the Appalachian Trail, readers witness Shilletha’s metamorphosis from a child facing unimaginable odds to the intrepid, whimsical, and unapologetically unique hero of the story: Dragonsky. 

Photo credits to L. Renee Blount

Through Pack Light, we learn who Shilletha was before Dragonsky came to be and the experiences that created the woman who one day tackled the trail. It’s clear that 2,200 miles of walking through the woods was only one obstacle in a long life of overcoming challenges. The background on her experiences offers a perspective on the brutality and healing nature of the trail unlike any other.

It’s impossible for Dragonsky to not be herself - and thank goodness for that. 

The scenes of her book that warmed my heart - wearing a rainbow tutu scored in town for hundreds of miles on end, or jamming to personal dance parties on mountain tops - were juxtaposed with tense interactions with narrow-minded individuals along the trail and heartbreaking moments of personal loss. 

Throughout Pack Light, Shilletha shows us what bravery means from the top of Agiocochook to the halls of a mental hospital: and, most importantly, what it means to her

A Moment with Dragonsky

Photo credits to L. Renee Blount

What was the most fulfilling part of the process of writing Pack Light? 

The most fulfilling part of the process of writing Pack Light was that I put ten years into therapy to share my story with the world. The fact that I, someone living with severe depression and ADHD especially did this, is mind-blowing to me. It fulfills me to know that I did the hard work to be able to share my story so that I can let others know that they aren’t alone. While writing my book, my thought process was “If one person lives another day because of this book” “If one person feels seen”...then that’s all that matters. Fame is cool, sure. As humans, it's normal to want to be noticed but for me it's an impact. Mental illness is real. Racism is real. Homophobia is real. We do not all walk the same path. 

What do you think your aunt would say if she met Dragonsky today? 

Wow, that’s a question that really brings tears to my eyes. I think about her every single day and honestly I think she would be saying “Mama, you’re winning”. She always believed in me when everyone else didn’t. She knew that I would win in life and that’s why she raised me. I believe she is always by my side in the form of the dragonfly, telling me that I am not alone and that she sees me. I know this because just the other day, I had a black dragonfly follow me down the AT for five miles. We would constantly stop and the dragonfly would hover as we made prolonged eye contact. My AT tag lies on her grave in North Carolina. I know she’s proud. My Uncle always tells me how proud she would be right now because she always knew I could. So I did and here I am. 

What advice do you have for the community inspired by your story to take on a thru-hike of their own?

My advice is this. The woods can be a scary place. I am someone who always keeps it real about the trail. That being said, don’t let fear hold you back… don’t let it define you. Do your research about the trail, reach out to others. I am available for questions in my inbox because I’ve been there. If nature is calling you, trust that feeling and run into the wind. Embrace the trees, dance in the water, scream in the wind because nature is for you. You are never alone. There are LGBTQ+ and Black hikers out here. You may not see us but we exist. 


June 12, 2024

Written by
Photo thumbnail Blog Author

Katie Houston

Katie AKA Oats is a solo thru-hiker with over 3,000 miles under her belt, making her a passionate conduit for culture, lingo, and other backcountry knowledge. Through her work, she is able to educate audiences on good trail ethics and strive for an outdoor community where everyone feels like they belong. Check out her adventures with Thru the husky on her website and Instagram.

Explore More Content

No items found.

Media Mentions

Sawyer has an alternative [to DEET] made with Picaridin, which works just as well without spoiling your clothes.

James Wong
Freelance Writer

Media Mentions

Zinzi Edmundson, the founder of Treehouse newsletter, who gardens in Maine, suggests spraying your shoes, especially (she uses Sawyer’s permethrin).

Laura Fenton

Media Mentions

I carry bottles of water, but I also have a Sawyer squeeze water filter. Also, if it’s cold, make sure you sleep with your water filter in your sleeping bag, so it doesn’t freeze.

Shilletha Curtis