An Introduction: Cowgirl to Hiker Trash
Greetings fellow trekkers! My name is Kellie and I’m thru-hiking the Sierra High Route this year. Since I’m new to blogging, I wanted to give a proper introduction as to how I got here in the backpacking world, and later answer why I decided to hike the Sierra High Route in 2023.
Workin’ 9 to 5, What a Way to Make a Livin’
I’m a 9-to-5er and work as a Natural Resource Specialist (Forester) in Eastern Nevada. I get to work outside and do a lot of hiking as a regular part of my job. At least for now, I don’t have a disposable job or one that I would quit to hike 2,650 miles. I suppose I’m here to represent the “weekend warriors” (labels…meh) and the folks who can’t leave home or work for months at a time. I can show you that it is possible to thru-hike without a sabbatical.
So that means that I save up my annual leave and do one shorter thru-hike (500 miles or less) per year. I’m also married, my husband and I have a small farm where we have several critters and grow some hay. On the weekends I enjoy bagging peaks and backpacking when weather and time allows it.
My Ranger Days
So, let’s rewind. I started backpacking in 2012 to 2013 and to be honest about it, it was not for me. I was a young wilderness ranger working with hardcore “granola crunchers”. You know, the kind that eats granola, wears Patagonia, and talk about their new fanny pack they got from REI. That summer I did typical ranger duties such as building/maintain trails, sprayed weeds, visitor contact, checked for campfires, stream surveys, etc. It was awesome work! As far as the duties assigned, I was there for it. The backpacking and camping part, not so much.
You see, there was a time in my life when my family did camp living. In those days, my dad was a modern-day cowboy version of Jeremiah Johnson (love you dad!). Some of my childhood and young adult years we lived off-grid and up to 3 hours from the nearest grocery store.
When I was nine-ten years old I lived in a tent, bathed in the river, and used an outhouse (bright blue tarp walls and no door). Till this day I can close my eyes and still smell the kerosene from oil lamps and the fishy water from bathing. Every day my tent would fill up with bug dust from the daily dust storms.
Some places we lived had power and some we used a generator. Sometimes we had running water and sometimes we didn’t. Needless to say, when I left home at 17 I went straight to the big city(s). I wanted nothing to do with primitive living, off-grid, whatever you want to call it. I wanted running water, a toilet to flush, and wanted to watch tv any time of the day.
But Granola is Good
In 2012, I was still not ready to camp. I did not understand what those “city kids” saw in basically living the way I grew up. They glorified camping (Horrid! Gasp!), never showering, and living out of a backpack. I would say to myself, “What the hell is wrong with these hippie people?”. The terms “dirt bag” and “hiker trash” were new to me. I could not believe there were people who WANTED a life like the one I had, and, it was considered “cool”.
It took several years of growing as a person, finding myself, and realizing what I wanted out of life. 2019 was a year of discovery for me. It’s like a switch inside of me flipped. I was scrolling on YouTube and came across videos of folks thru-hiking the AT, CDT, and PCT. To give credit where credit is due, it was “Dixie” Homemade Wanderlust who inspired me to hit the trails. I thought to myself, “I can do that.” In 2020 I completed my first solo thru-hike of the John Muir Trail in 10.5 days. Since then, I have completed the Ruby Crest Trail (2.25 days), Colorado Trail (20 days), and the Tahoe Rim Trail (7.5 days). Guess what? I eat granola, wear Patagonia, bought my first LiteAF fanny pack, and I wear toe socks to top it off!
Cowgirl Boots to Trail Runners
I used to rodeo, and I competed for 22 years. At one point in my life, I really did love it. I was decent at it but not the top competitor. I won awards and some money here and there, qualified for the Ranch Rodeo Finals, blah blah but I never did ‘fit in’ with the crowd. I still love that part of my life, but I am IN LOVE with what I’m doing now.
I have learned that interests can change as we get older and it’s a part of growing as a person. As we evolve into who we are and choose to be as individuals, sometimes we must leave the familiar and the people or things that did not benefit us. Rodeo was not the right environment or culture for me, but the outdoor community and backpacking culture, is.
Thru-hiking is Life
I thru-hike because backpacking has given me life. For years I was stuck doing the same shit, making the same mistakes over and over. For years I dealt with anger issues. I never finished things. I went down the wrong path several times and I never grew as a person.
Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Full circle to present day. I can tell you this, I would not be the outdoorswoman that I am if I did not grow up the way my mom and dad raised me. I want to thank those crunchy rangers who I thought were crazy but planted the backpacking seed. I want to thank my parents for the grit and teaching me that less is more. Backpackers—it’s all about being comfortable with being uncomfortable IYKYK!
My parents taught me so many great lessons in life by living the way that we did. Backpacking and camping is not glamorous. It forces us to go back to our nomadic self and only carry what we truly need. It makes us appreciate the little things like running water, a hot meal, or comfy bed. So why do I love it? Well, my parents raised me to love it!
It’s funny how things change. I left the cowgirl part of me behind, but I feel like I discovered the best part of me by thru-hiking. It’s like I’ve been walking home, as cliché as that may sound. As of today, I have backpacked 2000-plus miles and I’m just getting started.
I Am Thru-hiking the Sierra High Route Because…
- I can
- one day I won’t be able to
- this will (quite possibly) be the biggest hiking adventure in my lifetime
- I will never be younger than I am right now
- backpacking makes me feel alive
- nothing has compared to the Sierra Nevada
Like many hikers, there comes a time when we start to crave something a little more. Something more than the trails, and something more in the backcountry. The time has come and I’m going to give it my all. It’s time to “cowgirl up”. I’m coming for ya, Sierra High Route.
If you made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time. I am one in a million on here, so I hope to add some value in sharing my experiences. I look forward to sharing this space with like-minded outdoorsy folks!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
What Do You Think?