Get to Know Me! Eliza Swackhamer
Hey all! If you don’t know me already, my name is Liza. I’m the girl that can’t stop putting my life on pause to pursue spontaneous outdoor adventures, that some might call crazy. When I am not being a full-time student, studying Health and Exercise Science and living the college life, you can find me chasing after my next adrenaline high. That has come in many forms; solo hiking the PCT at 16 years old, walking on the wing of an airplane, skydiving, or traveling every corner of the world alone.
I want to start off with an introduction to the person who convinced me to do this crazy hike, my best friend and hiking partner, Erin! I met Erin over this last summer when we both worked at a summer camp in New Hampshire. I was the Outdoor Trips leader and Erin was the Music teacher! At first, Erin struck me as a lunatic- she spent her very little free time over the summer training for the Chicago Marathon while the rest of us spent our free time trying to get in as many naps as possible. We quickly realized we had a bond over hiking; we have both done numerous long trails and have many more on our bucket lists. When Erin told me she was setting out to hike the AT in 2023, I was amazed and jealous. She spent weeks of the summer trying to convince me to join her, but I didn’t think I would be able to, due to my college schedule. After camp ended, I moved from Boston, where I had been living for the past year, to Colorado. Erin (and our best friend Jess) visited me for a week and we found ourselves fangirling over the AT and her trip plans the entire time.
After Erin left, I found myself calling her to cry and complain about the current state of my life- I was overwhelmed from working full time while overloading on credits in school. I felt like I was going nowhere and losing touch with who I was as a person. One day I finally snapped. I had put too much on my plate and I could no longer handle it all while keeping a healthy mental state. I called Erin yet again, and I made a huge decision- after only 10 minutes on the phone I chose to defer from college, quit my job, and hike the Appalachian Trail with her.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not my first long distance trail; I was 16 when I set out alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. I unfortunately did not complete the entire trail, but I have most of it under my belt. I am very used to trail life and long distance hiking. Now five years later, almost 22 years old, I get to do it all again.
It’s crazy to me that I found myself in this position of being a long distance hiker considering how much I hated hiking as a child. Growing up in Oregon, there is endless hiking and adventuring to do. When my parents would drag me along on hikes, I would complain the entire time. I was a very active child, playing every sport under the sun. I also loved being in the woods, camping with friends in the forest every chance I could. But hiking? Nope! And here we are, yet again, setting out to hike thousands of miles.
Long distance hiking is no walk in the park; it comes with endless difficulties, which can be enough to make a person quit. Think about sleeping on the dirt every single night for months on end, the nasty freeze dried meals you have to force yourself to scarf down just to get enough calories each day, the horrific blisters, dehydration, heat, cold, and rain. I faced all of these challenges before on the PCT, and am choosing to do it all over again. Although this is a terrifying thought for me, I think it will be better to face all of those challenges with a partner. The biggest challenge I faced on the PCT was loneliness. I went through every hardship on my own and had nobody there to understand what I was going through. Erin and I will be forced to go through the pain together! We know what we are up against and are prepared, as much as one can be, to combat the difficulties together. We will face all of the ups and the downs, day by day, as a team. Doing the 4-state challenge, the marathon week challenge, and the 24/24/24 challenge are definitely on the list of “ups” for us. I am most looking forward to the feeling of finishing this trail together and experiencing that sense of accomplishment from knowing that we have both finished a life-long goal.
This blog is going to mean a lot for my family and friends, giving them all a way to follow along my journey. I cannot thank them all enough for the endless support they have all shown me. My Mom, for never saying no to an adventure idea I run by her. My Dad, teaching me to be a strong independent woman. My Grandparents, who will always be just a phone call away, dying to hear my voice. And my incredible friends, who support my insanity and cheer me on no matter what. I could not do this without any of them. Now let’s get this started! I hope you all enjoy following me along this incredible journey!
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Good luck when do you start?
My daughter is going it alone in April from the UK… A bit of a worry but hopefully she will meet lovely people. 🌻
Liza, you know my motto – “Safety First!” So make good choices. Can’t wait to hear all about your latest hiking adventure. We are so proud of your independent & adventurous spirit! Love you millions Homie E!
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