Walking Distance #21 | Faithful Hiking ft. Tamra Neblett-Hemmila

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Tamra Neblett-Hemmila, a 28-year-old long distance backpacker from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Tamra also happens to be black, Latina and Muslim; she was quite visible on the CDT this past season, practicing her faith by wearing a sport hijab on trail. If she seemed “uncommon” on the trail, her story is universal to hikers.

Blissful Hiker covers how Tamra practiced her faith on trail, trail magic on the CDT, and the emotions and practicalities of quitting a long distance trail.


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Interview with Tamra Neblett-Hemilla

2:48 – Where was your winter shakedown hike for the CDT and what was it like?

3:54 – You mentioned your husband Eli, and we actually met through him. He mentioned his wife was hiking the CDT alone; why did you go alone and how did that effect your relationship dynamic?

5:34 – Did you take a Garmin In-Reach and check in with Eli that way?

6:00 – So you’re in contact every day, but you’re still alone out there. And the CDT is probably the most difficult long trail in the U.S.; why did you start there?

6:49 – Do you have a trail name? And how did you get the name?

8:00 – Did you make your own meals for yourself before you jumped into the trail?

8:35 – I did see a recipe on your Facebook, a tuna hot dish. So Minnesota! What’s in it?

9:12 – So, Tamra, you are black, Latina, and Muslim. Did you meet many people that looked like you on trail?

9:58 – So you did wear a hijab, a sport hijab on trail. I’m curious about that, where did you get yours?

10:30 – For those of us who aren’t knowledgeable, what is the purpose and importance of the hijab in the Muslim faith?

11:33 – How did your hijab fit on your head and how did it feel?

12:10 – What else did you wear on your hike?

12:42 – Do you think there are misconceptions about Muslim women being athletic? Did you find in your faith that there’s a resistance to women being athletic or being alone in the outdoors?

14:31 – What were the reactions from people you met and other hikers? 

16:00 – So you mentioned timing your breaks for prayer every day. Did you take a prayer rug? And did you need to orient yourself towards Mecca every time?

16:43 – I’m curious about how it felt to pray every day outdoors; did you feel like it was more intentional or more intense for you?

19:42 – I wanted to go back to your hike experience and what your favorite parts were. What was your experience of New Mexico?

21:37- You mentioned the Gila River, and I believe that’s where you met someone who I met on the PCT, Crazy Eyes? And he offered you this type of trail magic that only happens from one hiker to another, what was that like?

22:54 – I love that story, because there’s such kindness that can happen in the wilderness between two hikers.

23:50 – You have some really dramatic pictures from Mt. Taylor too, and you’re experienced with snow being from Minnesota, but that looked dangerous. 

24:50 – You got to Colorado, and everything really changes when you get there. You ended up stopping the trail, after about 1200 miles. So what happened and what was the final straw for you?

27:02 – So I have to interrupt you, you were covered head to toe and the mosquitos bit right through your clothes?

30:00 – You wrote that you felt like you let people down, black girls and Latina girls, BIPOC people all around the world, and you had failed yourself. But you also wrote that it was the best decision; there’s a moment that we can’t bear to let go, but you did to take care of yourself.

31:32 – If you were talking to one of those Muslin girls or BIPOC humans who had quit the trail, what would you say to them?

32:35 – Do you think you have unfinished business, are you going to go back and finish?

34:33 – Get in touch if you want to talk about quitting the trail: [email protected]

34:36 – Update on past guest Cindy Ross and her husband Todd Gladfelter – see their GoFundMe in the show links.

Mentioned in this episode:

Adidas Sport Hajib 

Todd Gladfelter Go Fund Me 

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About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast Blissful Hiker, she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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