How I Got to Thru-Hiking

I was a bit stumped on how to introduce myself.  How does one describe a circuitous journey to spending day after day in the outdoors?

My Parents Introduce Me to the Outdoors at a Young Age

  • Summer trips to Montana to visit my grandmother, my sister and I playing in the creek.
  • Living in Palau when I was seven years old, my family & I spent most weekends exploring the nearby ocean and rock islands from the vantage of a rubber raft.
  • Fossil collecting trips where I excitedly searched for trilobites and ended up with handfuls of crinoid stems and a smile.
  • Day hikes to beautiful lakes in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.
  • Family camping trips where the day started with corned beef hash & eggs.

Returning to Nature

Academic studies pulled me away from the outdoors as I progressed through high school and later through college.  When I graduated and started working as an electrical engineer, my outlet was mind-numbing workouts at the gym, running my first 5K and 10Ks.  Eventually, I despised my job and felt depressed about my life, so I quit and moved to my family’s ranch in Montana.  My parents had just built a new house there and it was vacant so I moved in.  I gardened and made a great friend who loved being outside.  She and I hiked in the summer, cross-country skied in the winter.  I saw a psychologist.  Between therapy and the outdoors, I became happy.

Taking My Backpack Overseas

A magazine picture of Machu Picchu hung in my room.  One day out camping, a friend and I discussed our dreams of traveling to South America.  Somehow it became a concrete objective and we ended up backpacking in Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia.  I traveled between hostels, took the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, did ayahuasca in the jungle, hiked the Colca Canyon, and rode horseback in Ecuador.  After four to five months, I eventually got homesick and returned to Montana.  But the wanderlust wasn’t gone, less than a year later I went backpacking in New Zealand for three months and Australia for several weeks.

Becoming a Confident Backpacker

The first backpacking trip where I carried all my own food and gear was in New Zealand.  When I returned to the USA, I was eager for more.  My sister and I did the Ruby Crest Trail, at four days and ~35 miles it was the most epic trip either of us had done to date.  Sure, by the end we were dreaming of cold beer and pizza, but we were also elated at what we had accomplished!  At the time I was living in Boulder, Colorado (visited the area just prior to New Zealand and it was love at first sight).  My then-boyfriend taught me to fly fish.  We would hike into a backcountry lake, spend an entire day fishing, then backpack out.  Three- to four-day-long backpacks became normal length to me and I had a solid gear list.

I Forget, Then Remember

I continued to hike, backpack, climb 14ers… but I also returned to engineering, bought a townhome, and fell in love again.  I pretended I wanted the American dream, but deep inside I didn’t.  My job got stressful and my relationship ended, then my ex-boyfriend committed suicide.  Instead of going to his funeral, I went camping with my sister & her husband in Great Basin National Park.  Waking to the sun shining and birds singing, I could feel life all around me.  I climbed Wheeler Peak and ran down it through a snowfield.  I needed a goal so I set my sights on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I trained all summer and that fall I reached the summit, despite the worst snowstorm the mountain had seen in a decade.

My First Thru-Hike

Kilimanjaro awakened my spirit, and not long afterward I quit my job.  When I first moved to Colorado I heard of the AT and PCT from a friend, but I was not aware of shorter distance thru-hikes.  A close friend wanted to hike the Colorado Trail and I decided to join him.  I bought the guidebook and dove into planning all our resupplies.  My hiking partner was into ultralight gear so he helped me lighten my base weight.  We camped all but one night where we were drenched and taken in by the kindly congregation of the Creede Community Church.  I loved waking each morning in a different beautiful spot and the excitement of days that were each unique.  We successfully finished the trail.  I knew it was only the beginning!

Hiking into the Future

I think it’d be fun to do a long-distance hike in each state!  This summer I plan to thru-hike the South Dakota Centennial Trail and the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota.  I’ve never been to either state so exploring them on foot sounds ideal.  Next summer I plan to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Then I’ll see where I go from there…

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