Meet Halle, Santa Monica Mountains Thru Hiker
Saving the Mountains, One Step at a Time
In early December of 2022, I sat at the kitchen table at my parents’ house in my hometown at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains and decided to thru hike the Backbone Trail.
I grew up in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. I learned to hike there. My first camping trip ever was at Malibu Creek State Park, which is where my second day on trail will culminate. I grew up learning to love nature in these mountains, and over the years have watched the California Oaks burn from wildfires, wildlife like coyotes flee to neighborhoods because of scarce food in the hills, and graffiti, dirt bike tracks, and litter start to take up the landscape that once showed little me how beautiful a connection to nature could be.
Something needs to change.
The Feat That is Thru Hiking the Backbone Trail
The Santa Monica Mountains are a National Recreation Area run by the National Park Service, and is known as our largest urban National Park. The mountains are also known to be ancestral Chumash land.
The information I could find online about thru hiking the Backbone Trail states that this approximately 70 mile long trail is still officially considered unfinished. There will be scarce water availability, and the few past hikers who have written about their experience suggest caching water along the way. Thru hiking the Backbone Trail is practically unheard of, although most Los Angeles hikers have at least heard of the trail in passing. And that day in December, after witnessing so many people disrespecting our local wild spaces, I decided that hiking the entire thing might just be one of the most effective ways to start a conversation. I want to use my hike to highlight the effects of over tourism in our public lands while teaching about responsible recreation and leave no trace, and I have my work cut out for me.
A Thru Hike for Change
Since I was a little kid, I’ve been an activist. I used to run lemonade stands with my little brother advocating to save the polar bears, and in college, organized trash cleanups in the San Bernadino Mountains.
If I want to start a conversation about responsible recreation, I need lead by example, and to do something out of the ordinary enough to start the important conversation surrounding how we can better take care of these mountains and others like them. In February of 2023, I plan to set out solo on the Backbone, starting from the Eastern Terminus at Will Rogers State Historic Park, walking every inch of trail all the way to Point Mugu on the coast. Along the way, I hope to have conversations with locals, and document how these mountains have been affected by over tourism and climate change in the unique way that only an urban wilderness can be.
From Nomad to Thru Hiker
I’ve been fully nomadic for three and a half years. I’ve hiked mountains in South Dakota, trekked on glaciers in Alaska, and put miles behind my boots in the remote ranges of Wyoming. Hiking has always been a part of my nomadic journey, but it feels like it’s taking precedence now, becoming my priority over living on the road.
For now, I’m Halle. I’m about to turn 25 years old. I’m a vanlifer, a wilderness guide, a dog mom, and a climber, and I guess at the end of this, I’ll be a thru hiker. I’m from the Santa Monica Mountains in the way that I grew up there, but I’m also from Fairbanks, Alaska and Fayetteville, West Virginia and Sedona, Arizona in the way that I’ve lived in these places and they’ve changed my life.
I don’t know who I’ll be at the end of this. I don’t know if I’ll be able to save my mountains, or any mountains for that matter, but I know I have to try. I don’t know if the mountains that raised me will change who I am again and maybe again after that while I walk their ridgeline for 70 miles. I don’t know what this trail will turn me into. But there’s only one way to find out.
I have to start walking.
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