When I was 22 years old, I saw an article in Backpacker Magazine about Flyin' Brian Robinson. I had just completed my first thru-hike–the Appalachian Trail–and had only learned of the existence of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails en route. Now, I had in my hands a magazine telling me that a man had just hiked them all in one calendar year.
I ran downstairs to my mother's sewing room with the magazine in my hand. I waved it in front of her, shaking with excitement.
"I'm going to do this!"
My mother shook her head… and went back to sewing.
Fifteen years later, I grabbed Flyin' Brian's hand and we walked to the end of my CDT hike. My fiancé took pictures, and the three of us celebrated with Indian food for dinner at a truck stop down the highway. I had just become the first woman to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown, and the inspiration for that–Brian–had joined me for the last 10 miles.
There was a beautiful symmetry to it. Not just the ending, with the first person and the first woman to complete the endeavor both present, but in the hiking of the three trails for the third time. I had also become the first woman to complete the Triple Crown of Backpacking three times. The entire year I'd been hiking trails I'd done before–twice. And there were definitely times I wondered if I should be doing something else instead. Life is only just so long, afterall. However, there were also myriad chances to stand in the same sacred forests, to embrace the sky from familiar mountaintops and vast ridgelines, and nestle into deep pine duff to sleep where I'd spent nights before. All of these moments reaffirmed my desire to complete the endeavor, and that there was something along these trails still to be gained.
Being the first woman to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown hike was both new and old–hiking familiar places in new seasons. It was an opportunity for me to have new experiences, and to also connect with my past. The Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails have–more than any other forces–shaped me and my life. Daily throughout my Calendar Year hike, I gave thanks for the ground on which I stood that had taught me so much. As difficult as it was to complete, I learned a deep and abiding gratitude for our National Scenic Trails and for these three in particular.
I don't intend to go for a quad triple. Instead, I feel a sense of completeness now. As though I needed a chance to experience gratitude and farewell along these trails. Before I ever even knew about FKTs, or of other long-distance trails, before I'd ever even heard of ultramarathon running, or knew anything about mountaineering–all things I've done and fallen in love with since age 21–I wanted to hike the Triple Crown in one Calendar Year. Being the first or setting records are minor footnotes to the real experience: I've achieved a lifetime dream.
It's a coveted pursuit in the world of backpacking–comprised of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail, the 2,600+ mile Pacific Crest Trail, and the 3,000+ mile Continental Divide Trail. It crosses three spines of the United States through myriad biomes from Basin and Range to Mojave Desert and lush pine and deciduous forests. Wolves, grizzly bears, porcupines, rattlesnakes, and a host of other animal life make these trails an incredible experience to walk.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act, which set the precedent for the formation of all three of these paths (and 18,000 miles of National Trail altogether). To celebrate this incredible act of preservation which makes remote and wild places widely accessible I am attempting to hike the 7,000+ miles of the Triple Crown in one Calendar Year.
This will be a huge undertaking–completed only three times by four men: Flyin' Brian, Squeaky, Cam "Swami" Honan and Legend. I hope to be the first woman to successfully complete not only the Calendar Year Triple Crown, but also the Triple Crown for a third time in total. More importantly, I hope to fulfill a dream that I've had since I was 22 years old. I read about Flyin' Brian's achievement as a young woman with only one long distance hike under my belt. I remember vividly in my mom's sewing room–on the bench of the old upright piano–telling her with excitement how I was going to finish my Triple Crown and then do it again in one year. "A practice triple," I called it. How naive I was!
Life takes you down so many paths and seldom do we get a chance to circle back to something our younger selves conceived and still have desire and ability for it. I count myself blessed beyond measure to even be here now with a living room full of boxes and stacks of spreadsheets and maps. There was a great sense of accomplishment for me in 2006 when I stood at the Mexican Border with a Burger King crown on my head. There was an equally rich sense of accomplishment when I stood at the Canadian Border in 2013, Springer Mountain in 2015 and once again at the Mexican Border in 2016. Every thru-hike has been memorable and I've achieved different goals and learned different things about myself. I've amassed skills and knowledge of these landscapes far more intimate than my 22-year-old self could have imagined while "practicing."
I will be allocating approximately 9 months to the task which will require me to hike continuously at an average of 25 miles per day or more including transition time from trail to trail. This will be more than double the amount of time I've ever spent backpacking in one year. I will be doing this in a thru-hiker style, without a crew or support team. This is the kind of challenge that leaves me excited, nervous, and a little scared–sure indicators that I am truly pushing my limits and preparing for a grand adventure!
More than that, I am preparing to experience these trails–especially the AT and CDT–in seasons I have never explored them in. I anticipate that they will be ripe with challenge and beauty, the things that fuel any adventure. Most importantly, I will get to go on three very long walks.
And walking is my most favorite thing.
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