Catching Up on the CDT – Lordsburg to Grants

I’m happy to report that I’m no longer on the first week stuck in New Mexico.  A ton has happened on this trail and I’m happy to say that I’m now MUCH further north, in Wyoming. I’ll be updating over the next few days in hopes of catching up to current time.


Since I last posted I was reporting of severe shin pain. I ended up walking another day out of Lordsburg, NM (24 trail miles) and the final stretch that evening did me in. My leg was in excruciating pain and I decided to take some time off and let it heal. I followed the boys up the trail with Sleeping Bare in the RV for 8 days. I was constantly icing and elevating my shin. I went and got KT Tape and a calf sleeve to try and relieve some of the pain.


Waiting to hop back on trail with the boys

I got back on trail a few miles away from Reserve, NM on May 15th. When I joined back up with the boys we had a couple new hikers with us. Anna (Pruner), Chimichanga, Sailor, Pasta Alfredo, Friendly Neighbor, Opa, Chuck, and my very favorite… Tripod – a dog whom had followed Ipod to the road.


Anna in the back, Chim, and Tripod (with his prize elk leg)

Our next town stop was Pie Town, NM. Ipod, Nugio, Chim, Tripod, and myself all set off down the trail together. I got out in front in, however, I thought I was following Chimi and Tripod because I would randomly see dog prints and the ever famous Cascadia shoe print which so often litters  long trails. Turns out I was following different footprints and a random coyote.

I ended up hiking that section by myself because I had gotten so far ahead of the boys. When I arrived in Pie Town at Nita’s Toaster House I was greeted by a parade of hikers. It was wonderful being in their company. It wasn’t more than a few hours before the rest of my party arrived. Tripod, our three legged dog, was beat! He immediately found a spot on the ground between the hikers and feel asleep. He was a trooper!


Left to right – ?, Friendly, El Jefe, Myla, Opa, Chuck, Sailor, Pasta Alfredo, and myself (BloodBank)

My shin was still giving me problems, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Nugio, Ipod, Anna, myself and Chimi took a zero at the Toaster House and had a wonderful time.

There was a dance later that evening at the community center. When we arrived the party was dead. We were told that since all the old cowboys can’t dance anymore it’s a sad scene. It was the perfect opportunity for thru-hikers to liven up the party. Needless to say Chim, Nuge, and myself got everyone on their feet dancing within a couple minuets. We had a blast!

The next town stop was Grants, NM. Nuge, Ipod, Chim, and I were headed North again. We had some beautiful desert hiking. Fully equipped with epic sunsets and endless views.


Desert Sunsets

My shin gave me problems for the first couple days, but then everything subsided on the 3rd day. Happy shin, happy hiker! HOORAY!


Happy Hiker

The 4 of us hiked onward to “El Malpaise!” It was an absolutely stunning section filled with lava rocks galore. It was a major pain to walk on the glassy uneven surface, but the scenery and company made everything worthwhile


Chim, Ipod, and Nuge

While road walking a section we decided to head into town for lunch then hitch back onto the trail. It was a WONDERFUL idea. We passed a bunch of other CDT hikers and waved at them from the back of the pick-up truck. Now this is hiking done right!


Ipod and Chim on our hitch into Grants for Subway and ice cold drinks. We were in and out within 2 hours. We continued hiking with full bellies and high spirits

The four of us finished that section with a nice long road walk into Grants, NM. My feet were absolutely killing me from the rough pounding of the hard pavement. The monotonous action was taking a toll on all of us and we were thrilled to finally be in town. Even though we were in town we still had a few miles to the hotel. Hitching wasn’t working, so we went into Pizza Hut and ordered a pizza to be delivered to a local hotel… with us being delivered there as well. Our driver was great and the 4 of us arrived via Pizza Delivery to the front door. Major success!


Chim, Ipod, and Nuge on the road walk into Grants, NM

Onwards North to Cuba, NM!

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Day 4 and 5 “zombie death march” 👣

When we got to hwy 113 the previous night, Sleeping Bare brought us back to the RV so we’d have a great breakfast before hitting the trail around 730 the following morning. 

I awoke to the sweet smell of fresh roasted coffee and Nug handing me a warm mug. I took a deep breath and inhaled the instant alarm clock in a cup.   A couple minuets later I was being served golden pancakes with over easy eggs.  This is certainly a great way to wake up!  It wasn’t long before Nugio, iPod,  and myself were loaded up and back on the trail again 

Full of delicious food and caffeine the boys and I began our desert death march… 20 miles till our next water cache. 

My shirt is giving me an extra special rash. Being super sensitive to things is not fun! When I’m soaked with sweat I don’t notice the pain,  but when I take off my pack for a break my skin dries out again and my scabs crack. Thus creating a VERY vicious cycle.  Every time I put back on my pack I can feel my skin tearing apart.  Ironically,  this is by far the easier pain to deal with.


Oh the joys of backpacking 😂

My right shin is the worst of my ailments today.  It’s in awful pain!  If this is shin splints, it’s coming on incredibly fast and with a vengeance.  I’ve had shin splints before, but this doesn’t make sense because I’ve been training like crazy. Before I got on trail I was pulling 36 and 34 mile days with ease.  I’m really confused,  but I’m staying positive.  Send happy,  healthy,  healing thoughts! : )

The 3 of us finally found shade under the only tree for 6 miles and took a BEAUTIFUL siesta. It’s super hot out today. We’ll take any opportunity to get out of the blazing sun.

The land is completely barren and vast. You can see in every direction for miles.  There’s absolutely nothing to obstruct your view. 


The hiking got a little better,  scenery wise, at about mile 11. We got out of the fierce little ankle bitter plants. They have one mission: to leave your legs as scabbed and bloody as possible. 


This pretty little guy cut the bejesus out of my leg. 


The desert… where everything’s dead.


Nugio and ipod at our bone dry water source goofing off.


Our next cow infested water source.


Found this beautiful (Mojave Green?) Rattlesnake because I almost stepped on him.  He sure was pretty!

Nugio and I saw 8 antelope running/frolicking in front of us. This moment was too good to capture with a camera. After that I was beaming ear to ear. I love the little things that the trail provides. 

By the end of the day my leg was barking at me. I’ve only got 7 miles to go before I’ve completed the first stretch to Lordsburg, NM. I love this trail!  It feels so great to be home! 

******** Day 5

The three of us woke up early and did the final 7 miles into Lordsburg KOA. It was a flat and relatively boring road walk into town. My right shin is still very unhappy.  I’ve been using my trekking poles like crutches.


On our way into town we passed a cemetery,  an animal shelter, and a veterans park.  You see so many neat places when you walk everywhere.  I found some gords growing on the side of the road and sent the picture to @digsapparel to support #amelonaday. 


An awesome movement Michael McWilliams started to bring awareness to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He’s an incredible individual.  If you’ve got a melon picture send it his way to help support TBI awareness through art.  😎

I’m going to rest,  ice, and elevate my leg nonstop for the remainder of the day.  For now it’s showers, laundry, food, and sleep.

Hitting the trail tomorrow.  I hear we’ll see trees by the end of the day! Yippie!

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Day 2 & 3: Sight and Walk “trail”

Another long and hot couple days.  I expect many more to come.  There’s absolutely zero shade out here… except for a few rogue trees. I’m still shocked this incredibly barren land used to be covered in shade.  There’s cow and therefor cow poop everywhere. It’s pretty comical actually. So far Jester was right when he told me I’d be near, on, by, and around cow shit the entire trail. Every time we find shade we have to clear all the patties out of the way. 


Our view looking back towards Crazy Cook. 


A snake a day


Day 3 started out hot and relatively boring in terms of scenery.  Nugio, iPod,  and myself walked 10 miles to our next water cache that the amazing CDTC set up for us.  When we arrived Nug got a text from Sleeping Bare (his dad) that said he’d meet us at the hwy at 1130 with pizza and beer.  The only problem was,  was that we didn’t have service to let us know when the original message was sent.  For all we knew it could have been yesterday.  But low and behold not more than 5 mins had passed when a red sedan came buzzing around the windy road and straight for us, creating a welcome cloud of dust.  Out of the car emerged Sleeping Bare holding a box which, “had my name on it.” Inside was a veggie pizza especially for me. Hello Trail Magic! The 3 hikers and Sleeping Bare ate until we couldn’t eat any more.  Then we had ice cold beer. I opted for a “strawberrita” because the alcohol content was slightly higher. We couldn’t be happier. Armed with full bellies and high spirits we began the next 12 miles to hwy 113 where we would be greeted again by Sleeping

Once we began hiking again it was miserably hot.  My sweat soaked shirt provided a slight reprieve, but the heat was still sweltering.  We stopped at every bit of shade we came across…. which certainly wasn’t very much. 


Nugio and ipod posted up

Just when we were beginning to feel the weight of the blistering heat we came across the most glorious sight!  Flowing water coming down the trail.  We practically ran to the source.  We couldn’t believe our eyes.  The solar well was overflowing ice cold water creating a make shift shower.  We all took advantage of this incredibly rare opportunity. 


Our saving grace from the heat.  Freezing flowing water. 


Nug taking advantage and soaking his swollen feet.


Ipod utilizing the shower.


If the well wasn’t overflowing this would have been our water source. 


Our hot desert death march. 

We soaked under the water and drenched ourselves before venturing out into the sun again.  It took less than 15 mins for our clothes to be completely dry,  but it was glorious walking through the desert while the cool breeze penetrated our wet clothes.  It’s funny how it’s the simple things in life such as an overflowing pipe that bring so much joy.  


Looking down into the valley.  Sleeping Bare was waiting for us somewhere down there. 

The final 4 miles downhill really placed a beating on my shin.  With every step I took pain radiated from the front of my leg.  Hopefully it will feel better tomorrow! 


Typical CDT. The trail maker right in front of a barbed wire fence.  I love this trail! 

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Day 1: Starting the CDT! 👣

The first day of the CDT! We (Nugio,  iPod,  and myself) got picked up at the KOA in Lordsburg, NM at 7am. Despite being incredibly tired from the Pacific Crest Trail Kick-Off, my spirits were high and my energy levels were topping out.  I couldn’t help but beam with excitement as we walked towards our  CDTC shuttle, a dusty Volvo.  Pounce, a fellow hiker,  took our picture as we piled into the little car on our way to Hachita, NM.


The road into Hachita, where we would switch to a sturdier car, was as straight as could be.  Only one long meandering left “turn” stood between us and our exit.  We each paid the CDTC 70 dollars to drive us out to the Crazy Cook border, as well as cache water for the first 85 miles.  It was a beautiful and welcome deal! 

When we got into Hachita we switched to an incredibly dirty old blue truck.  We piled our backpacks into the trunk and climbed into the cabin.  I immediately noticed the heaping mound of fresh dirt that had accumulated on the floor board.  As Nug eagerly jumped into the front seat he slapped the dingy old cloth and the inside of our vehicle was instantly engulfed in a thick cloud of golden dirt.  I coughed as we waited for the engine to turn over. 


Our driver was great!  He gave us a local history lesson as we drove closer to our destination – Crazy Cook.

He taught us about the local copper mines and the saw mill industry that used to be in the area.  I was shocked that this place used to be covered in trees. Looking out onto the barren landscape, I knew shortly I would be longing for the welcome shade of the once plentiful green leafed foliage.

We drove on dirt roads for almost 2 hours.  It was brutal on the vehicle. Everywhere we looked we saw car parts. Everything from oil pans to fenders littered the graveyard like path. The closer we got to the border the worse the road became.  I bounced up and down hitting my head on the roof several times.  With each bump and notch we overcame more dirt happily danced into the cabin.  I wasn’t sure if the air was getting thicker or I was just ingesting a massive amount of dust particles.  Boogers immediately filed my nose making it impossible to breath in through my nostrils.  Every time I opened my mouth the dirt infused air made its way into my body and settled on my teeth creating a nice gritty layer now calling my teeth home. 

The wind was blowing vigorously and only increased the closer we got.  Soon our visibility was only a few hundred feet in front of us.

After hours of jostling around inside our shuttle we made it to the Southern Terminus- Crazy Cook. For the last 20 or so miles we had been following tire tracks from an illegal immigrant. As we approached the flimsy barbed wire gate that separated New Mexico and Mexico the tracks disappeared onto the other side for what looked like a successful illegal crossing. 


As we got out of the truck we opened the latch to discover our packs looked like they’d been rolling around in the dirt.  Once bright and clean, they like us, now had a brown sheen to them… so much for that shower I had just taken. 


Our driver dropped us off and took a few pictures of us before departing back to Hachita. 

While we were soaking it all in the three of us were greeted by 4 border patrol agents.  1 in a truck and 3 on quads.  They said they had been following the tracks as well. I tried getting a picture with them,  but they objected.  After a final picture,  Nugio, iPod, and I took our first steps on the Continental Divide Trail at 10:40am April 30th, 2014.


The three of us at Crazy Cook


The truck








Our route on the monument.

The walking was easy,  flat,  and along washes for roughly the first 14 miles. Within the first mile I stepped on an Ocotillo and the thorns pierced through the bottom of my shoe sticking my foot.  Despite the pain,  I was still thrilled to finally be starting the journey North to Canada. 


Our view


Ocotillo aka prickly sons a bi….cats.

We made it to the first water cache and ate dinner (cold instant mashed potatoes). We then hiked another ~2 miles before laying out our sleeping bags and falling asleep under the vast blanket of stars…. it feels great to be home. 


For the wonderful Michael McWilliams!


Sunset aka where we plopped down to get some shut eye. 

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An Article My Local Paper Ran Of Me

I’m speechless.  A couple days ago I made the front page of my local newspaper.  I’m incredibly honored and blessed. The reporter, Angel Moreno,  did a fabulous job.  Thank you,  Fresno Bee, for printing the story.  If you want to read the article on their site go to:


I hope my story inspires you to take hold of your life and live with meaning. 

Front page… speechless… enjoy.


Sara Fry sees nothing as impossible, certainly not a 3,100-mile south-to-north trek across the country, especially after dealing with cancer and a traumatic brain injury.

Soreness and fatigue from the hike? She’ll happily deal with that as she travels the Continental Divide Trail from New Mexico to Canada, a journey she began Wednesday.

She has learned to live with pain far worse, the kind that at age 15 made her lock herself in her room and sleep for up to 23 hours, to attempt suicide four times.

A straight-A student and promising water polo player at Clovis High before the brain injury, Fry finally found an adequate treatment and returned to graduate, only to then be diagnosed with melanoma.

And so now she hikes, often alone, a welcome release from the residual pain of her original injury and the specter of what cancerous cells might remain despite 11 surgeries.

“It’s peace. It’s joy. It’s everything,” Fry says. “When you’re on the trail, it’s just you and Mother Nature. You don’t have people constantly worrying about how you’re feeling or if you’re OK. I’m able to be just another person.”

The fallen star

Her parents recall a young girl interested in sports at an early age, eventually gravitating toward water polo.

In the first grade, Fry told her mother that she’d get a college scholarship in athletics. And it was shaping up that way when as a Clovis High freshman Fry lettered on the girls’ varsity.

Then came summer 2005.

Playing in a club water polo tournament in Los Angeles, Fry took an elbow to the temple and was knocked unconscious.

Trainers and doctors diagnosed a mild concussion and prescribed rest.

But mom Michelle, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente, knew it was something more.

“I know my daughter. They didn’t see the symptoms.”

Fry, 15 at the time of the injury, would lock herself in her room nearly all day. She had trouble sleeping. She would lie there, trying her hardest to escape the pain.

A girl used to being active and outside now dreaded sunlight and any kind of physical activity.

“She was used to being physical and to lie there in pain, days on end, was horrendous,” Michelle Fry recalls. “You could watch the pain in her face and hear her moaning from her room upstairs.”

Sara tried to take her own life multiple times — seemingly the only way to escape the pain.

“That was the only reason,” she says. “When you are laying there and it feels like somebody is jabbing an ice pick into your skull 24/7 and there’s nothing the doctors can do about it and you’ve been to all the best TBI specialists in the state and there’s still nothing they can do, that’s why.

“The pain is all I can think about, and it was debilitating. I didn’t want to be in physical pain anymore.”

One afternoon, Fry emptied a bottle of sleeping pills into the palm of her hand and tossed them into her mouth.

Moments later, Toast, a Jack Russell terrier her mom had gotten her a month earlier as a 16th birthday present, bolted up the stairs and started licking Fry’s face.

“I was sitting on the ground crying and this puppy runs up, licking my face and is so happy to see me. I can’t leave this innocent dog here alone; I just got her.

“Right then I went to the bathroom and threw up everything. Toast saved my life.”

Getting a grip

The family went back on the medical circuit, looking for a solution. Following an acupressure session in early 2007, Fry was referred to the Centre for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield.

She underwent a range of therapies — cognitive, physical, speech and visual.

There were days when Fry wanted to go back to bed and say forget it, says Dr. Ellen Katomski, Fry’s case manager at the Bakersfield center. But together they stimulated and challenged Fry’s brain once a week for the next two months, trying to help her relearn and reconnect what was lost because of the injury.

As medical experts explain it, the injury has left her brain vulnerable to being overloaded by her senses. In a “normal” brain, the important stuff is processed and the rest — from people moving about on the street to birds chirping in the trees and strangers’ conversations in public settings — is filtered out to varying extents.

But that isn’t the case for Fry. Her brain doesn’t push anything aside. Everything is passed through.

And there is no cure. Not fully, anyway.

“It’s a lifelong change,” Katomski says, “and Sara’s trying to make the most of it.”

School no longer came easy and Fry fell behind as she struggled with her focus.

Algebra, which she once conquered with no trouble, was like a foreign language.

With the help of Elaine DeSilva, her home hospital teacher, and Rita Nitschke, her high school counselor, Fry tackled subjects one by one over the next three years.

She returned to campus for what was her senior year, taking classes there in addition to continuing her home schooling. She graduated with her Clovis High class of 2009.

“I was so far behind, but I knew I could do it. I wanted to go back to school and graduate with my friends. I was determined to not take no for an answer.”

Another test

After graduation, Fry drove to San Diego to stay with older sister Andrea for a few weeks.

It turned into months, as San Diego suited Fry. She enrolled in community college and life was returning to near normalcy, despite dealing with the daily residual effects of her brain injury.

“They’re all just a part of my regular life. There comes a point where you can’t let this hinder you.”

But in August 2009, Andrea was diagnosed with melanoma. Her doctor suspected it may be genetic, prompting the entire family to be tested. Among her mom, another sister and a brother, Fry was the only positive.

She had 11 surgeries over the next 13 months to remove cancerous cells.

“When Sara came down with that it was tough at first, but she did it her way. It’s heart-wrenching to see your beautiful daughter turn into a patch quilt from the cutting and cutting,” says her father, Michael.

Her brain injury made it all the worse. Fry didn’t numb for any of her surgeries, feeling each prick and prod.

Finally, she decided she’d had enough — the 11th surgery would be her last, regardless of how the cancer was responding.

“I’ve never been afraid of death. I had already thought I was going to die because of the TBI. I was just extremely unhappy with it, so I decided that I would be done.”

With that, Fry opened a new chapter on her life.

Moving on

At the start of 2012, sparked by an interest in backpacking and the outdoors, Fry announced to her family that she would hike the Pacific Crest Trail — alone.

She started in April at the California-Mexico border and finished the 2,660-mile trek to Canada in October.

“When you do something like that, it’s a personal deal,” Michael Fry says. “It’s about how far you can go and what you can do. Did I expect her to go all the way? Probably not, but she did.”

Fry masked her pain, using her trademark goofiness and smile to keep hikers she came across from noticing.

“The pain is still there. Sometimes it hits me hard on the trail, but being outside and enjoying life when I once couldn’t is what drives me.”

Fry kept hiking, first around San Diego and then in the summer of 2013 in Alaska. Back home for visits, she jumped on trails around Millerton Lake, eventually taking on the San Joaquin River Trail.

In November, Fry and friend John McKinney, whom she met while hiking the Pacific Crest, became the first to thru-hike the entire SJRT.

Michael Fry says his daughter’s love of outdoors feeds her soul.

“Life deals you hands like that and only God knows why. The human soul is pretty resourceful to keep going and going like that. With all Sara’s been through, this is just another challenge and another day.”

Her next adventure

Symptoms from the brain injury remain constant. Even today, they are sometimes so painful she is forced to stay home.

Nausea and light-headedness are daily companions.

Her eyes go “completely bonkers.”

“The entire world shakes and moves, no matter how much I rub my eyes. This isn’t spinning; this is everything shaking and my eyes hurt really bad when this happens,” Fry says.

She lives with a constant headache, putting it at a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Sharp, stabbing pains make her ears feel like they’re about to explode, the agony often forcing her to the ground. She at times suffers from “underwater” or muffled hearing, sometimes lasting all day. Her chest will tighten, making even breathing painful to the point where she has to take really short, quick breaths.

Her joints and muscles always hurt and extreme fatigue often overtakes her. Her immune system is weaker than average. She’ll easily catch a bug and take longer than most individuals to heal.

Fry’s body still doesn’t numb. She feels everything, from a slight touch to a cut.

She still has regular checkups for melanoma.

But on Wednesday, off Fry went, embarking on her next adventure.

Annually, only about two dozen hikers complete the entire Continental Divide Trail.

Fry will traverse four states, starting at the Crazy Cook Monument in New Mexico, about 150 yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. From there, the hike will carry her through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, all the way to the Canadian border.

She plans to cover 20 to 30 miles per day, taking a day to rest every five or six days. Twenty wilderness areas and three national parks — Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and Glacier — are along the way.

The route moves up and down in elevation, zig-zagging rugged mountains with summits ranging from 4,600 to 14,600 feet. Such heights and the cold temperatures could interfere with some of her medications.

Fry self-injects neurosteroids into her thigh or abdomen every day as a result of the brain injury. Resupply boxes will be shipped to her at 30 stops along the trail, each carrying medication, food and other necessities.

It’s all part of the new life she has made for herself.

“On the trail, I love every day of it and I wouldn’t change a thing. … As painful and crazy as my life has been since the TBI, it all really has been a blessing in disguise.”

The reporter can be reached at or @anhelllll on twitter

Read more here:

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Making My Way South – PCT KO

After all the planning, researching, mapping, prep-work, resupply nightmares, and social media outreach I’ve been engulfed in for the past few months, I’m about to finally start making my way towards the Continental Divide Trail. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The planning aspect of this thru-hike is tedious and often times a chore, but once my feet hit the ground at Crazy Cook in New Mexico I know everything will fade away like the setting sun.

This past week has been hectic to say the least. All the last minuet tasks start jumping out of the wood work. There were 3 days where I only got 4.5 hours of sleep. It’s brutal, but I wouldn’t change a thing. This is all part of the experience and I’m incredibly lucky to be following my passion.

This past Easter Weekend my family threw a “CDT Send Off” party for me. It was incredible having so many of my loved ones and friends there to support me on yet another crazy adventure. You all mean so much to me and I’m truly blessed to be surrounded by such encouragment. Keep it coming! I’m going to need it while I’m out there walking 3,100 miles.

ImageMom and I … “And I will walk 500 miles…”

ImageGrandpa and Me with my Aunt Suzi and Igor

ImageMom and myself (again)

ImageLifelong Friends

ImageMy Sister (Me, Aundrea, and Lyz)

ImageFeeling the Love

ImageCheers to family, friends, and chasing your dreams!

I would like to thank everyone who has been there for me thus far. My experience wouldn’t be the same without you. A huge shout out to my buddy Michael McWilliams, co-founder of Digs Apparel, for helping set up and manage the visual aspect of my hike. He’s created an Instagram Account: @Sarabloodbank to tell a visual story of my adventure on the CDT. (More platforms are in the works in addition to IG so be on the look out). Mike is an awesome friend to have along on the journey and it just so happens that we both whole heartedly support Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors and raising awareness of this invisible injury. His campaign ‘”#amelonaday”is a movement dedicated to generating cause awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury by way of melons, people, and art.’ This lighthearted take on TBI is right up my alley with spreading positivity. If you follow along on Instagram/etc you’ll be seeing his handy work so be sure to spread the gratitude. Thank you Maz! You continue to impress me.


Photo on: @digsapparel – Some of his creative genius campaign “Hel-mutt” #amelonaday

I leave tomorrow (4/24) to head down to the Pacific Crest Trail Kick-Off and from there I’m driving over to Lordsburg, NM with my PCT hiking buddies Ipod and Nugio. I’ll update as I get closer to jumping on trail. There’s still so MANY people I need thank!

For tonight I leave you with….


Dancing with my pack. So thrilled to be sharing this experience with YOU!

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Live Out Guest Post: The Most Important Backpacking Traits

In 22 days I’ll take my first steps on one of the most ruggedly beautiful and enticing backcountry trails in the United States: The Continental Divide Trail – a 3,100 mile backpacking trek. I’ve spent the past 2 years exploring and expanding my backcountry resume. In less than 24 months, I’ve logged over 3,500 miles exclusively on our nation’s extensive network of trails. Needless to say, I’m helplessly in love with nature and all things outdoors.


Many people think that to be able to backpack you must be young, strong, and healthy. This may be true, but not in the sense of the definitions you’ve been taught. A backpacker must possess these qualities, but on a different platform.

The ideal backpacker should be young… at heart. They should know how to let loose and gaze at nature with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. They should welcome the unknown and recapture the freedom that they once felt in their youth.

The ideal backpacker should be strong… with determination. They should know that self-encouragment and positivity are quintessential friends to have along on any journey. They must believe in themselves and have the strength to continue achieving progress.

The ideal backpacker should be healthy… mentally healthy. They should recognize the power that not only their words hold, but also their thoughts. Over 90% of hiking is entirely mental. The other 10% is physical. The mind is a beautiful thing; we have the power to achieve anything we set our sights on. Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien said it best, “It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”


I found my passion for backpacking after I had gotten diagnosed with cancer at the young age of 19. During that time, I had been through 11 surgeries in 13 months. It was sheer torture – in all sense of the word.

But my health issues go back further. Five years prior to my cancer diagnosis, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury. I was in a coma, I had to re-learn how to properly read, I was bedridden for years and was unable to attend my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years of high school. To this day I have a grocery list of persistent symptoms long enough to make even a personal assistant do a double take. My physical health has never been my “strong suit.”

At 20 years of age, I was tired of having my life being dictated around what I should and shouldn’t do. I was tired of family constantly checking in on me. I was tired of being perpetually sick. I was tired of listening to doctors tell me how to live. This was, after all, MY life.

I decided to set out on my own path. For years I had wanted to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. So I strapped on my backpack and tramped down the winding trail of exploration, imagination, and overall sheer happiness… and I haven’t looked back since.


Because of my ever prominent health symptoms, hiking does not come easy for me. On any given day I could have one or all of the following: blurry vision, vertigo, extreme fatigue, complete loss of hearing, numb mouth, and severe muscle spasms… just to name a few. But I’ve made a conscious decision not to let any of these things hold me back from doing what I truly love.


Backpacking is my passion. I refuse to fall back on the many legitimate reasons as to why some people say I “can’t.” I refuse to be defined by the suffocating constraints that people so readily want to place on me. I was given life so that I could LIVE – genuinely and wholeheartedly. Stephen Covey said, “Live life out of your imagination, not your history.” And as long as I’m living I intend to indefatigably follow his wisdom.


To me, nature is more than a wild, opulent wonderland.  It is more than the dazzling alpine lakes and the rigidly enchanting peaks. To me, nature is my home. It’s a place where I can be myself without hiding my ailments. It’s a place where I can test my strength and endurance. It’s a place where despite the war sometimes raging inside me, I’m able to stand amidst such grand majesty and everything else simply fades away into the wind.

To me, nature isn’t strictly a place or location, but it exists inside each and everyone of us. Everybody possess the three backpacking traits: youth, strength, and health. But it is up to the individual to cultivate these valuable qualities.


I challenge you to dream big, despite what others may say.  I encourage you to follow your passion, it’ll take you further than you’ve imagined. I urge you stop making excuses. We have the ability to not only overcome, but also thrive in our environment when we put our mind to it.

When situations seem daunting and you begin doubting yourself, remember the girl who’s walking across the length of the United States despite everything she’s been told she “can’t” do. Remember the girl who looks for the positive things in life, when often times it’s the harder route to take. But most importantly, remember that YOU are capable of anything you set your mind to… because just like hiking, life is also 90% mental and 10% physical. Now take my hand and we’ll roam with a freedom rarely seen.


Click “Follow” to join me on my journey of Continental Divide Trail… starting in 22 days.

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