Why I Hike – CDT Dreaming

In a little over 3 months I’ll begin my next thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). I’ve received an overwhelming amount of family, friends, and followers who ask the age old question: “Why?”

Everyone has their own reason why they chose to spend months on end exploring our rugged backcountry. In fact, there’s a saying among the thru-hiking community – “If you have to ask, you’re never going to understand.” But it’s my hope that you WILL understand and that you’ll be inspired to go out there and follow your dreams; no matter how crazy or difficult they may seem.



I hike for my health. Many of you know that I sustained Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) when I was 15. I was in a coma, I had to relearn basic functions, and I was bed ridden for almost 3 years of my life. I was unable to go outside because the light was “too bright” and I couldn’t listen to music because it was “too loud.” Many of my symptoms have gotten better since then, but my life has been drastically changed because of my TBI.

When you experience as much pain as I do on a daily basis, you realize that no matter where you are, the pain you’re in is going to be the same regardless of your location. I’ve been told by all of my doctors that I MUST work out daily. Physical activity then, is not a suggestion, but a prescription. For me, hiking has wholeheartedly become the only prescribed medical regime that has made my deficits more tolerable.

When I’m outside in nature backpacking I’m still experiencing all the physical ailments that I would if I were inside laying in bed. The only difference is that I’m in a place I love, as opposed to being confined to the tethers that sick people are supposed to be tied to. I would much rather be sick in a place I love, and hold dear to my heart, than to be sick inside a stuffy room, feeling claustrophobic. I try and look for the small things in life and let those keep me afloat on a daily basis. Things such as the sunshine, or how the wind rustles through my hair, or the birds singing. It is out in nature that I am able to find a certain peace. I let the little things in life bring me joy, despite the war raging inside my body. If I was trapped inside, I wouldn’t be able to experience these little joys and let them soothe my pain.

There is no doubt that I’m not the average backpacker. A few of my hiking partners that I’ve allowed to physically walk with me (I’m a solo hiker) have come to find out that backpacking is definitely not “easy” for me. In fact, it’s a grueling task, but I’d much rather be in pain out in nature, than in a town. I’m frequently stopped/brought to my knees because of sharp shooting pains. I often wobble and have to stop because my balance is off. Occasionally, my hiking poles become the same equivalent as crutches; they act like a friend’s shoulder, embracing me as I lean into them. Sometimes my hiking partners hear me let out a short gasp for air. They see the pain in my face as I keel over. I wait, and let the pain that has decided to make its appearance, pass.

My eyes frequently get blurry and I’ll get double vision, but when you’re out in nature it’s not that big of a problem. In the backcountry, I don’t have to stop and explain myself to the people who would see me if I were in town. In fact, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone when I hike, because I am a solo hiker. In town, when all my ailments and symptoms come on, I get weird looks and people are always asking me if I’m okay and what’s wrong with me. When I’m hiking I don’t have to reassure people or explain that these are daily occurrences because of the TBI. I have been living with these inconveniences for the past 7 years, and I’m not going to let them dictate how I live. Everyone has hiccups in life. It’s up to you to rise up and overcome these tribulations.

I hike to test myself both mentally and physically. I want to know exactly what I’m capable of, and then push myself further. I want to continue evolving as not only an athlete, but also as an individual. I want to experience life as it’s happening, instead of rushing by in a car or on a plane.

I want to stand on top of mountains knowing that I got myself there on my own two feet. There’s an incredible sense of accomplishment and belonging when you reach a summit. I get an overwhelming surge of happiness, because despite everything I’ve been through, I don’t let it hold me back.

I hike to live my own life, instead of one that has already been played out by countless others.

I hike to better understand my needs and wants. We live in a world that is constantly bombarding us to buy “stuff,” of which almost all of it is meaningless.

I hike to get a better understanding of the country I live in, and to see the raw, natural part of life that is so easily forgotten in our society.

I hike to experience freedom from technology. In today’s modern world we’re constantly plugged in. We have a multitude of media sources being streamed to us at all hours. We have Facebook, Twitter, the news, the radio, and countless other sources all feeding us an overbearing amount of information. It’s nice to be removed from all the “noise” and to focus strictly on the present.

I hike to be able to share my experiences with others who may not be able to get out there to see it themselves.

 I hike to meet people from all over the world and to gain a better understanding of my fellow neighbors.

I hike to develop lifelong friendships with people who share the same enthusiasm for nature as me.

I hike to let my imagination soar and to be open to new thoughts and ideas.

I hike to show others that we are capable of anything we set our mind to. Our dreams can become reality, all we have to do is believe in ourselves and maintain a positive outlook on life.


It is my wish that everyone will take hold of their dreams. It doesn’t matter how big or small they may be. If it’s important to you, go for it! Don’t let anyone decide your life for you. If you believe it’s possible… it is.

Come May 1st I’ll start hiking North from Mexico to Canada. Follow your dreams and passions. I’ve had a lot of people ask how they can help, so I’ve set up this site…


I also handknit beanies and 100% of the profit goes towards my CDT Fund. You can find the hats under the “Shop” tab.

31 thoughts on “Why I Hike – CDT Dreaming

  1. What an amazingly inspirational post Sara, you are embracing the reality of your life with all it’s difficulties, and from there you’re moving forwards doing what makes you feel good. I honestly can’t think of a better way to live, and it must be so liberating not to have to explain yourself everyday. Nature has this wonderful capacity to accept everything as it is with all the bumps and warts, I wish you well on your trek….and on your life walk 🙂

    • Seonaid, thank you! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do… inspire others and show them through my lifestyle that anything is possible. I certainly have my ups and downs, but the beauty and experiences are what I live for. It’s the little things ; ) Thank you for the good vibes and thoughtful response! May you be healthy, happy, and your adventures be thrilling!

  2. I’m so inspired by your ability to keep pushing forward despite TBI and truly chase you passion one step at a time. Thank you so much for sharing, I will be thinking of you my next hike.

    • Hillary, Thank you! I do my best to embrace life as it comes and live each moment to its fullest. I’m glad you enjoyed my words, I hope to have you along for the journey! Have fun out in nature! : )

  3. There is a draft-like movement I feel getting stronger: it tells of the humility we’ve missed, the misconceptions we have been exposed to through the culture, philosophy and religion we grew up into…
    No we’re not at the center, and no out intellect, does not give us the right to subdue, and apaise nature, and everything natural, and to exploit to extinction. In fact we’re feeble, and totally irresponsible as a species! Quite bad to see that no matter what we try, we’re still moving ahead on the wrong trail!

    Your trees, as old as civilization itself are the best example of nature in communion with us!

    Thank you!

    • George,

      Thank you for such an eloquent response! I understand what you mean about the movement undertow. We must have to continue to focus our attention on the positive, and re-cultivate our dwindling awareness of interconnectedness with our beautiful planet. Love is always the answer: “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up, it expands in size the more you love.” and perhaps…. “I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself.” – D.H. Lawrence

    • Susan, you’re so very sweet. Thank YOU for your kind words and encouragement! You have no idea how much it helps to have positive support. Go out and live the life you’ve always dreamed of! : )

      • You have given me hope for my own future. I am just beginning to feel a turn towards better health and I am looking forward to becoming healthy and active once more. I wish you well on your trek…. I need to check and see if I have missed any developments. Go for it!
        Bless, Susan x

  4. My friends have never understood why I do what I do. From being on a glacier at 2am or riding 200 miles in a day. But you, lady, have done an amazing job explaining why. Better than my ” cuz I can and I want to! “. You impress the heck out of me! P

  5. You so inspire me. Go out and do your thing and make the must if what you have. I’ll follow you’d journey and encourage you. You rock.

    Sent from my iPhone

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