Heather (trail name-“Anish”) Anderson, record holder for an unsupported thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 60 days was recently featured in Backpacker Magazine. When I read about people like Anish I am drawn to know a little of their history and what makes them tick. I did a little research on Heather and found a great interview done by Meghan Hicks with Heather in September of 2013 for iRunFar. Catch all of it at http://www.irunfar.com/2013/09/doing-what-she-most-wants-to-do-heather-andersons-pacific-crest-trail-fkt.html Much of this blog is a reflection of this interview plus the insights from Backpacker Magazine (March 2014).
I began to identify with “Anish” as she shared her connection to the Grand Canyon “Before I went to the Grand Canyon, I never exercised. It’s not what my family did. I was overweight. Exercise wasn’t part of my conscious. But at the Grand Canyon, I day hiked and went on a couple overnight trips. I somehow got it in my head that I wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT).” My rim to rim hikes of God’s Canyon pulled me deeper into the thru-hiker’s mindset as well and the goal of the A.T. was firmly in my mind during my second visit to Arizona.
Heather was 22 years old when she made this thru-hike of the AT. I will be 64 years old – that’s close. Besides those hikes into the canyon and a few weekends at MetroParks in the Dayton area, I have not experienced many overnight trips. Heather shares a similar preparation, “When I started the AT, I’d only gone on two overnight trips before. I still didn’t really know about hiking or backpacking…. I had really random stuff that I bought off the Internet or from Walmart. I didn’t have good gear. I just showed up. I started in Georgia, in May. I thought it would be too hot for a sleeping bag. I shivered in my emergency blanket at night. The first town I got to with an outfitter, I bought a sleeping bag. I knew nothing, but learned so much.”
Heather’s 2003 AT hike was just the beginning. In 2005 she thru-hiked the PCT (for the first time) and the very next summer, she completed the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The AT, PCT, and CDT are collectively called the Triple Crown by long-distance hikers. In a little more than three years, Anish had backpacked close to 8,000 miles. Ten years after her initial AT thru-hike, at 32 years old, Heather set the speed record for the PCT. Let’s see if I hike the AT in 2014, ten years later I will be…..ouch! Speed records are most likely not in my future.
When commenting on the mental/emotional aspects of the hike, Heather shared, “Pain is going to be part of this journey and I don’t want to waste mental or physical energy trying to avoid it or being afraid of it. If you have the ability to accept pain for what it is, then it ceases to have power.” After realizing that she had taken a wrong turn on the PCT, costing her valuable time, she confides, “I was very angry while as I was hiking. Then I realized it doesn’t matter. Getting upset is a waste of energy, and energy is a commodity.”
What to know more about Heather? Check out her blog: http://runhikelivelove.blogspot.com/