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2016: The 7,100 Mile Year

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In 2015, I hiked from the West Coast to the east Coast (not contiguously, but on many different trips). While I actually had no specific destination in mind, by the time it was all said and done, I was fortunate to have visited, hiked, and backpacked in 22 states.

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Yellowstone National Park. All images: Lina Thompson

Although I didn’t plan on it being an educational experience, I did learn some things along the way:

1.       I'm very resilient. I went from hiking in 105-degree weather through the desert to hiking in the snow in -20-degree weather (brrrr!!!).  All in less than 24 hours!  This hike took me from Death Valley—the lowest point in the US—to Mt. Whitney, the highest.  It was such an incredible opportunity, and an experience I’ll never forget.

2.       Less is more. If you’re a hiker, you’ve probably come to this conclusion yourself already.  Because I did so much hiking this year, I became more self-sufficient and learned to be happy with the little that I had.   

3.       Being a solo female hiker is OK, regardless of what anyone thinks.If you’re a solo female hiker, you’ll get all kinds of questions:  “Why are you hiking alone?”  “Aren’t you scared?”  “Are you going to carry a weapon?”  Along the way, I’ve learned to take these queries in stride and view solo hiking as empowering, rather than something to be fearful about.

While the hikes weren’t always enjoyable—there were plenty of “adventures”—and I am proud of what I accomplished. I experienced tremendous joy about being at a point in my life where I have the freedom to do to spend so much time in nature exploring the beauty of the outdoors.

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Backpacking with son, Jacob.

It is with those thoughts in mind that I hatched my plans for 2016.  Can you guess?  Yes, more hiking!  Roughly 7,100 miles of it…

In just a few short days, my 12-year-old son and I will do a 2,174-mile thru-hike of the AT northbound from Georgia to Maine.

Why the AT?  I chose it for several reasons.  For one thing, I’m comfortable backpacking the southern half of it in the winter.  I’m already familiar with the sudden weather changes, freezing temperatures, and the terrain. 

I also enjoy the social aspect of the AT.  It’s really unlike any other long distance trail in the US.  Rather than hiking it to seek solitude, I chose the AT because it offers the opportunity for unique social interactions with other like-minded folks. 

Lastly, the AT is close to home, and Jacob and I will have some company along the way.  Yea, we are very excited about that!  We’re fortunate to have friends in various parts of the country who will be hiking small sections with us to keep Jacob motivated.

672?x=TJ9Iuf53x#asset:3013:mediumSouth Dakota.

At roughly 3,100 miles, the CDT is one of the longest foot trails in the U.S. I expect it to take 5-6 months to hike.  It is for that reason that I would like to do it in 2016.  You never know when life is going to throw a curveball, and I want to get the CDT under my belt while I have the time and opportunity to do so.

I’ll begin this hike in June and travel southbound so I can hopefully, skip the snow that Colorado is renowned for!

When winter hits, I’ll head south to Florida, my old stomping ground.  There is an 1,100-mile trail there with my name on it!  Well, actually, Florida’s name but who’s counting?  I’m considering this hike my vacation from my vacation!

I misled you, just a little.  Sometime in the summer, I plan to leave the CDT, squeeze in a hike with a friend along the John Muir Trail, and return to the CDT.  I’m ready to wrap up! 

I have no specific time frame for completion.  After all, it’s not how fast you run but whether you cross the finish line.  Or at least, that’s how I’m viewing it!  Not so different a perspective from that hiking saying, “Hike your own hike...”

I’ll close by saying that I hope you’re as excited about 2016 as I am.   I wish you many fun-filled hiking adventures in the New Year!

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