I'm struggling to put into words how incredible of a human being our Hiker's Highlight is this week. Getting to know Jennifer, or Trekkin_for_Change, has been such an educating experience not only about hiking, but about her selfless journey as well. From hiking and summiting in Zanzibar on Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341′) to now hiking the Appalachian Trail ("AT"), she's hiking to make a difference for Pediatric Cancer Research.
Jennifer found her passion for hiking in 2014 when she was working in Africa for an organization called GIVE that helps build schools and work with water purification systems for Zanzibar. She was there for four weeks, during which she was able to check a MAJOR bucket list item off, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
After graduation from Auburn University with a degree in Exercise Science, she took off on the AT for her next journey! Sending us interview questions from mile 1,480, we have had such a blast getting to know her.
"It wasn't the books and it wasn't the movies that lodged the idea of thru-hiking in my head. I fell in love with the idea of such a long adventure that was achievable" - Jennifer
What was your biggest fear when starting to solohike?
As a social person, I was really nervous about not finding people that I enjoyed being around. I found that fear to totally shatter on my first night on the trail. I immediately met a girl ("Mumbles") the first day that reassured me that a lot of people out here generally have the same outlook and perspective on life.
Kylie "Mumbles" Torrance, is the photographer behind most of these beautiful pictures!
What trails are you planning on hiking after the AT?
I'm terrified that I have the bug. The "gotta triple-crown" bug. "Triple-crowning" simply means doing the three big US thru-hikes (AT- Appalachian Trail, PCT- Pacific Crest Trail and the CDT- Continental Divide Trail). Each trail provides a vast range in views, altitudes and weather conditions... it's hard to not WANT to do more.
What nitty-gritty advice do you have for women looking to distance hike?
Know your gear and ask for help BEFORE going on trail. Suck it up and get the guy at the REI to explain how to set up a tent in the rain before you're in the rain trying to figure it out. I feel that woman on the trail that hike solo can be just as independent (if not more) than the guys. On that note, don't be scared to do what you want, even if you're the only one around that wants to night hike or set up early. Be smart but also be brave- the best things I've done on trail has been because I went against the current.
Besides that, embrace the fact that you can be socially accepted for four to six months without smelling good and wearing makeup.
What is your biggest hiking accomplishment so far?
In 2014 I Summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. At the age of 19, I realized that I had the ability to change my "bucket list" into a life outline. This changed the game for me and that will forever be one of the most impactful things I have ever done.
When did you set off on the AT and how long do you plan on being on the trail?
I began at Springer Mountain on March 27th, 2017.
I allowed myself a little over five months to complete the trail. After a lot of research and watching past hikers for awhile, I configured that would be enough time for me. At one point I did 1/4 of the trail in a month (including zeros - days without hiking). I felt accomplished but I knew I was going a little fast. I wanted to be able to enjoy all different aspects of the trail - not make it a grind every day.
How much on average does thruhiking cost?
FOOD: Each trail is different. Some trails you have to pre-package all your food before hand and have them shipped to you along the trail - this alone could change the amount you might need to complete the trail. The AT specifically is so close to towns that doing resupply boxes is not really necessary. I have used the post office more for shipping clothing/shoes and gear more than food. A typical and super comfortable budget for food and lodging is $1000 a month. I have seen people do it on $500 a month but you really have to watch where and how you spend.
GEAR: You also must factor in the cost of the gear itself. If you have money to spend, the most popular thing is being "UL" (ultra light). Brands like Zpacks, Hyperlite, Gossamer Gear and Enlightened Equipment have high-dollar gear for great, reliable, and durable quality. It's also possible to have a pretty light pack for less expensive - this takes practice and a lot of research. Most people range around $1500 for all initial gear (pack, sleep system, etc).
SHOES: One big change I made a year before starting my hike was to switch my sturdy boots in for trail runners. Because the terrain is pretty well maintained and the weather is typically manageable, most people opt for this idea. The average person go
es through three or four pairs of trail runners ranging from $90-180 a pair. The most undercover but durable shoe I've seen on trail is the New Balance Leadville's. They're worth a look.
*note: trail runners have a weight limit... if you're carrying a 40+lb pack you should stick to your boots.
Jennifer highlights so much more of her journey on and off the trail on her blog here.
Follow Jennifer's Adventure:
Instagram | Blog
A very inspired,
Back Country Momma
All photos belong to Kylie "Mumbles" Torrance, follow her journey here: Instagram