Wired is hiking the AT this summer and if you have an ounce of interest in hiking a trail or living vicariously through someone that is hiking a trail, then follow her on her blog www.walkingwithwired.com.
While I would love to be thru-hiking this summer, it’s not in the cards this year. However, that is where our hiking friend Wired comes in. We met Wired last year on the CDT while hiking in Montana. We were around her for a large section of trail and we had the good fortune of camping with her a couple nights. She is also a character in our upcoming book, A Long Way From Nowhere: A Couple’s Journey on the Continental Divide Trail.
Wired has her name largely because she is a timely and dedicated trail blogger and because she is super-energetic, requiring little sleep. She has developed an impressive following on her blog www.walkingwithwired.com as she chronicled her 2011 PCT hike and her 2013 CDT hike. She is planning on setting out on the Appalachian Trail on April 17th and we are eager to experience the trail through her eyes as she makes her way north from Georgia to Maine this summer.
We had a chance to catch up with Wired this past week shortly before she takes off on her summer trek:
How does your twin sister describe you and your adventures to her friends?
It’s funny because she is in a completely different world right now as a mother of two young kids in the Midwest. What I’m doing is so far fetched that it isn’t really absorbed. My sister is also a person with a lot of drive and endurance. She just channels it into her family right now. She just tells people that I work double as a sub and nanny/babysitter so I can go backpacking for months at a time. I think most just nod and don’t really have a true understanding of it.
Two long trails over two summers (CDT ’13 & AT ’14) is a huge undertaking. What led you to decide to get on the trail again this year?
I’ve known for awhile that I’d like to complete the Triple Crown (AT, PCT, & CDT). However, I wasn’t sure I’d be up for the emotional and physical toll of thru hiking two years in a row. When I finished the Continental Divide Trail in the fall, I felt like I could’ve kept hiking immediately afterward. That’s when I knew I was going to do the AT right away. It’s the planning that is most draining for me and the AT requires very little planning, so that made it an easy decision. I’m definitely ready to hike a long trail again!
Tell us about your blog. We know you have a huge following. What motivates you to put in so much work each day with the website?
Oh man, it’s definitely a commitment! I never even imagined or intended for the blog to have this kind of impact. It is very time consuming and most thru hikers understandably do not wish to make the time commitment. I find that it gives me a sense of purpose and makes my hikes feel less selfish. I felt conflicted when I left on my first hike about doing something solely for myself. Almost immediately, the blog filled that void for me and I can give back to the trail community in my own unique way. I was inspired to hike by others’ blogs before me and knowing that my blog is doing the same for others makes it all worth it. I can give people the hike they might otherwise never have and I feel like I’m hiking for more than just myself. I’m bringing people from all over the world along for the ride and that’s very motivating!
We know you love gadgets and being connected. We also know you utilized a solar charger on the CDT. What is your strategy for dealing with the AT and its lack of sun –it’s been referred to as the Long Green Tunnel?!
I’ve done away with the solar charger (Suntactics scharger-5) for the AT and have purchased an independent battery (NewTrent PowerPak+) that I refer to as my “brick.” I chose the version with the highest capacity so it’s 11oz, but well worth it in my book! With all the service I’ll get along the AT, it will be used and my biggest treat at night in my tent is when I get to watch 15-30min of a television show on Hulu (if I have service). I know, it sounds terrible, but it’s my way of relaxing before bed. As for hiking in the “green tunnel” I have always loved the woods, so I think I will enjoy it. I always have plenty of charge for my MP3 player and audiobooks if I need to entertain myself on long forested walks. I know many will cringe at the answers, but try walking 12hrs a day in the woods for 4-5 months and you’d want some variety too.
Luxury items on this trip? What is the most surprising and interesting item you have in your pack?
Hmm, other than my electronics, I will be hiking with an umbrella for the first time and I’m really excited about that. I’ve tested it plenty here in the Northwest and I don’t know how I went so long without getting one! As for the most surprising item, I don’t have too many unique things other than the basic gear. Another completely unnecessary luxury item for my electronics is a 4.5oz multi-usb port plug-in (iFlash 4 USB Quad Port Charger) for town. I can plug it into one socket and charge four separate devices at once. People judge me and then I’m the one they all come to when all the hikers are in town and there aren’t enough plugs, ha!
I’m sure you’ve heard all about the AT already. What are you looking forward to most and what are you most fearful of?
I’m looking forward to being on a trail that requires little planning and navigation. The planning and route finding of the Continental Divide Trail wore on me over the months, so I’m looking forward to being able to be more present without always worrying about where I am…if that make sense. If I’m always searching for the next turn, I’m less able to just be on the trail and free my “wired” mind.
What I’m least looking forward to are all the people on the AT. I DO NOT function well in a group. I enjoy overlapping with others one-on-one or small groups when it happens, but when I’m around too many people for extended periods of time, I tend to get very claustrophobic and downright pissy. The people will be a challenge for me for sure!
If I remember correctly, this will be your third thru-hike in four years. People want to know, how do you make it happen?
I am extremely fortunate that my stars have aligned and it turns out that my lifestyle is the perfect fit for being a thru hiker. I have always lived frugally and saved most my money. I didn’t find out about thru hiking until I was 30yrs old, so I had about a decade of savings. When I’m off trail, I work ~60hrs a week as a substitute teacher daily and nanny/babysitter weeknights and weekends for some wonderful families who are able to work around my schedule. I own few things so I’m able to store my belongings in the basement of one of the families. I absolutely love the freedom of having a job where I can come and go as I please without having to get permission or tell anyone.
A large percentage of people that set out on thru-hikes fail for one reason or another. You have been successful in both of your attempts. What motivates you to keep walking, while so many others fail?
I am very paranoid about injury and train before I go out to hopefully prevent problems. I am just happy on the trail and I feel at home. My body feels like it’s in its prime right now for this and that it has just accepted that this is what I do. At some point, the physical becomes automatic and the rest is just mental. I have my electronics to keep me distracted if I get bored or have a difficult climb or injury. Quitting never enters my mind while I’m out there. I really like it and might get tired and wish I had an extra day off to lounge and watch tv, but I always want to see what’s coming and what’s waiting around the next bend. I also envision the endpoint a lot and it really pumps me up to have an image of where I’m headed. I think a lot of people just don’t realize you actually have to walk and carry a pack when you thru hike. Others find that they have stronger attachments to things back home and don’t realize that until they are out there for a month or two. I also know I have lots of people virtually hiking with me, so it’s not just my hike. I have others relying on me. Again, that is very motivating.
Tell us a secret. What is something about you that armchair travelers would like to know, that you haven’t divulged yet on your blog?
Ah, good one! I have to say I’m pretty open on the blog and I like to think out loud a bit so people know my thought process and where I’m coming from. In the last two months, an idea for my possible 2015 hike has come to light and it could be pretty badass if it all fell into place…but I’ll leave it at that little nugget…first things first, the Appalachian Trail!
You’ve obviously grabbed life by the horns and taken on major challenges. What do you tell aspiring adventures to help them realize their dreams?
I’d actually tell them something I learned when I took the leap to do my first thru hike and go solo. I don’t want to walk away from a situation wondering, “What if?” I realize I might fail, but I’d rather attempt something and not succeed than to have never attempted it at all. If I don’t go for it, I’ll always wonder, “What if? What would have happened?”….so go for it! Even if you can’t make that complete leap just yet, at least take those little steps that will put yourself on the path in the right direction.
I second that advice Wired! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. We think what you’re doing with your life and your adventures are inspiring and awesome and we wish you the best of luck on your upcoming thru-hike.
Again, you can follow Wired’s AT hike and read all about her past adventures on www.walkingwithwired.com. Also, we’ve included a couple links to other interviews she’s done that tell more of her awesome story.
http://www.trailgroove.com/issue13.html (starts on pg 15)