When I was 22 years old, I saw an article in Backpacker Magazine about Flyin’ Brian Robinson. I had just completed my first thru-hike—the Appalachian Trail—and had only learned of the existence of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails en route. Now, I had in my hands a magazine telling me that a man had just hiked them all in one calendar year.
I ran downstairs to my mother’s sewing room with the magazine in my hand. I waved it in front of her, shaking with excitement.
“I’m going to do this!”
My mother shook her head…and went back to sewing.
Fifteen years later, I grabbed Flyin’ Brian’s hand and we walked to the end of my CDT hike. My fiancé took pictures, and the three of us celebrated with Indian food for dinner at a truck stop down the highway. I had just become the first woman to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown, and the inspiration for that—Brian—had joined me for the last 10 miles.
There was a beautiful symmetry to it. Not just the ending, with the first person and the first woman to complete the endeavor both present, but in the hiking of the three trails for the third time. I had also become the first woman to complete the Triple Crown of Backpacking three times. The entire year I’d been hiking trails I’d done before—twice. And there were definitely times I wondered if I should be doing something else instead. Life is only just so long, afterall. However, there were also myriad chances to stand in the same sacred forests, to embrace the sky from familiar mountaintops and vast ridgelines, and nestle into deep pine duff to sleep where I’d spent nights before. All of these moments reaffirmed my desire to complete the endeavor, and that there was something along these trails still to be gained.
Being the first woman to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown hike was both new and old—hiking familiar places in new seasons. It was an opportunity for me to have new experiences, and to also connect with my past. The Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails have—more than any other forces—shaped me and my life. Daily throughout my Calendar Year hike, I gave thanks for the ground on which I stood that had taught me so much. As difficult as it was to complete, I learned a deep and abiding gratitude for our National Scenic Trails and for these three in particular.
I don’t intend to go for a quad triple. Instead, I feel a sense of completeness now. As though I needed a chance to experience gratitude and farewell along these trails. Before I ever even knew about FKTs, or of other long-distance trails, before I’d ever even heard of ultramarathon running, or knew anything about mountaineering—all things I’ve done and fallen in love with since age 21—I wanted to hike the Triple Crown in one Calendar Year. Being the first or setting records are minor footnotes to the real experience: I’ve achieved a lifetime dream.
Heather “Anish” Anderson is a Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador, endurance adventurer, personal trainer, and public speaker. On November 8, 2018, she became the first woman to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown. Learn more about her journeys on her website.