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Hiker extraordinaire will share her experiences and adventures during Tri-Cities event

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Heather Anderson, one of the most extraordinary hiking achievers in the world, will share her experiences with the Tri-Cities in a one-time event sponsored by the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club (www.imacnw.org).

She will give a presentation at the Richland Public Library on Monday July 1 at 7 p.m. describing how she overcame her fears on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Her record of hiking achievements is noteworthy. She was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in February 2019 for incredible hiking accomplishments.

In 2017, she became the second woman to complete the “Double Triple Crown of Backpacking”, completing the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails each twice. In 2018 she hiked all three of those trails in one March-November season.

“I didn’t have any idea of the enormity of the undertakings when I first started out,” she said. She describes herself growing up as “… overweight, inactive and introverted – a bookworm of the highest order.”

In sixth grade her gym teacher forced her and all the other students to write down their athletic goals. She resolved that if she ever managed to overcome her athletic weaknesses, she wanted to set a record.

“I have a lot of weaknesses,” she wrote, “but I also have two critical strengths: I am stubborn and I am smart.”

Started hiking in 2001

She started hiking while working in 2001 on a summer job at the Yavapai Lodge concession at Grand Canyon National Park.

“I’d never hiked more than two miles before in my life – the round trip from Indian Garden was going to be at least four times that distance.” In August, she survived her first rim-to-rim crossing barefoot, having shredded the soles of her sandals.

When she graduated in 2003 from Anderson University, outside Indianapolis, she decided to attempt the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. She adopted the trail name “Anish” in honor of her great-great grandmother, who was of Native American Anishinabe descent.

With friends she went to see Zion and Bryce Canyon. “All these incredible places touched my spirit in a way I’ve never felt before,” she wrote.

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Heather Anderson is pictured hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. Courtesy of Heather Anderson

But she did not stop there. She went on to become one of 400 people who have claimed the Triple Crown of Hiking, completing the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails, shattering the known records times for each trail.

“I hiked the PCT in 60 days,” she said. “I tracked my mileage daily and averaged 45 or more miles per day. Occasionally, I hiked with other people that were also hiking the trail, but they were incidental meetings and seldom lasted very long since my schedule was far more aggressive than theirs.”

She is what is called an ultra-light hiker – someone who utilizes tents and packs, and clothes, made from extremely lightweight materials that are also sturdy enough to stand up to daily use in all kinds of weather. Her base pack weight is 9 pounds. Food and water fluctuate widely, so there is no set weight. She shares her insights and gear lists at her blog website: anishhikes.wordpress.com.

She set and holds the speed record for the overall self-supported fastest known time on the Pacific Crest Trail (2013) – hiking it in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 min (which broke the previous men’s record by four days and established the first female record). She also holds the female self-supported time on the Appalachian Trail (2015), doing it in 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes, and the Arizona Trail (2016), which she completed in 19 days, 17 hours, 9 minutes.

Since 2003, she has hiked nearly 30,000 miles, including 13 thru-hikes: Appalachian Trail in 2003, 2015, and 2018; Pacific Crest Trail in 2005, 2013, and 2018; Continental Divide Trail in 2006, 2017, and 2018; John Muir Trail in 2005; Wonderland Trail in 2010; Arizona Trail in 2016; and the Oregon Desert Trail in 2017.

She is also an ultra-marathon runner who has completed six 100-mile races since August 2011 as well as dozens of 50k and 50-mile events.

Book details her adventures

Her book, “Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home” (Mountaineers Books) chronicles her Pacific Crest Trail experiences and is packed with stories about the adventures she had on the journey.

“The trails are very safe, and I am seldom afraid,” she said. “I saw plenty of wildlife, which is one of the things I enjoy most about being out there. Mosquitoes are always bad in the Sierra and southern Oregon. I imagine people may think I am a natural athlete, the girl who played sports all through school. The exact opposite is true. I was an overweight child, a bookworm who sat with her nose in an adventure book and daydreamed.

“When I graduated high school, I weighed 200 pounds,” she wrote. “When I was 20, I met something that would forever change my life — a trail. Though my first few hikes were miserable as I forced my body to work, I was enthralled. Trails took me on the adventures I craved and to beautiful, wondrous, wild places. I lost my heart and soul — and eventually 70 pounds — to the trails.”

“My sincere hope is that people will be brave enough to follow their dreams,” she said.

Her talk starts at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Richland Public Library.

Books will be available for sale, and a $5 donation is requested. Proceeds go to the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club.

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (www.imacnw.org). He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.

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