I’m excited to share with everyone the culmination of this most recent chapter in my life. This past weekend was the Triple Crown ceremony where hikers who have completed the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail are recognized and celebrated for their achievements in long distance hiking. Each year, the American Long Distance Hiking Association West (ALDHA-West) hosts The Gathering. The name is perfect as it is like a reunion of sorts for so many long distance hikers and people from the long distance hiking community. It rotates each year to California, Washington, and Oregon(next year!) and this year it took place at Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass in Washington. I have to say that this past weekend was really meaningful for me and I’d like to share it with everyone as completely as I can since many of you have taken this journey with me the last 3.5yrs and I feel like you are an integral part of it. This is a long entry, but well worth it!

The weekend started earlier than I anticipated, on Friday night. Since I’ve been back from the Appalachian Trail, the kids I nanny (now 7 and 4) have been asking for trail stories as part of the bedtime routine. I have my journals printed and bound for my own keepsake and they sometimes choose to select a day at random for me to read to them. My little buddy (who I’ve been with since she was 2mo old) randomly asked me to read my journal entry from my first day on the PCT in 2011, which was my first trail. I couldn’t believe the coincidence that I’d be reading that entry for the first time since I wrote it just 24hrs before I was to get my Triple Crown award.

The day it all began…

The entry starts with the sentence, “Today was one of the best days of my life!” Whenever people ask me to recall my best day on trail or a memorable moment, it’s always that day. It changed my life and I never saw it coming. The PCT was a fluke and I went into it unsure of if I’d even like thru hiking. I just thought I’d go give it a try and if I didn’t like it, I’d go home and return to substitute teaching. As soon as I saw the monument, I was overcome with emotion unlike anything I’ve ever felt before and I couldn’t even describe what I was feeling. I did know it was momentous and managed to video myself as a puddled mess at the monument.

I couldn’t describe it that day, but I now know that for the first time I was feeling what it felt like to LIVE life. I didn’t even know I wasn’t living life. I’d be going through the motions with one day rolling into the next, but for the first time in 31yrs, I was LIVING life. In that moment, it was as if I got a preview of all that was come, and it shot through my veins like lightning all at once. I’ve been on that high ever since and it’s great to feel so ALIVE! In that first entry, you can see the immaturity in my blogging and writing and it’s just really cool to see how it’s all evolved and grown over the years.

So after working two 13hr+ days, I woke up early Saturday morning after a handful of hours of sleep to make the four hour drive to The Gathering at Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass. Oh man, was it overwhelming to see so many hikers in one place! There were over 100 people there and it felt like the majority of them had impacted and influenced my hiking either directly or indirectly. It’s a very unique connection among long distance hikers. Hikers come from all over the world to hike on the trails and may overlap in brief or extended times through the internet, in towns, or on the trail. No matter how it happens, there is a connected bond and it was a great reunion. Here are a few of the highlights for me.

When we arrived to check-in, everyone gets a name tag with additional tags to indicate if you are a triple crowner. There were other random tags there for fun and my friends took the opportunity to add OCD to mine in honor of my obsessive compulsive tendencies…it was crooked, but I quickly fixed it, ha!

 
I got to spend time with Why Not!? and Shroomer. Both were influential in my CDT hike as they had hiked it the year before me and I used their journals to learn about the trail. They both hiked the trails in the same order as me and Why Not!? hiked each one of them the year before I did. She was my main resource going into the CDT and AT providing me with immeasurable resources and the encouragement I needed to lighten my pack. It was great to follower her footsteps in more than one way. Shroomer’s love of the trail and descriptive trail journaling definitely influenced my writing as I kicked it up a notch on the CDT. Just wonderful to see them and tell them in person the impact they’ve had on me.

Shroomer & Why Not!?
PCT Map GOD Halfmile!!! Fresh off a PCT thru hike himself!

Ultralight Gear Makers: Ron of Six Moon Designs, Henry of Tarptent, and Grant of Gossamer Gear.

 While I was there, I realized how there were so many people there from each of my hiking “classes,” so I gathered each of the groups together for reunion photos…LOVE THESE!!! You may not recognize all of these names and faces, but almost every single one of them are people I overlapped with at some point on my hikes in someway. I am sure each person feels this about their classes, but my PCT and CDT classes are especially bonded and badass hikers that I’m proud to be grouped with!

 PCT 2011: Marmot, Wired, Skinny D, Beacon, Malto, Dirtmonger, Balls, Sunshine, Drop-N-Roll
CDT 2013: Top: Steady, Q-Ball, Gangles, Bigfoot, Puck, Tatu-Jo, Steiner, Neon. Bottom: Wired, Papa Smurf, Drop-N-Roll, Estero. Not pictured, but there: Balls, Sunshine, Spins, Baboon.
AT 2014: 3D, The Punisher, Shroomer, Wired
Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors: Snorkel, Wired, Allgood, Dirtmonger, Bearclaw, Bobcat, Anish.

The day was great fun and I did my best to talk to everyone I could while we had this brief overlap again. It was an overload, but also such a great time. Everyone is just really supportive and connected and it was pretty much perfect! After dinner was the main event and this year’s Triple Crowners were recognized. With the rise in popularity of hiking and the trails becoming more traveled and accessible, there was a record number of Triple Crowners this year. The cutoff date is Sept 1st, so you will notice many who Triple Crowned last season after the Sept 1st cutoff date included in this class. There were 34 hikers in this class and a record number of 19 hikers were present to get recognized. That brought the total of all time (recognized since 1994, but also awarded to any previous year) Triple Crowners to 230 hikers. I’m sure that actual number is much bigger as this is just those who took the time to apply for the recognition. If you’re interested in seeing the list of all 230 broken down by year, here is the link. A note about this years class is the great number of women in this group. I’ve been told there are 30-40 women in that group of 230 Triple Crowners, so it’s great to see almost as many women up there as men. Yeah!

Top: Steady, Papa Smurf, Balls, Steady, Car Hop, Neon, Q-Ball, Bigfoot, Puck, 3D, The Punisher. Bottom: Spins, Baboon, Estero, Why Not?!, Shroomer, Wired, Steiner.

I really enjoy the way they do the ceremony. It started with a slideshow of photos of all of this year’s Triple Crowners from each of the three trails. Each hiker is called up individually to receive their plaque and they are given 3-5mins to say something if they wish. I don’t know how common this is, but all the recipients spoke for a bit and it was really heartwarming to hear how much hiking has fulfilled so many people. I was really proud to be part of such a quality group of not just hikers, but human beings. A really great group! Each hiker this year was recognized with a plaque, bandana, crown, and a special Triple Crown hat made by Gossamer Gear.

Triple Crown plaque, bandana, and hat.

So, as if the Triple Crowning wasn’t enough, some of my PCT 2011 friends and I decided to add on an epically AMAZING hike the next day while we were in Washington. The ceremony ended at 11pm, so we drove to the trail head and I was asleep in the car by 1am. We awoke before sunrise to start the 20mi hike through the Enchantments of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I’ve wanted to go here for years, but it is a difficult permit to get months ahead of time. The loophole is that although it is usually backpacked over multiple days, if you can thru hike it in a day, you don’t need a permit. It was the perfect closure to the weekend and to this chapter of my life. Here are a few of my favorite photos from that day and the full (and enchanting!) slideshow is below. Again, to be able to view the whole slideshow, you will need to be on a desktop or follow the link here.

PCT 2011 Crew: Wired, Marmot, Daybreaker, Roo, and Drop-N-Roll
Boulder field below Aasgard Pass. Wearing my new Gossamer Gear Quiksak.
The climb up Aasgard Pass with Lake Colchuck below.
Isolation Lake

Sprite Lake

Lake Viviane
 Full Slideshow of the Enchantments

How Does It Feel?…
I’ve been asked how it feels now that all of these years of hiking have culminated in the triple crowning. It’s interesting because the Triple Crown gave me a framework of trails by which I chose to hike and it had led me on an amazing journey. I don’t know that I would have hiked more trails if it wasn’t for the allure of the Triple Crown, but I also feel like it is like getting a prize for vacationing, ha! It’s more of a great end to a chapter and I know I have many more ahead of me in hiking. This really isn’t the end for me and I foresee doing a long hike each year as long as my body and pocketbook can handle it. Probably the greatest surprise in all of this is how I’ve been able to make this into something so much more through the blog and sharing this journey with all of you. I hope you all stick around for the ride and I’ll be announcing this coming year’s plans in a month or two. I can say I’ve never been more excited about and upcoming season and it’s sure to be an adventure!…

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