Your girl is going global!
I’m so excited to announce a project I’ve been working on for a few months now - my transatlantic detour. In September and October I’ll be hiking five different ten-day trails in Europe back-to-back.
Thru-hiking is something that’s been on my bucket list for a long time, and after spending the past five months with the Grand Canyon as my playground and practice field, I finally feel ready to take on something more strenuous and long-term.
There are so many trails I want to do that picking just one long hike like the PCT or CDT seemed like an awful lot of time and resources spent to only knock one thing off my list. That’s why I’ve opted instead to combine five mid-distance hikes, plus a trip abroad. This is active FOMO prevention, and a way to get my feet wet.
The shortest trail is 84 miles (6 days) and the longest is 186 miles (14 days). This should combine for a total of 47 hiking days across seven countries and 59 total travel days. The trails I’ve chosen are…*drum roll*…
The West Highland Way - Scotland
Tour Du Mont Blanc - France, Italy, Switzerland
Julian Alps Trail - Slovenia
Hadrian’s Wall - England
The Kerry Way - Ireland
I would have loved to add additional trails in Patagonia, Jordan, Japan, Greenland, etc, and considered doing so to make this 10 Ten-Day Treks. Unfortunately all that flying around adds up, but the five trails I’ve chosen are near enough to each other that I’ve been able to keep my costs low. Europe has it figured out, y’all - one of my flights was $23!
Part of the criteria was also taking my ability into account and trying to be realistic. I like to challenge myself, but I have no interest in bonking out in the middle of the Highlands 5000 miles from home with no health insurance. I know that I have issues in altitude above 9000 feet, for instance, so the highest elevation I will hit will be 8,530 feet. My daily mileage will hover around 10-15 miles, but will never exceed 20 miles. Daily thru-hiking mileage is typically more than this and I’ve done more in a day myself, so while it will be challenging to stack this many days together, it’s not too much of a push past my endurance level.
YES, I did buy travel insurance. I know it’s unlike me but I am actually taking precautions and trying to be responsible about this one. I went with the World Nomads explorer plan so I can be extra protected in case of backcountry emergency requiring some kind of rescue, plus any travel mishaps like lost equipment. The standard plan is similar and may have been sufficient, but the explorer plan helps with higher medical costs and in the back of my mind I was thinking about how bummed I’d be if my family had to come up with a billion dollars to cover my dumb ass if I slip on a leaf while skipping carelessly through the alps trying to get a picture of a squirrel. I don’t trust myself to NOT do that, honestly.
I needed to revamp my kit for new terrain and longer timeframes. I already knew from my canyon hikes that my pack was way too heavy; I don’t know what I was thinking when I first built that thing. Every item of my Big Three was at least four pounds; imagine that plus days’ worth of food and water and all my smaller gadgets like headlamps and water filters. I don’t even want to know the final weight.
I also needed to consider the colder, rainier conditions in countries like Scotland and Ireland. Everything needs to be insulating and as close to waterproof as possible, or at least quick-drying.
With these things in mind I chose the following gear (none of these companies sponsor or pay me in any way):
Nemo Hornet 2P & Footprint - This bad boy weighs in at only 2 pounds while still maintaining durability and livability. I considered getting a bivvy or tarp setup, but I enjoy being able to hang out in my tent when I reach my destinations early. It’s super well rated and I read a lot of reviews about it holding up to crazy weather conditions. If you watched my recent Instagram stories about hiking Hermit Trail and testing out my new gear at Hermit Creek, you’ll know the rain fly is definitely wind-proof, almost to a fault (I was sweltering in there in the heat of the canyon).
Nemo Azura 20 Sleeping Bag - the Azura is a pound and half and the major element here was that it’s synthetic. Friends from the UK pointed out that while down bags are generally warmer, they completely lose their insulating value if they manage to get wet, which is a real possibility in Scotland and Ireland despite attempts to keep them dry and shoved into stuff sacks. When I took it into the canyon I only slept in it between the hours of 3am - 5am because it was so hot (though it served as a good cushion to lay on top of since I didn’t bring my ThermaRest), but just from getting inside it I know it’s incredibly cozy and soft, so I’m looking forward to giving it a real spin in some cooler weather.
Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoes - I received a lot of great suggestions on the subject of hiking boots and shoes, from Keen to Hanwag to Oboz to Altra trail runners. I probably couldn’t have gone wrong with any of these. I knew I wanted something rugged, durable, and waterproof, and it’s just a personal preference to wear something mid-height and a little bit clunky; I guess that makes me feel more stable. Each brand had options like this, so it just came down to fit. When I tried the Moabs on they were incredible comfortable and didn’t poke or rub at my ankles like some of the others (though I’m sure that problem would have been fixed with some breaking-in). They had good traction but felt a little soft on the trail, so I hope they’ll be as tough as the Oboz; a friend mentioned this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you want to feel the trail. I also noticed that Merrell is favorably rated overall by just about every single review site I can find, and I ran a couple of my own surveys on my social media accounts to see what my community thinks, and the Merrell Moabs won the popular vote by a long shot. Also my coworker’s brother is some kind of sniper bodyguard military guy who provides security detail around the world, and he voted for Merrells too, so…sounds good.
So far besides these items I’ve only added some Smartwool layers for warmth. Otherwise I’ll be using my old equipment that I’m happy with, like the Thermarest, MSR stove, and Petzl headlamp. As I study up I may add more; for instance, I may want to upgrade to a more rainproof insulating jacket, and a hitchhiker I picked up recently who was doing the CDT recommended a waterproof mitt to wear over my gloves. Never even thought of that. He also mentioned that if I discover that the BDry internal lining on the Moabs end up trapping wetness inside the shoe, I can easily rip that off and make the shoe more ventilating. If anything occurs to you that I may not have thought of as someone who’s more of a desert hiker and not as familiar with wet climates, I’m all ears!
As you know I’ve been strength training remotely with Luis Benitez from Soho Strength Lab in addition to hitting the trails in the Grand Canyon and around Arizona (most notably my Rim to Rim to Rim backpacking trip in five days, my Rim to Rim straight through in 12 hours (South to North), my Rim to River and back (South to South) in 9 hours, and now my overnight to Hermit Creek, a threshold trail). There is enough potential for me to run into problems just because of Mother Nature alone; I don’t need to add any worries to my plate via a lack of physical endurance. Already I’m feeling pretty damn strong and I still have three months left to train. I’m also making an effort to add more protein into my diet and eat more in general, which has been a challenge to hone but I think is helping. With all of this combined I’m definitely noticing definition and strides in strength. Together with my new lighter pack weight and the fact that the first few trails on my list won’t involve a ton of climbing, I’m feeling confident that the start of this excursion will be a breeze and by the time I get to the more strenuous trails I ought to be fully broken in and have my trail legs.
I’ll be publishing a series of posts about this project as my plans progress and solidify, which will include background information on the history of these trails and why I’m excited about them. I won’t be posting my exact route or timeline in an effort to be extra safe and stalker-free. Ya know, in case any Slovenian stalkers feel like I’m worth the effort of following for 186 miles.
Over the next few months I’ll be studying the trails intently - if you’ve done any of these and have advice, I’d love your insight! Even if it’s just “you’ve got to get the fries at this pub in Newcastle…” I’ve already been referencing great resources and guides, but personalized suggestions from people who know my style are always valuable.
“They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there - and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see.” - Jack Kerouac
“Yes, my consuming desire is to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…” - Silvia Plath
“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.” - Charles Bukowski
“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” - Henry David Thoreau
“It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town... he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.” - Henry David Thoreau
“Sometimes I’d get mad because things didn’t work out so well, I’d spoil a flapjack, or slip in the snowfield while getting water, or one time my shovel went sailing down into the gorge, and I’d be so mad I’d want to bite the mountaintops and would come in the shack and kick the cupboard and hurt my toe. But let the mind beware, though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious.” - Jack Kerouac