When I was 18, I started long-distance solo hiking on the Long Trail, a 272-mile path in Vermont. The next year I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Then the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada, when I was 20. Then the Continental Divide Trail. Finally, I worked my way up to Alaska, where in 2013 I did my most challenging trip: a 1,000-mile traverse across the Brooks Range. It took me 51 days of bushwhacking and rafting to make it across, and I was the first woman to do it alone.

My father was a passionate hiker when I was a kid, and he'd always emphasized the idea of living life to the fullest. But for me, long-distance hiking is about more than that. My first year in college, I went through a tough time and struggled with depression and anxiety. Hiking was a way to regroup.

In the beginning, I'd never set up a tent; I didn't know how to purify water or cook food. I just did the trails in order of difficulty, gaining skills as I went. In the villages I passed through, people would take me fishing, offer me a warm place to rest for the night. To have complete strangers show me so much kindness was incredibly humbling. I started hiking to be alone, because part of me had lost faith in people, but my experiences brought me back. Now I have friends all over the world.

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