About the Author, Sarah Anderson: I have had a love of the outdoors since birth! My writings reflect my own personal experiences in the outdoors and I hope to convey my love of the lighthearted adventures that life has offered me. I am California born and raised and love anywhere from the oceans to the mountains and everything in between. While I love the water, the mountains have really pulled my passion and encouraged me to pursue a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in a few years, but for now the local mountains will do! Having a background in Psychology, I am interested in researching and studying outdoor benefits from a psychological standpoint and I hope to write further on these topics. Follow along my adventures with YouTube at Let’s Go On An Adventure! or on Instagram at @Letsgoonan.Adventure.
Picture it, the early 90s and my parents had dragged me and my two brothers on another “family road trip” that frequented any vacation we had from school. We are at one of the numerous National Parks that our parents had coerced us to, this one named Yellowstone and I am staring inquisitively at a giant cloud of smoke that smells particularly similar to the egg sandwich that I had left in my backpack the week before. The ground around this giant puff of smoke was a weird orange, a sickly green, and a strange grey color and my brother was wearing an old Disney shirt, one of those two-toned baseball shirts that were so popular back then.
You may be wondering to yourself how on earth I can remember the specific colored shirt my brother was wearing and while I wish my memories were this vivid, all I have is a picture from a disposable camera that I would get for every trip we took with a very photogenic elbow from my dad. This is really where my love of the outdoors started, I can’t even remember the number of National Parks and National Monuments that I’ve been to, but I’m sure I have a poorly developed disposable camera picture from each of them that I hope to return to some day.
As I grew older I took my love of the outdoors into my own hands, and much to my parents dismay I had my sights set on horses! This is entirely my cousin’s fault, but after my first summer camp I was hooked! Now, we didn’t have much money growing up so we made a deal with a local trainer that I would work off half of my lessons in exchange for riding lessons. For me it didn’t matter that I didn’t get to ride as often as some of the other kids that had their own horses or could afford to ride all the time, all I wanted was to be around the horses! Fast forward a few years, I have been immersed in the world of endurance riding, this would be the beginning of my insanity!
Most people have never heard of endurance riding; it is a long-distance ride on a horse, recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, with predetermined routes and camping locations. This was a game changer in my life, I loved being out in nature and with the company of the most amazing animal on earth I was unstoppable! I started off doing a couple shorter trips to make sure that I or my horse wouldn’t fall apart, my favorite being spending a week in Death Valley doing 100 miles, I set my sites on more intense trails. While Death Valley was nice, my greatest achievement came when I completed my first 3-day, 150-mile endurance ride through the Mojave Desert. This was a test of both strength and endurance, and I learned a ton, including that you should never try to high five a Yucca tree! While I had been given a taste of this amazing world, it was not meant to be in my near future.
Because of forces beyond my control I lost the horse that I rode for endurance rides and thus my need to be outdoors was left raw and aching. I tried to sate my lust for the outdoors with oceans, lakes, some day hikes, I even learned to surf and snowboard, but none of these would give me that same immersion into nature that endurance riding did… Alas I did not know what was around the next corner in my life. A friend from church had casually asked my brother and me to go on a short backpacking trip in the nearby mountains, I invited a couple of my best friends and we set out.
Nothing during this trip would go to plan, we started late because someone had to work that day, we got separated from the caravan with no cell service and since two of the cars didn’t know where the trail head was we had to go back to where there was cell service and regroup. The day started out overcast, though as we started hiking the sky grew darker and darker and when we had finally made camp it began to rain. We made dinner quickly and retreated to our tents minutes before the rain really started coming down and I can still remember my friend telling me that I was the closest to the river and that he hoped I would still be there in the morning. As we closed our tents, it began pouring!
Now I have lived in a fairly rainy area my whole life, but I had never been out camping in a downpour such as this and all I could hear echoing through my head the whole night was the words, “hope the river doesn’t sweep you away”. As the night droned on, my tent began sweating and eventually started leaking at the edges, my groundcover offering me some reprieve from the water-soaked ground beneath me. After a wink of sleep, I woke up the following morning to my campmates pouring water from their tents, everything was soaked, and a unanimous decision had been made to return to the cars and find somewhere warm for breakfast!
Our adventure didn’t end there and rain soaked, biodegradable toilet paper was not the only obstacle we would have to traverse. Halfway down the couple mile trail we had hiked out was a precariously rocky area with a trickle of water that we had traversed with ease the first time, but after so much rain it had turned into a healthy waterfall! As beautiful as it was, I was sure that this was my end, my clumsy feet would swoop me right over the edge to my death! Okay, I may be exaggerating just a little… We all made it safely across the waterfall, back to the cars, and ended our hike at the nearest diner. Although we got some sideways looks at that diner, the food was warmer and tastier than most meals I have tasted. The time spent with good people was immeasurable and the memories would be my motivating force to continue into the world of backpacking.
While this trip didn’t go so well, I was hooked! This is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life! After completing my first full backpacking trip, a section of the Pacific Crest Trail which is a story for another time, I had found a new passion. After devouring every piece of information that I could get my hands on I had decided that I would walk the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety, from Mexico to Canada, now all I needed was 6 months that I could do it…