Heather Anderson, trail name Anish, is no fleeting moment in trail-record history. In 2013, she set the unsupported backpacking speed record for the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes.
Her record attempt last year on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra-Nevada Range came up short.
However, on Thursday, after averaging 42 miles a day for nearly two months, she said she walked off Springer Mountain in southern Fannin County, Georgia, the way she started the odyssey on Maine’s Mount Katahdin — alone.
To achieve the self-supported status, she packed her food and mailed it to food drops along the way, collected what she needed herself, and carried her own supplies, water and shelter on the trek.
The previous women’s unsupported record was held by Liz ‘Snorkel’ Thomas, who hiked the trail in 80 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes.
Anderson’s life story is compelling. Considered unathletic as a youngster, she wrestled with weight issues until she discovered her love for backpacking. She hiked the AT, the PCT and the Continental Divide Trail all at a normal backpacker’s pace to rank among the elite who have bagged the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. But even after taking the leap from enjoyable hiking to the suffering of AT and PCT record-setting odysseys, she’s been pestered by self doubt, and competitive doubters.
And she had no fanfare or champagne at the end of the trail after her record mark was set.
“I may be sleeping in a bed for the first time in 54 days, but I’m still drinking from my hydration bladder!”
With minimal body fat clinging to her frame, wearing her signature feather-light sun dress and needing a long uninterrupted sleep to begin life off the trail, an exhausted Anderson posted on her Anish Hikes Facebook page the following philosophical wrap-up. It’s directed to her fans and the little devils who try to haunt her:
The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask.
Those that have followed me for a while know that I have struggled with self-esteem my entire life. You would think setting the PCT speed record would change that.
I had to come here, to the AT, where my quest to find myself began 12 years ago and face those voices once and for all, alone.
As the miles dwindled into the double digits I became aware that I was crushing more than miles. I was crushing a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.
And, I am aware that the end of every journey is simply the beginning of the next and that, far from being behind me, the greatest achievements of my life lie ahead.