Hiking 273 miles, taking only four showers and 25 days of sleeping in the woods; could you do it?
Keene State College sophomore Tana Meyer is one of those that can, in fact, say yes, she did it.
This past summer, alongside her friend Kirsten Gehl, the two hiked The Long Trail in Vermont from start to finish. “You didn’t have to care about anything besides waking up and hiking, it was pretty cool,” said Tana.
The girls hiked an average of nine-10 hours a day, adding up to about 10 or 12 miles of hiking daily.
A typical day for Tana on this adventure was waking up, having breakfast, starting to hike, having lunch, hiking to the shelter and having dinner.
Tana said she “planned their trip around the shelters” so she would have a shelter to sleep in every night.
Tana said for breakfast, she would usually have oatmeal and coffee. A typical lunch was tortillas and peanut butter, fruit snacks, cheese and dried fruit. Dinner would include ramen or instant mashed potatoes.
On Tana’s journey, she carried a backpack that she said, “…started out at 43 pounds and ended around 37 pounds.” Inside the backpack, Tana said she carried a hammock, sleeping bag, a water filter, a change of clothes for the night, food, water and a sleeping pad.
Beth Meyer, Tana’s mother, said she was not scared to let her daughter complete this journey. “I trusted that she was ready,” said Beth.
Beth spoke with her daughter almost every day. “I have a tracker on her phone… so I could keep tab on where she was,” said Beth.
Tana faced a few obstacles on the hike that made everything slightly more difficult.
“It rained like every day,” said Tana. “We wore the same clothes every day, and they were usually wet when we put them on and smelled terrible,” Tana said.
On the seventh day, another challenge arose; Tana had injured her knee. “I usually cried going downhill; it made me walk a lot slower,” Tana said.
After she got back from the hike, Tana said she found out she had tendinitis and bursitis in her knee.
Beth said she felt most nervous on the day Tana hurt her knee.
“She texted me and said ‘I hurt my knee.’ I found where she was. I said, ‘I can be there in three hours,’ and she said, ‘No, I’m going to keep going,’” Beth said.
Gehl hiked alongside Tana on this 25-day journey. After Tana hurt her knee, she said because she was in better health than Tana due to her injury, it was hard to “work together while hiking, pace-wise.”
Gehl and Tana have been friends for about three years and Gehl said Tana was of help to her. “Tana is known for being stubborn and sticking to things and finishing them…her stubbornness wore off on me.”
The worst part of the hike for Gehl was, “Fostering a mentality and strength, and perseverance was really hard.”
As for the best part, “Saying, as a woman, I could hike 273 miles accompanied with another women and no man to protect us, women are more powerful than we think we are,” said Gehl.
When it was time for the two girls to wander off the trail and get more food, Tana said they had to hitchhike.
“We would walk down to the street with our thumbs up and hope that someone would pick us up,” she said.
As mile 273 came to an end, Tana said, “I was really happy, but also really sad. I was ready to be done, but also knew that I didn’t really want to be done.”
This summer, Tana said she hopes to conquer the 100-mile wilderness, which is the last 100 miles of the Appalachian trail in Maine. She also said she hopes one day to hike the whole Appalachian Trail.
Beth said she is incredibly proud of her daughter for completing this journey.
“I think that there’s nothing she can’t do now, so I know no matter what she says, she’s going to do it. I had no idea she had that much drive and commitment,” Beth said.
Tana and her mother often hike together, but after Tana came back from The Long Trail things were different. “She couldn’t hike or do anything because of her knee; once we started hiking, it was cool to be following her. I used to be the leader, but now I was definitely following her this summer,” said Beth
Izzy Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org