My personal trainers, or how I learned to hike strong.

Starting as a solitary southbounder, I tried to take off from the Canadian border heading to the Mexican border, where I found myself facing massive amounts of snow in the North Cascades.  This forced me to travel south to the Oregon/Washington border. There, I started my thru-hike in Cascade Locks, hiking the first section northbound towards Trout Lake, 82 miles up. I faced tons of snow on this stretch, which made me decide to travel further down south to Truckee in Northern California. I got on the trail at Donner Pass, at mile marker 1155. Here I made the plan to first hike all the way up to the Canadian border, then travel back to Donner and hike down to the Mexican border.

The first couple of weeks I hiked mostly by myself. Camped by myself. Cooked dinner by myself. I had zero company. Nobody to talk with. No music to listen to except for the rushing of trees in the wind, the shrieks of birds, and the cozy sounds of crickets at night.

I’m doing a pretty good job in keeping myself company. I don’t mind being alone. I don’t fear loneliness. I find peacefulness in solitude.

In the beginning of my hike, all the fast kids flew pass me. I just hiked 82 miles up in Washington, an accomplishment I was very proud of, but they had 1100 more miles in their legs! I felt so green, so clean, so inexperienced, so weak. I still had to figure out how to pitch up my tent properly, how to cook my food without having to clean my pot, how to dig a proper hole to poop in, and how to make good miles every day. I realized that I was slow. But I wanted to keep up with the fast pack so bad so I tried hard and pushed myself.

I failed. They were not at all interested in a slow newbie like me, let alone hiking with one.

Slowly but steadily, I started noticing getting stronger, being able to hike more miles every day. I also found a routine pitching up and taking down my tent fast at camp. I learned how to cowboy camp, where you sleep under the stars, without a tent. I learned eating and drinking, while hiking.

After hiking about 500 miles since I started at Donner Pass, I successfully hiked my first 30 mile day. I felt awesome and deadly tired at the same time after completing. I camped with fellow hiker Bowie that night, next to the beautiful Squaw Valley Creek. He celebrate my personal record with me offering chocolate and a Vitamine C powder preventing me from having leg cramps in the night.

Bowie was the first of 6 hikers with whom I started hiking with. A 25-year old with an old soul, epic beard, and the perfect tanned legs ever. Yes, the perfect Backpacker Magazine cover model. The days following, I met with Ukeless and Smiles, a lovely couple from Portland, Oregon. She, an awesome masseuse with the strongest hands and a magical smile (hence the trail name!) and Ukeless, her friendly boyfriend who carries a ukulele treating us with songs in the night. Both are super strong hikers, who wear their strong legs every day. Then one late night, when I was disappointed that I had to camp by myself in a dark eerie forest, I met Dutchess from St. Louis, Missouri, who hiked into my camp at around 11 pm with Bowie, and they camped next to me, this to my great relief not having to be alone that night. Dutchess is also known as Drill Sergeant because his ability to push the group to higher limits, leading us to bigger mile days and who is always willing to help out others. Over a great dinner in a cozy Thai restaurant in Mount Shasta City, I met Mr. President who lives in San Francisco, and who is such a sweet guy you cannot help but loving him. He always carries bottles of Gatorade in every color and whenever we’re near a town, he speeds up his pace and is usually the first one in, where we usually find him loading up cokes. He has donated more backpacker meals to me and to the others than I can remember, and he is always there for you. I also would like to mention Lucky Strike from Maryland, Virginia, a gentle guy who earned his name because he stacks up with cigarettes before he heads out. He likes to hike in higher states and has the ability to make us laugh, no matter when or where.


The team! What a team! From left to right: Ukeless, Smiles, yours truly, mr. President, Bowie, Lucky Strike and Dutchess who is sitting on the Oregon/Cali border.


Dutchess, Bowie and President chillin’ out at White Pass, Washington.


Lunchbreak just after Seiad Valley, CA.


I feel so blessed to have met these awesome bunch of people! They certainly helped me to become a strong hiker. I call them my personal trainers because they pushed me by not crossing my boundaries but stretching and enhancing them. They laughed and cried with me and shared the beautiful scenery and all the hardships of the trail. Thank you all so much!



  1. Mooi, ervaring om op terug te kijken als je oud bent. Houd vol en geniet met volle teugen,
    Een knuffel van ons beide.

  2. Hey Vio,
    Volgens mij ga je als een speer.
    Volg je hart dan volgen de voetjes vanzelf en ik volg jou.
    Heb er vertrouwen in.
    Maak er wat moois van.

  3. heerlijk om te lezen weer, nu snap ik dat je sobo veranderd is in nobo. Moet veel aan je denken. In Frankrijk hebben Tibor en ik twee dagen in 28 graden 4 uur gewandeld, en dat jij dat dan hele dagen achter elkaar doet is bijna niet voor te stellen, wat zul je inmiddels sterk zijn.
    Ik ga s proberen op een kaart te volgen hoe je nu gelopen bent en gaat lopen. Jammer eigenlijk dat je dat niet kunt weergeven in je verder super volledige en prachtige verhalen.
    Ben blij dat je in goede gezondheid bent, miss you!! Liefs en dikke knuffel, en keep it up!! xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s