And I would walk 500 miles…


I’ve only used one vacation day in 2014. I have a couple on the horizon – but mostly, I’m saving them for July when I’ll combine the majority with a chunk of unpaid leave, close my computer, and walk away into the mountains. I finally have a chance to fulfill a dream that’s been years in the making: I’m going to thru-hike the Colorado Trail.

[Insert explosion of exclamation points here → !!!!!!!! ←]


[See all that green? That means MOUNTAINS.]

Starting just outside of Denver, I’ll backpack nearly 500 miles to Durango carrying only the essentials on my back. I’m going by myself. In a perfect world I’d bring Foxy, but the days are going to be long; most days I hope to hike close to 20 miles. Between the distance, the fact that her enthusiasm over squirrels and geese could only translate to skunks and porcupines, and her propensity to respond to “Come!” with the equivalent of a bold middle finger, it’s probably not the wisest choice.

I’ve spent the last year or so gathering my gear – pack, sleeping bag, stove, tent – and recently have started carrying it on my walks around town. I look like a homeless person. A homeless person with a Patagonia pro deal. But the hope is that come July, the weight won’t faze me in the slightest.

When I tell people that I’m doing this, and that I’m going alone, I’m usually met with one of two reactions:
1) That is awesome.
2) That is the worst, stupidest, most dangerous idea ever.

You are welcome to either of those opinions; either way, I’m doing it. Also, reaction 2 is wrong.

Here are some questions I’ve been asked – if you have more, feel free to shout them out.

Are you bringing a gun?
No. Why is this the question I’ve been asked most frequently? Annie with a gun would be way more dangerous than Annie without a gun, despite the musical. However, I will have bear spray, and that sucker sprays for 7 whole seconds. (Again, you are welcome to your opinion on this matter. Please trust that I’ve thought this through, that I’m not taking my safety lightly, and that I, more than anyone, want to come out on the other side of this in one piece.)

What will you eat?
Oatmeal for breakfast, homemade dehydrated meals for dinner. In between? The usual hiking foods: trail mix, jerky, heavy-duty crackers with peanut butter, and obviously, so many LÄRABARs.

Speaking of LÄRABAR, how did you get 5 weeks off of work?
Believe it or not, I asked for it and they gave it to me. I am so grateful to work for a company that practices what it preaches when it comes to work/life balance, and for managers who have been supportive of this idea from the beginning. In the meantime, I am working like a crazy person to get all of my July work done in advance (and there’s a lot).

How will you charge your cell phone?
Well first of all, I don’t plan on using it all that much. Part of the appeal of this trip is to disconnect from the technology that I’m so married to. But to make sure I’m not left in the lurch, I will be harnessing the abundant sunshine and using this.

Have you read Wild?
Yes. Such a fantastic book – if you haven’t read it, do. But I’ve wanted to backpack the Colorado Trail since long before I read Wild.

Who will take care of Foxy?
My dad, and then my mom. I can’t stand the thought of saying goodbye to her, so I’m putting it out of my head for as long as I can.

How long is this going to take you?
Most people complete the trail in 4-6 weeks. I have a total of 38 days, and plan on finishing in plenty of time – because when it comes to hiking, I’ve got an engine in me.

Are you afraid?
Of hiking that far? No. Of being alone during the day? No. Of being alone at night? A tiny bit. Of wild animals? Yes. Of lightning? Yes. Of having my period in the woods? More than anything.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m actually going to do this. Mostly, I just can’t wait to go. If you have backpacking experience and any advice – what to bring, what not to bring, how to not be afraid of the dark – I’d love to hear it.



  1. WAC on April 22, 2014 at 8:00 AM


    So awesome.

    Myself, Jerm, and Now-or-Never once made a gloriously failed attempt at the Colorado Trail in 2007. It has been on my list of trails to complete ever since. While I only have ten days of CT experience, I have 10,000+ miles of hiking experience. So, if you have any gear or hiking questions drop me a line.

    So awesome.

  2. Holly on April 22, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    This is so overwhelmingly cool! Can’t wait to hear so many stories about your adventures.

  3. The Bug on April 22, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Go you!!! And word of advice about the period (although you might not have time to get it together by July) – Nuvaring :)

  4. Lan | morestomach on April 22, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    since you mentioned your period, i’m just gonna ask, because it is something that i think about whenever i travel, whether it be globe trotting or state hopping: what about the poops?

    ps. this is so exciting. and inspiring (in a broad sense, cus i’m not exactly inspired to do it myself…)

  5. Greta on April 22, 2014 at 8:47 AM


    The hardest of core.

  6. Angie N (@angnik26) on April 22, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    I think this is AWESOME. One of my best friends thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail last year and I had all the “this is stupid thoughts/questions” before she left but hearing her experience changed my perception of the trip entirely.

    She kept a blog while she was hiking (wrote when she stopped in cities). She’d be HAPPY to offer advice or answer nagging questions if you have them!

  7. Michael on April 22, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Pack light. Get rid of everything you absolutely don’t need, wait awhile, then get rid of more. You are a highly experienced 14er, so I don’t have to tell you about conditioning. You are already doing the right thing! I giggle snorted at the “homeless person with a Patagonia pro deal.

    On the trail, never be afraid to sit down and cry for awhile. I have done so, more than once. First you cry (where have I heard that?). Then get up, put your pack back on, and put one foot in front of the other.

    Nights pass quickly in July…you will be too tired to care much of the time. If you survive the first week, you will get into the groove. And I suspect you know this, but you are never really alone on most trails. There are frequent encounters with fellow hikers, most of which are polite and encouraging.

    Oh, and hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Water is life.

    Also, for all the people who tell you to pack a gun…an inexperienced person with a gun is far more dangerous to himself or herself than almost any threat against which said gun may make a difference, especially when backpacking. Fatigue and judgment become serious issues. The kind of pocket pistol that many people carry would be worse than useless against a bear, anyway, and only useful against human predators if you practice, practice, practice and get lucky. This from a life-long owner of firearms, experienced hunter (though I gave that up decades ago), and son of a career law enforcement officer. I have spent a few days and nights soloing on stretches of the A/T in winter, so I know about risk-taking and common sense.

    Finally, poops become a ritual on the trail, and your body will be processing most of what you eat. Just embrace the wild, and watch out for unfriendly foliage, lol!

  8. David on April 22, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Get it Annie! Good Luck! This is awesome!

  9. Michael on April 22, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    RE: cell phone, you might want to buy a cheap back-up, like a $20 flip phone with a pay as you go plan. They stay charged for weeks, no prob. Carry a good knife, too…one that is light and with which you feel comfortable. Make sure it is sharp…a small, sharp knife can be your best friend in the wild, unless Bear Grylls is going with you ;-)

  10. Kendall on April 22, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    Having done sections of it, you will enjoy all of it.

    Connect with Simple Lodge and Hostel in Salida – Julia and John are great people, former Wilderness Ranch Guides.
    Also, as you are in the San Juans, I have some friends you could call in a jam between Lake City and Creede.

  11. Jessica on April 22, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to hear how it goes. :) Speaking of periods, have you tried the Diva Cup or the like? That’s definitely what I’d take on a long adventure!

  12. Art on April 22, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Awesome! I’m leaving for a 3-week hike on the AT in a week. Good luck on your adventure, Annie!

  13. Michael on April 22, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Some thoughts on your period…yes, the guy is going there. Consider where you likely will be on the trail. Hopefully you will be well into your hike and so in full “trail” condition. I think that will help, But I obviously don’t know from personal experience. Still, give yourself options, and permission, for delay, fewer miles, etc., if you need to. Feminine hygiene products are your friends on the trail, anyway, because they are light, cheaper than “wilderness” first aid gear, etc. A tampon can be used to staunch a bad nose bleed (or so I’m told by a good friend who is a mom to two boys…three if you count her husband, which I do). Pads can be used to staunch blood from bad cuts, scraped knees, etc. I haven’t experimented, but I have a feeling one could adapt some products to deal with blisters, hot spots, etc., on the feet, with a knife and a little ingenuity. Okay, I’m having too much fun with this, and I have to go teach. I’m so excited for you!

  14. Heidi on April 22, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    You are my hero. Thanks for setting the rad pace

  15. Matt on April 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    You’re so going to have to finally take a leak outside.

    Also, this is an awesome, exciting idea, and I’m totally jealous.

  16. Alison Moore on April 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Wow – what an adventure Annie! From our bear awareness training in Alaska – I can tell you “Brown lay down, black attack” If you see a brown grizzly, lay on the ground and play dead for at least 30 minutes. They will hide and watch you! If you see a black bear make as much noise as you can, raise your arms and yell as if you are attacking them. I understand you can’t take Foxy, but what if you borrow a big,strong highly trained dog for a companion?

  17. Casey Moe on April 22, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Whoever Michael is, I like him.

    We were on the Appalachian Trail on Easter- Claire has some fashion tips for you:)

    Have you read Bill Bryson’s A walk in the Woods?

  18. Alexis on April 22, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    I think this is so awesome and so brave! A little scary, sure, but way safer than most people realize. When I climbed Kili a lot of people thought that sounded crazy (and it’s nothing compared to this) and their questions and worries just gave me the drive to thrive on the trail. So cool. You’ll love it. If only Foxy could go along. I’m pretty sure my dog would either run away from me within the first mile (with me chasing him down frantically), get a poisonous snake bite or just pass out from exhaustion after 4 miles every day.

  19. Miranda on April 22, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    If Annie is using multiple exclamation points about something, you know it’s a seriously exciting adventure. I am SOOOOO excited for you too!

  20. Leigh Kramer on April 22, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    This is amazing, Annie! What an adventure it will be. Proud of you for grabbing life by the horns and going for it.

  21. Hope on April 22, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    One of my best friends works for

    If you need any more solar gear, let me know, and I’ll see if I can score you some seconds for cheapsies.

    What an adventure!

  22. [not the] Best Blog Ever. on April 22, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    Um. Whoa. WOW. WHOAWOW.

    You are amazing.

    And… I want you to take a buddy

  23. [not the] Best Blog Ever. on April 22, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    oops – fast trigger finger up there…

    Was GOING to add:

    But that’s just me!

    Have fun. I didn’t know this thing you’re doing was a thing. You’re amazing. Did I already say that?

    And – I like Michael too. Somebody had to “go there.”

  24. Beth on April 22, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    Go, Annie, Go! An adventure of a lifetime. Squeeze it for all it’s worth!!

  25. Dave on April 22, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    That is amazeballs! Enjoy the trip – any advice you say? Well, when I took my daughters for their first backpack trip in the San Juans, I used many of the ThruHiker’s lists as a starting point and weighed everything of mine for comparison. For the girls, I used Walking with Wired’s blog and equip list. Then, we went walking and using the stuff.

  26. Paula Agnew on April 22, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    Go girl!! Say hi if you can to us on grand junction!

  27. Linda on April 22, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    This is so great and I hope you only have to go through one cycle :):):)

  28. Carmen on April 22, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    Bad. Ass.

    Love this so much!!!!!!!!!! So excited for you!!!! Wow, wow, wow!!! Anyone gonna meet up with you along the way?! Wow!!!! I’m going to go and read this post to Clark immediately.

  29. Jacque Ormsbee on April 22, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    Over and over you are one of the coolest, most heroic women I have the pleasure of knowing.
    Wow, what a great adventure. You truly know how to live your life to the fullest.

  30. Peg Achterman on April 22, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    Fabulous – just one comment about Wild. Great writing – really stupid writer who I don’t trust at all. Don’t do anything she did (except make friends).
    You will be great — way to go!

  31. Josh G on April 23, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Wow, fascinating. Meredith and I both read A Walk in the Woods and agree that the adventure is such a tempting thought, but not much more that that for most of us!

    Excited for you and can’t wait to read about all of your crazy stories…

  32. Pamela on April 23, 2014 at 10:36 AM


  33. Alissa on April 23, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Awesome! Go Annie!
    We had friends that attempted the Pacific Crest. They got halfway through Oregon and finally had to call it. And then they moved to Bend, quite near where they ended their journey, so it turned out great. However, they both refuse to ever eat packet oatmeal ever again. Waking up to the prospect of ANOTHER morning with cold oatmeal became truly demoralizing for them. Plan an alternate breakfast “treat” to give you a boost on those tough mornings. And, I hope you will connect with others that are taking on this same adventure this summer – seeing some common warriors along the trail would surely be a boost.

  34. Courtney on April 23, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    WOWsers!!!! This sounds so fun! I only have spent a few summers in Alaska, but have seen 20+ bears, some of them on a camping road trip up there- some of them were roght in front of me in an open field. Ill tell ya one thing-Alaskans LOVE their air horns. They pack bear spray too, but always bring up the good point of who would want to get that close to a bear to use it effectively? I’ve definitely seen a CONFIDENT brown bear scamper away at the sound of an air horn. They are also small and light- just a thought :)

  35. Michelle on April 23, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    This is incredible and you are so inspiring! I can’t wait to read about your adventure when you return.

  36. mrs. chesney on April 23, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    “She needs wide open spaces….”

  37. Sarah on April 28, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Yeah, this is pretty sweet. Stay safe and have fun :).

  38. Perry on May 5, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    You are one cool chick. I bet your hiking adventure will be just as safe as going to any Walmart in America at midnight. Have fun! Also: if you can handle your period out in the wilderness, you can handle anything.

  39. […] was going to hike 18 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail. With just 3 weeks to go until I set off to thru-hike the Colorado Trail, I felt the need to get some mileage in – but Mother Nature (that old hag) had other plans. When […]

  40. […] am *thisclose* to teetering off the edge – so it’s a good thing that I leave on the Colorado Trail in just 12 days. I am so ready – so so so so ready – to close my […]

  41. hootenannie » Blog Archive » Trail food on June 24, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    […] is the week! I leave on Saturday to hoof it across this beautiful state on the Colorado Trail. I am wrapping up details at work, trying to get my roof repaired (this is cutting it very close), […]

  42. […] And if you love Annie Parsons, you are probably aware that she is embarking on the trek of a lifetime in a little less than a week. You can read more about it here. […]

  43. Kristen on June 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    I heard about this adventure from my great pal & coworker Val Morby. I am so excited for you! Colorado is so beautiful and I am glad you get to explore it. My brother and his wife live in Durango, so if you want a place to crash or people to hang out with or great recommendations for anything in town, I could get you in touch! Though I am sure you have plans already. :) Take a camera with an incredibly large memory card, and have so much fun!!

  44. Bob and Carole on July 1, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Great meeting you on the trail today. Thanks for sharing your lunch break with us. Good hiking and God speed. Vaya con Dios.

Leave a Comment