The time I walked to Breckenridge

photo (12)

The night before I left, my mom said to me, “I just never want you to be scared, or anything to be hard.”

I laughed, because didn’t she know what I’d signed up for?

Like it or not, I was right: the first week on the Colorado Trail has been scary and hard – mostly hard. And despite the temptation to sugarcoat the details for my lovingly protective mother, I’m just going to give it to you straight.

I was prepared for a challenge. I was prepared for physical discomfort. But I was not prepared for the pain. On the first day, my pack weighed 45 lbs – the equivalent of a 5-year old child. My friend Sarah hiked the first two days with me, and when we would stop for breaks, we would unbuckle our packs to have them drop to the ground like boulders, like that ride at amusement parks that pulls you up, up, up, just to release and send you plummeting to the ground. Granted, Sarah’s pack was mostly a Bota Box of wine (of which we barely had any – sorry, Sarah).

Mine was just heavy.

I quickly developed sores on each of my shoulders, spots where my straps rubbed me raw. I hope you’re not offended by a bare collarbone, because here it is.

photo (12)

Then came the blisters. First my left heel, then my right pinky toe and the one next to it, then the ball of my left foot, then the left pinky. I doctored them as best as I could, but there was no way around the first few days of excruciating pain. Every step was like walking on knives.

The heat wasn’t helpful, either. Saturday and Sunday, Sarah I went whole hog, hiking 21 miles the first day and 20 the second. The days were so hot, we’d arrive at our campsite ready to vomit (hence the minimal wine consumption).

Before Sarah left on Sunday night, she looked at me and said, “You’re really brave.” But is it really bravery if I didn’t feel afraid? I was too shell-shocked to feel fear.

“But what if I’m not tough?” I said, blinking back the tears.

“You can do this,” she said. “You can do this.” And then she drove back to Denver with her husband Tom, and I spent my first night alone in the woods.

I thought that the decision was made when I put in for my leave of absence last fall, or maybe when I gathered each piece of gear, or definitely when I stepped out on the trail on June 28. But I’m learning that the decision to hike this trail is made every single time I pull my pack back on, groaning under the weight, and then straightening my shoulders and moving forward. It’s a constant re-deciding to keep going.

I could tell you a lot of stories from this week – about how in a moment of desperation I lay on my back in the middle of the trail in Happy Baby pose (feeling anything but happy), or how I leapt an uncomfortably wide irrigation ditch with my full pack on (like a heavy-laden, off-balance superhero), or how I came across a felled tree blocking the path and it was too high to climb over so I opted to crawl under (and wound up stuck, belly to the ground), or how I feel a new kinship with Lance Armstrong (because if someone were to offer me performance enhancing drugs, I would take them), or how I came across car campers who said the 5 magic words (“Do you want a beer?”), or how I awoke on the fifth day with a fire in my bones and tore over the Continental Divide (like She-Ra, Princess of Power). I could tell you how amazing my shower in Breckenridge felt (a holy experience), how delicious my burger tasted (try the curry ketchup at Empire Burger), or how I cried this morning when my dad brought me a resupply of food (and a visit from Foxy).

But it’s time for me to close the computer and head back to the trail – I’m about to be dropped off at the trailhead to hike into tonight’s campsite, tears still in my eyes. I’m going to keep going. And that’s what the past week has really been about – deciding and re-deciding and walking even when I didn’t think I could walk any further, through the tears and discouragement and the most beautiful terrain.

I’m 104 miles in. Here’s to 104 more.




  1. mom on July 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Okay, so maybe I am shedding a couple of tears myself, reading this. I am choosing to believe that from this day forward, your new name will be She-ra, Princess of Power. And praying every afternoon that God will keep you in a lightning-proof bubble, and that every night your sleep will be peaceful and restorative. if you weren’t so darned BONEY, maybe your straps wouldn’t rub you raw…..EAT, will you?

  2. Brooke on July 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Annie, you amaze and inspire me. You are so brave and so tough and you can do this! Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us!

  3. Kendall Ruth on July 4, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Bravo! To making it so far already, to honesty, to learning what you are made of, to finding the edges of who you are (and aren’t), to doing what so few would ever consider much less step out the door into the wide open spaces, and bravo for waking up each day and keeping on.
    Having been down those trails, hiked those kind of distances, and experienced the pain, the strap rub, the blisters, even getting stuck on a tree…none of these even come close to the internal work going on inside of you and will stay with you far longer than any of those outward inconveniences. Bravo!

  4. Terry McNichols on July 4, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Reminds me of my favorite book title by Eugene Peterson, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction?” (also the name of my blog on which I never write). But that’s what all of life is about and so is your adventure! Onward!
    The first time Ken convinced me to carry a backpack into the wild beyond, he had to keep going a little ahead of me and saying “If you can just get to THIS tree, then you can rest.” Tree by tree, I somehow made it….

  5. Carrie Murphy on July 4, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    You are extraordinary. Period.

  6. jodie on July 4, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    yes. what kendall said.

    the whole trek home, you’re coming home to yourself.

  7. Becki Lewis on July 4, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Annie, you probably won’t remember me, but I am so proud of you for what you are accomplishing! You have “the power!”, albeit from a higher source than She-Ra did. So wonderful that you are sharing your adventure! Hugs!

  8. Mary White on July 4, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    So proud of you! Do you sing at all while you hike?

  9. Juliebird on July 4, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    I love you and I am SO proud of you. We pray for you and all the trials you are facing EVERY night with Vi before she goes to bed. We are all rooting for you and following your progress on Val’s awesome google map :) Carry on, my fiercest of friends! Xoxo

  10. Bree on July 4, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I am so blessed to know you! Walk on, my inspirational friend. Walk on! Prayers are ever flowing for you and all the blessings along your path. Love you bunches.

  11. Laurie on July 4, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    You never cease to amaze me.

  12. Leah on July 4, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    You’re a freakin’ rockstar, out there gettin’ it done #likeaboss #teamhootenannie

  13. Sara E on July 4, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Annie, I’m praying for you! You brought tears to my eyes with this post. Your determination is awe inspiring. It takes a lot of courage to be honest and even more to keep on through pain. The soul work you’re doing is so much greater still. Can’t wait to hear more of your adventures!

  14. Tammy Bullock on July 4, 2014 at 2:40 PM


    It’s Tammy Bullock. I am shedding a tear or two myself because I am amazed that you are doing this and the work God is doing in you through it! Going through Facebook I glanced at the first few lines of your blog and was fascinated with what I read! So here I am in awe of your journey! Just incredible! And you can sing like it’s nobodies business too! INSPIRED! God bless you and I am praying for you in earnest!!! Looking forward to your updates!

    With love,
    Tammy Bullock

  15. Ginger on July 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights….You (God) broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn” Ps 18:32-33,36.

    One foot in front of the other. Praying you through the next 104 miles… one at a time.

  16. Kandi Ray on July 4, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    Awesome! I’ve been on bits and pieces of the Colorado Trail. I’ve also had sore collar bones, but never from a pack weighing more than 30 pounds, OUCH! Enjoy it all! In a few years, like childbirth, you will only remember all the wonderful things and it will be a cherished memory. And you will always be awesome!

  17. Michael on July 4, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    One step at a time. You perfectly described my solo backpacking experience from years ago, right down to the pinky toe blisters. It is a choice, every single rest stop. But it is also a dream. You will never be the same after this week, no matter what you have to do/can do/can’t do in the days to come. You know you can strap on a pack and hike for a week. I have no words to say how proud I am and how amazed at your elegant strength. You are MIGHTY!

  18. shanna mallon on July 4, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    There’s such a small section of the population who would consider doing this … and yet an even smaller section who would consider it, go do it aaaaand write about it so well. You’re amazing. Rooting for you all the way!

  19. Beth on July 4, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Go, Annie, Go! Have been praying for you this last week because the Lord keeps bringing you on my prayer radar. So now I know better how to pray- when the radar blips again :) You are amazingly strong– only he who makes the climb will see- so climb on, amazing Annie!!

  20. Colleen on July 4, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    I echo all the love and praise that your friends and family above me have said, so I only add this: that photo with your bruised collarbones? Dang girl, you have some good lips! #MissYou;)

  21. Susan M on July 5, 2014 at 1:36 AM

    I wa just bragging about you tonight to a group of 11 of 12 complete strangers to you!! “I know th

  22. Greta on July 5, 2014 at 5:07 AM

    Jeff and I are reading this in Berlin, feeling totally blown away. I am so proud of you Annie– so amazed at your endurance, both physically and emotionally. I am praying for you every morning and night. Sure hope those blisters have graduated to callouses by now and that your shoulders hang in there. I love you and believe in you!!!!

  23. Lan | morestomach on July 5, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    you’re amazing.

    They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

  24. Jessica on July 5, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    omg. omg. omg. a) i never comment on blogs. b) i love you. c) can i please join you? i so so wish i could. you inspire me through and through d) i am so proud of you. e) eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek. you’re a brave woman!!!!!!!!

  25. Jen on July 6, 2014 at 10:47 AM


    Thanks for sharing your journey! I read your blog occasionally, and it reminded me of this poem. Hope you enjoy it!

    When I hit a wall
    It seems You’re not there at all.
    And darkness closes in.

    Face to face with me,
    All that I can see
    Is that I’m failing.

    I stand condemned.

    All I thought I was, and longed to be,
    Is so very far removed from me.

    I need help, I need rescue!
    There is no way to win.
    No man alive can give me hope again.

    And, then

    I AM, the lifter of my head
    My shield, my glory,
    Darkness melts away

    I AM, the one who makes me whole,
    Who changes all I am, and stoops to say,

    I am a new creation.
    A different kind of man.
    The past will not define who I will be.

    I am a son of your Son,
    in line with Abraham
    The best of blessings now will fall on me.

    All I was is gone, forgiven.

    How can this be?

    I turn and face the wall
    Feel so very small
    No ropes, no harness
    No foothold but love

    You seem to melt away
    Yet still I hear you say
    Nothing is impossible …
    Keep step with Me.

    You grasp my hand.

    My Father’s hand.

    You smile at me, and now I’m free.

  26. Joey on July 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    What a baller.

  27. Pamela on July 7, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    I went backpacking this weekend and could not stop thinking about you. I was thinking about this post, and the vivid image you painted of your time along the trail. My collarbones hurt after just one day, my feet were ready to shed the hiking boots after just 4 miles, and I was ready for a beer after just one night.

    You are brave and tough and strong and inspirational. Good luck, and I can’t wait to read about the next 104!!!

  28. Kim on July 7, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    WALK ON Annie…sending love and rest and safety and energy your way…I cannot beleive you had to pass up the wine (I’m this close to med-Evac-ing you out of there ;)

  29. Kristin O on July 8, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Hi Annie- I’ve been reading your blog for a pretty long time and I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented before, but I thought I should do so now to let you know that I’m keeping you in my prayers as you go on this incredible adventure!

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply