Women who Became a Force of Nature through the 52 Hike Challenge

For the New Year (2014) I, Karla, decided to hike once a week for the year. Phillip called it "the 52 Hike Challenge."

In that year,  we had many adventures. Most importantly, I found forgiveness, strength, confidence through the trails and mountains. 

The journey was so powerful that we decided to share our challenge with people and encourage them to go on their own 52 hikes. One of our goals is to share the powerful testimonies we receive of how making the outdoors a lifestyle can have a positive impact on the mind, body, and soul.

In partnership for #ForceOfNature and REI today we bring to you one story of how the #52HikeChallenge has helped our community and one, of many women to find their place in the wild.

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 “It was suggested to me that my body did not have the strength to do all of the outdoorsy things because I simply was not capable. For years I allowed myself to believe these suggestions as facts, and found solace in food and loneliness. It took letting go of this person to finally also let go of the idea that I was broken and see that my body was capable of all the amazing things it has done over the last year and a half while completing the 52 Hike Challenge.

I daydreamed of my feet pounding the dirt trail, chasing new waterfalls and just being outside. At the time I was stuck, paralyzed with fear because I really thought my body could not do it. I was always waiting for the right time to go hiking.

When I found myself newly separated and alone, I stopped waiting. 

Despite the fear, and there was a lot of it, I laced up my hiking books, and went for it. Hike number one was also my first solo hike. 

Those 3.5 miles wrecked me. I snapped a photo of myself half way through the hike and now smile every time I see it because I’m able to see, not just how far I have come in strength and endurance, but also because the person in that photo started a journey that has lead me to where I am now.

The fear I felt on that first hike never really went away. That fear stopped me from lacing my boots many times. It woke me up at 4 AM begging me to cancel that day’s hike. It followed me to the trailhead driving up mountain sides. The fear was amplified after the first time I came across a snake on the trail, and then some more after I heard the distinct sound of a rattlesnake while standing in the middle of a narrow trail with tall grass on both sides of me. 

For my 52nd hike I needed to do something big. This was the hike that would prove I was not broken. I would no longer need to prove my strength or endurance to anyone, including myself.

For the first time there was no fear, or morning jitters. I knew I could summit Mount Wilson. I had the strength, stamina and 51 hikes behind me to prove that I could do it. 

There is no victory photo at the top of Mount Wilson. I managed to snap a single shot of Mount Baldy off the horizon still covered in snow. I just wanted to get back down that mountain. Fifteen and a half miles behind me, I sat in my car stuffing trail mix and oranges into my mouth, exhausted, dirty and satisfied. As much as that mountain kicked my ass, I kicked its ass too.

I’ve had trails make me cry. Times when I thought I wouldn’t make it back to the trailhead because the trail was too steep, or it was too hot, or I simply didn’t believe I could. That was before the 52 Hike Challenge. I completed each of these hikes without a single tear because I believed that I could. I hiked 214.38 miles over 18 months. I hiked in the sun and in the rain, through ice and snow. On sand, on rocks, on volcano ash. My hikes took me to 3 states and 6 countries. I lost 50 pounds and 5 pant sizes. I gained strength, confidence, and a desire to keep exploring.” -  Natalie Sanchez

After Natalie's 52 Hike Challenge, she quit her job and went on to travel and hike the Camino de Santiago. She is now living her life to the fullest. To read more about Natalie's 52 Hike Challenge visit her website here.