Continental Divide Trail Coalition Fundraiser in Bend March 12

After the great suggestion from Brenda and Candace at Nevado Mountain Adventures, I’ve decided to hold a fundraiser for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition in Bend before I leave for the hike.

Join me and three other bad-ass local ladies who have already thru-hiked the CDT at Patagonia @ Bend, 1000 NW Wall St., on Thursday, March 12 at 7pm to learn more about the trail, raise funds for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, enter the gear raffle, and drink free beer. (Below is the press release)

badass ladies

As the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s first Trail Ambassador, Renee will share the story of the organization’s mission to complete and protect America’s wildest and most remote long distance trail along the backbone of the Continental Divide. Learn about the youngest and longest of the “Triple Crown” trails: a path that stretches from Mexico to Canada and passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The trail isn’t complete, so in addition to raising awareness of the incredibly scenic and difficult endeavor of thru-hiking (completing the entire trail in one trip), she will raise money for the Coalition’s efforts through a gear raffle.

Enjoy free beer and hear stories from three local women who have already thru-hiked the CDT: Sage Clegg, Mary Moynihan, and Kim Geisreiter. Sage was the first woman to have completed the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) in 18 months; Mary was the only women to successfully complete a north-bound thru-hike of the CDT in 2011, a year with some of the highest snow levels in recent history; and Kim not only completed a south-bound CDT hike in 2011, but will be thru-hiking the trail again this year north-bound.

The CDT will be Renee’s 8th long-distance backpacking trail, and she will not only talk about what it means to hike the trail in one trip, (long waterless stretches, high snow levels, grizzly territory) but will have a “show and tell” with the gear she will be carrying, including some unique homemade items.

Come support America’s longest backpacking trail and learn more about the intrepid folks who hike it.

The raffle will include items from: Hikertrash, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, Namaspa Yoga & Massage, The Trail Show, Lava Love, Silipint,Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oboz Footwear, TurboPUP, GoMacro Macrobars, Point6, STANLEY, Embrace the Brutality: A Continental Divide Trail Adventure,, Cairn, Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail, Nevado Mountain Adventures, Bronwen Jewelry, Pizza Mondo and more.

Winter OR Show (Part 1) What a Wild Ride Its Been

It has been an amazing 6 days with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and plenty of fellow hikertrash.

Returning from the OR Show is like returning from a trip to the moon: surreal and almost too good to be true. Something became clear to me while I was wandering the halls of dreamy gear (gear so tech-ed out and shiny as to be irresistible), that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Talking trail, creating partnerships, celebrating the ridiculous antics of my fellow (and very silly) thru-hiker friends, and all the while feeling (and knowing) that I’ll be hiking in a few months, that the CDT will actually happen!

Creating this photo seemed a fitting tribute to the week; and although it seemed like so much happened that I couldn’t possibly remember it all; it’s time to dig in!

Thru-hikers had a bigger presence than ever at the OR Show this year.

Thru-hikers had a bigger presence than ever at the OR Show this year. The bear, well, you had to be there.

Since meeting Teresa Martinez and Peter “Czeck” Sustr of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) last August at the Summer OR Show and becoming their first Trail Ambassador, it seems as if everything I’m passionate about, everything that I’ve been interested in and doing for years, has led me to this point.

“Do your thing and I will know you.” -Paul Theroux

My buddy Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa and I represented TurboPUP. (AWESOME PRODUCT!)

My buddy Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I represented TurboPUP at the Summer OR where I met Teresa. (AWESOME PRODUCT!)

Starting the brand hikertrash with Brian Frankle last April has created a lot of opportunities.

We make coozies, trucker hats, shirts, silipints and more. Stuff for hikers.

We make beer coozies, trucker hats, shirts, silipints, and more. Stuff for hikers.

I had been screen printing for 5 years (primarily bikes, but also the hikertrash screen inspired by my good friend Lint).

When he hiked through on his second PCT thru-hike I printed Lint's backpack.

When he hiked thru on his second PCT thru-hike in 2009 I printed Lint’s backpack.

I got into bikes and formed the company Bike Bend Wear to sell shirts at cyclocross races in Bend and on Etsy.

I had 10 bike designs & one play boat (for Kirk)

I had 10 bike designs & one play boat (for Kirk)

When the desk job took over and I was too busy to keep it up, I let the screen printing go for a while, but Brian and I partnered up to make some shirts for the PCT kick-off weekend last year.

My friends SOL & Smooth represented hikertrash at the kick-off last year, and took their friend Stumbling Beef to the CDT. We lost Smooth, and miss him very much.

My friends SOL & Smooth represented hikertrash at the kick-off last year, and took their friend Stumbling Beef to the CDT for his thru-hike. Smooth passed in the mountains late last year, and we miss him very much.

Starting a company was easier than I thought, and before I knew it found myself at PCT Trail Days in September with a brand hikers were recognizing.

I screen printed "hikertrash" on whatever the current PCT hikers wanted. And sold some stuff.

I did a bunch of live screen printing on whatever the current PCT hikers wanted (like this hiker’s thigh) and had a blast.

While hikertrash was gaining steam, I had started freelancing for Ron Moak, founder of Six Moon Designs, who brought me on as his media manager last summer (check out Ron and Brian’s new line of packs…two great minds in the light-weight backpacking industry collaborating together).

Here is Ron at the OR Show buying the triple crown of blankets by Wool

Here is Ron at the OR Show buying the triple crown of blankets created by Woolrich especially to support the three long trails.

The new business and partnership with the well-known gear company has quickly led me to the sweet spot of the brand/product side of the outdoor industry. After already trying to make a living from guiding, leading trail crews, working in wilderness therapy, teaching and working logistics, it seemed an incredibly natural fit to now be writing and designing for the outdoor industry.

When Teresa asked if I wanted to attend the Winter OR Show with them to represent the CDTC and help them form new partnerships and bring awareness to my hike and the incredible things happening on the trail I couldn’t say no, besides some of my best hikertrash friends would be there. Done!

Next up: the show! Stay tuned for more this week….


The Next 32 Miles

The opportunity to help build the trail I will hike has been a driving force for the past 8 years. After finishing the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006, I knew something in my life had to change. Up until that point I had been working as a graphic designer in Portland, but the desire to make hiking my career had been stewing for months as I hiked north.

I met other hikers who had devoted their careers to the outdoors, including NOLS instructors, outdoor educators, guides, fire fighters and even the serial backpackers who would work a job, any job, during the winter months just to save up enough money to be able to hike the next year.


This guy. Lint manages to hike almost every year.

I returned to Portland and began scouring the internet for outdoor jobs.

What I became immediately drawn to was a position with the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) out of Durango, Colorado. They had a trail crew leadership development program where I could not only learn how to build and maintain trails (what a chance to give back to the hiking community!) but also lead crews around the state to…wait for it…build the Continental Divide Trail! SCC had been contracted to build/maintain many parts of the CDT in New Mexico and Colorado and the opportunity seemed perfect. Help build the trail I will hike next. Done.

I arrived in Durango in February 2007 and quickly dove into the training: chainsaws, pick axes, and rock bars filled our training hours, and we worked everywhere from Mesa Verde and Canyon of the Ancients, to the Great Sand Dunes and backcountry trails in the San Juans. What didn’t materialize, however, was the Continental Divide Trail work. That year Congress kept the funding for things like trail work caught up in their bi-partisan bickering when they didn’t pass the budget. Bummer.

Trail tools are fun

Trail tools are fun

I had a great season though, My crew and I spent six weeks in a backcountry hitch building massive rock and log retaining walls. I worked with Zuni and Navajo youth from near-by reservations, and met some great friends that last today.

We build massive rock retaining walls

We built massive rock retaining walls

Notching and sometimes cutting by hand

And log retaining walls, notching and sometimes cutting by hand


It was very satisfying and I have an incredible amount of respect for trail work now! This took about 4 weeks for 20 feet of trail

Now the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) has taken matters into their own hands, and instead of just relying on the federal budget for their trail work dollars, has started a campaign to raise funds to build 32 more miles of trail in Colorado, and SCC will be one of their partners in the project. And they couldn’t hire a better organization.

Funding finally did come through for some CDT work in the Fall, but by that time I had already committed to thru-hiking the Colorado Trail. It would be a north-bound fall hike, when most hiked it south in the summer, but I found I missed most of the summer afternoon lightening storms and had amazing weather most of the hike. I did encounter one nasty storm when I got onto the divide near Stony Pass, but the next morning (after I surely thought I was going to die in an above-tree-line electrical storm) I found the SCC crew working on the CDT!

I love that crew, and not just cause they gave me candy.

I love that crew, and not just cause they gave me candy.

I love that there will be trail built in a pristine area where I encountered dirt bikes and four-wheeled vehicles. Lets get some more trail built. You can donate here, and you can be assured the folks who build it will be some of the best out there. They love the wilderness and are probably former/future thru-hikers too!

A Solo Hike

I’ve done a lot of my long distance hiking solo. Well, that is to say I’ve started out many of my trips solo. As much as I like to plan I’ve given in to the philosophy of, “the trail provides,” even when it comes to hiking partners.


Average Joe and I on Katahdin

I hiked with a good friend, Average Joe, on the Appalachian Trail, but when I had a foot injury that took me off the trail for a few weeks in northern Virgina and she had to keep hiking to meet family, I spent the next month and a half solo hiking and coming and going in different hiking groups as we traveled north. When Average Jo got Lyme Disease later I was finally able to catch up and we finished together.

NEMO and She-ra reach Canada

NEMO and She-ra reach Canada

When I left the Mexican border on the PCT in 2006 I had started the trail as a solo woman, but didn’t find myself alone all that much. In fact by the time I had reached the Saufley’s at mile 454 I had found one of my best friends to this day, NEMO. The trail magic that a hiking partner can bring has the power to make or break a hike, meeting NEMO and lots of other hikertrash made my PCT hike.

When I chose to thru-hike the Colorado Trail in 2007 after a summer of leading trail crews out of Durango, Colorado, I had spent so much of my time in close proximity to other people that I craved time alone in the wilderness.

Maybe it was growing up in the backwoods of Wisconsin climbing trees or exploring the shores of near-by Fountain Lake, but I thrive in nature alone. I didn’t count the days between seeing people on the Colorado Trail, but I do remember thinking three weeks was long enough to go without much human contact. Now, after having spent the last five years working long hours, living in a city, and not hiking more than a few days at a time, I can’t imagine a more delightful way to spend three (or more) weeks than walking alone.

Inevitably the first question I get asked when people find out I’ll be starting a thru-hike alone is if I’m scared. Sure, the first few nights out I’ll jump at noises in the night. I’ll sleep with my hiking pole by my side ready to turn it into a deadly stabbing device if bothered in the dark of night, but after realizing nothing is out to get me, after relaxing into the pace of days spent walking and watching the world pass by one step at a time, I love it.

Because the Continental Divide Trail is less traveled than the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, I know the opportunity to hike with others will be fewer and farther between, but on the otherhand I followed a few hiking journals this year and was surprised to hear how many people were on the trail. The word was an actual “tread” was getting developed through the New Mexico desert because so many feet had traveled the same path.

I’ll take it!

I hope to travel long segments of the CDT alone, but I also hope to meet and hike with others.

Much of the magic I find on the trail is other people. The point is, I like hiking alone, and I’m not scared…much.

I take lots of selfies when hiking alone

I take lots of selfies when hiking alone