'Throw yourself on the Universe' and take a hike

By Linda Hall-Stone | Nov 24, 2011
Photo by: Drew "ABear" Hebert Stephanie "Trainwreck" White on top of 13,307-foot James Peak, Colorado.

When you hear Triple Crown most often horse racing comes to mind but in the case of Stephanie White, 1990 graduate of Medomak Valley High School, it means hiking the top three trails in the United States.

A school trip with biology teacher Pam Ramsey to Mt. Katahdin when White was a sophomore in high school spurred her hiking adventures. Ramsey was telling the group about the Appalachian Trail and White didn't believe it existed. White said "I got it in my head" to try the trail and finally did 10 years later.

White now lives in Crested Butte, Colo., and works at a health food store. She is able to take leaves of absences to pursue her hiking passion. It has taken her on average about six months to complete these hikes.

White has hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice), Pacific Crest Trail (twice) and the Continental Divide Trail. The combined miles for the three trails is roughly 7,944 miles.

Her longest day ever on a hike was 65 miles on Aug. 28, 2011, and she has more than 12,000 cumulative hiking miles.

White said the Appalachian Trail is the easiest to hike because it is an older trail and is well made and marked. The Pacific Crest Trail is also fairly easy to follow but on the Divide a compass and map were used to navigate to the next mark. On the Continental Divide the "weather was terrible," said White. The Going to the Sun Road, in Montana of the Divide, had the latest opening, when the snow is plowed through, even this year. It was not even open in July this year. The toughest days were the last this year with the threat of snow. White pushed on at over 12,000 feet altitude, in 18 inches of snow and said it was an "extreme ending to a hike." On the last night of the hike White thought a deer had run into her tent but it was the weight of the snow causing the tent to buckle.

White is usually fully packed and walking by 6:30 a.m. and hikes till dark. Animals don't bother hikers because hikers bed down in non-established spots and animals don't even notice. Her pack "fully freighted" weighs in the low 30s (pounds). Mac and cheese and Knorr's packaged products are her usual menu items. The luxury item that goes on every hike is a pepper mill, said White. White cooks on a tiny denatured alcohol stove that is made out of a soda can. Very light weight.

Hiking is "pretty close to free," said White.

White started the Continental Divide Trail on May 1 and only saw four people in 700 miles. She mostly sees only hikers but sometimes White meets people and will hike with them for some of the way.

In Glacier National Park, White encountered a grizzly bear in the wild. The bear wasn't concerned, but White had to climb 300 feet to get out of the grizzly's way. White saw "a lot of moose in Colorado this year."

Hikers go into town every four to six days for supplies and "take a zero," said White.

White wants all women to know that hiking is not dangerous for women and to get out and try it. She said that it is more dangerous going into town than being out on the trail. Only about 25 percent of hikers are women. When White finished the Divide in September she was one of two, and two women were still out.

White was still out on the trail when the Triple Crown awards were presented but will be receiving the award.

When asked if it is difficult to be out on a trail alone White said, "You have to be open to whatever happens in a day."

To get started White said,"Throw yourself on the Universe."

To read some of White's trail journals visit trailjournals.com and search Trainwreck.

Wind River Range, Wyoming
Approaching storm in the Great Basin, Wyoming (Photo by: Stephanie White)
Self-portrait. (Photo by: Stephanie White)
Rio Grande National Forest with Emily "E-Blanket" Lawlor and Drew "ABear" Hebert. (Photo by: Stephanie White)
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. (Photo by: Stephanie White)
San Juans, Colorado. (Photo by: Stephanie White)
Last day on the trail, walking through 18 inches of new snow near Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado. Mark "Moneyshot" Dupray and Drew "ABear" Hebert. (Photo by: Stephanie White)
Mark "Moneyshot" Dupray and Stephanie White traversing snowy slopes on Piegan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana. (Photo by: Drew "ABear" Hebert)
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