095 Heather "Anish" Anderson
Heather grew up outside, building forts and climbing trees. Her family would go camping often, but never included hiking in their outdoor time. Heather started to notice she was getting overweight by the time she had entered Middle School and continued to gain weight into High School. She would run or exercise for a week and then give up. Sports were not something she did, perferring to read or write instead.
She found hiking when she was sixteen. Her family rented a cabin and her father announced that they would be going on a hike this vacation trip at the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan. The destination was an overlook of Lake of the Clouds. A five mile trek that ended after the first half mile!
It wasn’t until Heather was in college and took a summer job working at the Grand Canyon for one of the hotels near the South Rim. “It’s a long story of why my first real hike was terrible,” she describes. A blood infection, no sleep and her first time being at 7,000 feet elevation were some of the factors leading to this terrible trip as you can imagine.
Like many of us, she looked back at the hike as an amazing time despite the reality of the moment. She continued afterward, hiking many of the trails that summer in the South Rim area.
“I had heard of the Appalachian Trail first when I was still in High School,” Heather described to me. "I told my parents that I wanted to hike the whole trail after graduating. They said I needed to go to college first.”
Heather would squeeze her hikes at the Grand Canyon after work with a willing coworker. They were on one of these hikes in the heat of the day with no water when the discussion started between the two about how she would hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). This really got the ball rolling for her and she continued planning until she graduated from college. She handed her diploma to her parents and jumped on the AT.
After hiking that summer, Heather started to run that next two years at college. She lost 50 pounds in that time and started off the AT in decent shape. Heather describes, “I had transitioned from total couch potato to moderately active and reduced some of my excess weight before jumping o the At at Springer Mountain in 2003.”
When she started the AT, she didn’t even know that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) existed. She found out about them on her thru hike and immediately knew she would hike those two trails.
Heather worked at Glacier National Park after her first thru hike of the AT. She eventually hiked over 600 miles of the 700 miles of trails in the park.
“I’ve gone hiking or to the mountains at whole bunch of different stages in my life and with a whole bunch of different needs and reasons. The beautiful thing about long trails and the mountains is that they are what you need them to be, even if you don’t know what you need them to be.” This quote from Heather came after I asked her do mountains really heal.
Anastasia Allison wrote in a question along these lines and so I asked Heather - was there a moment on the trails that allowed you to have more clarity about something off the trail? Heather answered that there have been a lot of those moments, especially when she has tried to set a record for Fastest Known Time (FKT), and they can be distilled into two general concepts. One is acceptance and the other is mindfulness. She learned acceptance through situations like her tent collapsing in the night or dropping her water filter down a hillside. Her three mile an hour pace over months on end help build her mindfulness.
Heather Anderson has a Ted X in which she talks about her fairytale and I feel like she is a fairytale herself. Shannon Cunningham wanted to know if Heather has actually fallen asleep standing while going for an FKT. She relates falling asleep hiking as akin to falling asleep driving. Maybe she would hike for three miles and couldn’t remember actually putting those miles in.
Heather tries to have a really healthy whole food framework while planning dinners for her hikes. High fat and nutritious meals. Paleo Meals to Go and Backpacker’s Pantry have some good choice meals that she prefers when eating dehydrated food. Snacks tend to be dried fruit, pepperoni, cheeses, whole food bars and chocolate. She loves Trail Butter and has a weakness for chips, gummy worms and Reeses.
I asked Anish about the dresses she wears on trail. She started wearing them while working at Glacier National Park. Her first one was a beach cover-up from Wallmart. Heather decided it was the way to go especially because they are so light and cheaper than brand hiking wear. Some of the ones she wears now are from thrift stores, though she now has some tech skirts in her wardrobe. She said, ”wearing cute dresses makes me happy!”
Anish looks up to her friend Apple Pie. Though she is only a bit older than Anish, she seems t have hiked trails that she wants to hike and therefore she is able to talk to Apple Pie about them before heading out. She also considers John Muir her idol. Heather said that she has read all of his books and feels he expresses through his writing the outdoors exactly the way she does in her mind.
Heather coaches online, helping people prepare for a thru hike or long hike. She has a handful of clients and loves to see people prepare and then fulfill a lifelong dream. You can see the details on her website———
A book deal is an exciting process Heather is working on now, having just signed a deal. She has been writing a lot and is planning for a 2019 release.
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Check out Whiskey Fever: https://www.reverbnation.com/whiskeyfever The song used in the intro is 'Tall Grass' from their album Gonna Wake Up This Whole Town.