Heather “Anish” Anderson: Your 2019 Wild Story Teller
Heather “Anish” Anderson: Record Breaking Thru Hiker
The Earth’s circumference is 24,901 miles around. Heather “Anish” Anderson has hiked 30,000 miles since 2003. Yeah, she figuratively has hiked around the world and then some.
I know what you’re thinking. Man, she must have been a superstar athlete growing up. Probably crushed the competition in Cross Country Races. Ran track at the collegiate level. Heck, I bet she grew up in the mountains of Colorado.
All of those assumptions are false. She grew up in Michigan living your traditional rural Midwestern life. Her outdoor experience was limited to helping around the family farm. By the time she reached college, she was 50 pounds overweight.
After her first year of college, she had a calling to spend the summer working at the Grand Canyon. Within in her first couple days, she took off down the Bright Angel Trail with friends – in Walmart flip flops and cut-off shorts. Yeah, she had a front seat on the struggle bus. Yet, she had fallen in love with the wild and was quick to search out her next outdoor adventure.
After graduating from Anderson University, she made her way to Springer Mountain for her first Appalachian Trail thru hike. As soon as she finished, she was ready for more.
It was a couple of years before she was back to thru hiking. In the interim, she had married a fellow thru hiker, settled down in Seattle, and found work designing eBooks. Together, she and her husband thru hiked the Pacific Coast Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.
Sounds heavenly, right? Heather had it all: A job, a home, a husband. What more could a girl ask for?
Yet, in 2012 her marriage was falling apart, and it was the trail that held all the answers. Every hiker can relate. Problems are solved. Souls are searched. The inner workings of our beings are unveiled. She quit her job, sold her belongings, and set her sights back on the dirt path.
Having completed her first Triple Crown, she had her mind on a new challenge: an FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Pacific Crest Trail. Which, she crushed. She finished beating out the previous record by 4 days. And, this wasn’t the woman’s record. This was the overall record and she was the first woman to hold the record!
And, then she kept going. In 2015 while Scott Jurek was setting a fully supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail with total fan fare, Heather was toiling along quietly completely self-supported setting her own Women’s record on the same trail. The following year, she broke the record on the Arizona Trail.
In 2018, she really out did herself. In under a year she thru hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail – Total distance: 7,938 miles. The achievement earned her recognition as the first Woman Triple Triple Crowner and the first woman to Triple Crown in a year. National Geographic just named her one of their Adventurers of the Year because of her trailblazing successes.
Oh, and she’s authored her first book! Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home which chronicles her Pacific Crest Trail record.
Somehow, Heather has found time to be our Keynote Speaker and Story Teller at West Virginia Wild this summer. There’s much more to her story than her long list of achievements. She’s an inspiring human that bucked traditions in favor of what sets her soul on fire. She doused gender barriers in gasoline and set them ablaze. She redefines how a top tier athlete looks or is brought up. She is a reminder that we are all humans with the ability to do human things – very well. No matter how far removed we might seem, it starts with one foot step in the right direction even if it’s in Walmart sandals.
Note: She will be signing books after her talk. Hooray! You can buy your copy online or purchase at Wild. Please have $25 in cash in hand. (Our service is spotty so Credit Card processors are unreliable).