20,000 MILES UP THE SIERRA MADRES
Ambassador Bethany Hughes' Thru Hiking Odyssey
When asked what it is that helps her reach her Zen moments in the backcountry, Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes says: “Wet socks. Once they are wet, I don't care anymore and move forward freely.” On the other hand, while she admits one has to be a masochist to be a backpacker, she doesn’t purposefully seek out suffering. She walks light. “When you’re shooting for thousands of miles, heavy makes for harder when it’s already hard enough.” And Hughes is, in fact, currently en route on a very long adventure. She and Lauren “Neon” Reed are traveling by non-motorized means, 20,000 miles along the Sierra Madres. “I hope to inspire others to pursue their own audacious dreams,” Hughes explains. The duo left November 4, 2015, and will take “Her Odyssey” from the south to the north tip of the Americas. Not only are they walking (and sometimes cycling), but they’re also telling stories of the people (mostly women) they meet along the way. “Our goal is to bring attention to the fundraising efforts of [non-profit organizations that support women of the mountains] and share the stories of the women being served by them,” Hughes says. We recently checked in with Hughes. She and Reed just passed through the popular Parque los Glaciares and the town of Chalten.
What gets you up in the morning?
Hunger or having to pee.
What's your advice to people who want to shed pack weight and go lighter?
Question everything, shake up your system at least every now and again, never stop evolving, carry less and eat more.
In what ways have you applied this philosophy to the rest of your life?
I don't carry other people's baggage. When I find that I am, instead of getting upset, I set it down and move along.
How do you achieve your optimal self?
I need vast spaces most of the time and meaningful human interaction some of the time. I achieve this by hiking across where my imagination as a little girl came alive. I seek to learn and, where given permission, share peoples’ stories; to write down the bedtime stories; to observe the patterns in this spider web of human connection; and to see our strengths and weaknesses and respect both.
What motivates you to focus?
Getting to the next town, the next camp, the next meal; heck, sometimes just taking the next step is all I think about.
On a given day, what absolute necessities are in your pack? What extras?
Compass and water. I consider my journal an absolute necessity.
What issues are you passionate about and why?
I am passionate about helping women see themselves as and be treated as equals. I want each woman to know that her story, whatever her path, is valid. I believe that by opening up conversation we develop a stronger web and help uphold one another through life's up and downs: miscarriages, abortions, illness, abuse, giving life, growing, loving, forgiving and overcoming.
What sports do you primarily partake in?
When and why did you join the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team?
I joined this past October (2015) because of the intricacy of the spider web I mentioned above. A friend suggested I reach out to the company, and now here we are, at the toe of the Americas with our Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber) ninja packs and mermaid shade shelter over our heads.
What’s your favorite piece of Hyperlite Mountain Gear equipment and why?
The stuff sacks. They make great gear and double as a tough town bag.
You can also find Bethany Hughes…