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Thru Hikers

My Colorado Trail Thru-Hike Was a Journey Back to Myself

Patricia Cameron set out to hike the 486-mile Colorado Trail to raise awareness for her nonprofit. She ended up finding out even more about her personal strengths.

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When I started my Colorado Trail thru-hike, my only plan was to increase visibility for my nonprofit, Blackpackers, through my social media and blog posts. We work to bridge the gap in representation in the outdoors through gear lending and community events; what better place to represent that than on a thru-hike? What I didn’t see coming was how much this trip would change me personally. My thru-hike of the CT turned out to be one of my most life-changing events—second only to the birth of my son.  

The author on trail just past Taylor Lake at mile 460 on the Colorado Trail.

I became a mother at 23 and have spent the last 15 years raising an amazing boy.  I’ve tried to teach him how to grow into his identity and express it in the ways that feel most comfortable to him. But in the course of guiding him into his own selfhood, I nearly forgot my own. The CT presented the perfect set of circumstances to reintroduce myself to, well, myself. I found my hiker legs late—somewhere around Lake City about three-quarters of the way through the hike—but the mental shift came much sooner.

Hikers Eating
“Trail angels waiting at the end of the trail with food, where I went straight for the fresh fruit,” says Cameron. Photo by Kennan Harvey

After a week of camping alone, I started to enjoy my quiet, solo nights. That’s when I heard my voice again, drawing me out into the mountains. This is who I am without due dates, bills, clocking in and out. It was the me that wasn’t just a mother or the executive director of a nonprofit. It wasn’t what I had expected or what I had planned, but it was a wonderful gift. 

Tent on colorado trail
Waking up to sunshine at Taylor Lake after a wild hailstorm the night before. Photo by Kennan Harvey