Bethany Hughes – Explorer

BethanyBethany’s love of mountains began when she was 4 years old, following her father into the Andes of Ecuador and Chile. Transplanted back to the United States in her early teens, a lot didn’t make sense. The few things which did came from being outside: a compass always points north, fire warms you when it is cold, eat when you are hungry, walk until you get there. An outdoor wilderness therapy program put her back on course.

Studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics in the Oxbridge Program at  William Jewell College, Bethany studied the broader vision of public service. During the summers, she was a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch. During her Junior year, studying in Oxford, she walked the West Highland Way and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Upon graduation Bethany moved to Skagway, Alaska to work with Iditarod sled dogs in their off-season at Alaska Icefield Expeditions.

She was on a glacier in Alaska when she heard about thru-hiking. What before had simply a way of surviving the Default World, (throwing her books and gear into a back-pack and wander until she could bear to return) was, in fact, a culture unto itself. That there were trails thousands of miles long all across the United States immediately sparked her interest.

She spent the winter working on Dancing Moon Ranch in Montana, plotting a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. In the summer of 2010 she walked 2,663 miles from the Mexico border to Canada and knew there was no going back to life before the trail.

The inspiration for her latest undertaking came when she read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and learned that the Sierra Madres connect the longest nearly-continuous chain of mountains in the world.  She spent five years working, saving up, route planning, and reaching out.

Rather than traveling with a message to share, she sets out to listen and learn. Hearing stories of survival and compassion keeps her moving. Collecting a chronicle of bedtime stories and local lore.  These stories reveal the values passed on to children and, she hopes, will prompt those following the journey to consider what values they’re emphasizing in their own lives.

As Bethany walks through the areas where she first learned of the beauty and possibilities of the world—as well as the deep inequalities—she hopes to inspire everyone who follows to dream big and to foster access for women and children to resources, both internal and external, which can help to make their dreams reality.

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