We, hikers, are more similar than we think. If you ever doubt that, please let me give you some arguments to support that statement.
I took one year to travel and trek. Andy did as well.
I have trekked the Inca Trail. Andy has done the same.
In fact, I’ll add Mont Blanc in Europe, Torres del Paine in Chile, Banff in Canada, Haleakala National Park in Maui and Yosemite. We both have trekked in those places.
Add Kilimanjaro, South Africa and Nepal, which I’ve been to. These three are on Andy’s bucket list.
Obviously, Andy and I have similar tastes when it comes to mountains. Not only that, but we are also both fortunate to be part of the same supportive community of female hikers called Hike Like a Woman. And, I’m quite happy to add, Andy is also part of the Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks project. Who knew there is such a thing as being twins in the trekking world? Well, now you know. With all that said, I’m excited to share Andy’s hiking story. She’s truly an adventurer and a source of inspiration; hence, I’m thrilled to have her featured on this series. After all, Andy has already inspired a significant number of people. Need some proof of that? Check out her Facebook page and see for yourself her number of followers.
Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice
Andrea “Andy” Buzeta is from Kennesaw, GA who currently resides in Canton, GA. Andy is back in the working world after a full year of traveling and hiking. But not for long. She already has some adventures in mind. Her next trip will be in Colorado for a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Locally, Andy hikes around North Georgia mountains, metro Atlanta and the Smokies. She usually takes 1 to 2 hiking trips a year abroad or to a U.S. National Park. When off the trails, Andy loves traveling that entails experiencing other cultures and cuisines. She’s also fond of biking, kayaking, salsa dancing and reading.
How did you discover hiking?
I first started hiking 8 years ago- 2008. I had moved from the city (Atlanta) to the country (North Georgia) when I had first got married to my then husband. I was bored and having culture shock because there was nothing to do- no crowded bars and nightclubs, no international restaurants, it was even hard to find a gym. While I was out driving one day, I found Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked some of the trails. Upon hearing that the Appalachian Trail starts there and goes all the way to Maine, I was fascinated! Also the 2 mile loop I did with 600 stairs in the middle made me realize that I was out of shape! It became my goal to be able to do that 2 mile loop without feeling like I was going to die.
What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?
My most memorable hiking experience to date was my trip to Chile in January 2015. It was supposed to be a 6 day backpacking trip called the “Trail of the Neighbors”, trekking Chile’s famous Futaleufu River Valley. The trip would depart from near the little town of Futaleufu and take me to a camp located at the confluence of the Futaleufu and Azul rivers. It would be a circumnavigation of the Teta peak along side the Espolon lake, while experiencing deep immersion of Patagonia culture with homestays in remote ranches. Well, that’s what I went to do. But I ended up on an expedition from the Andes to the Ocean on horseback, because the route was too dangerous on foot. A volcanic eruption a few years before had left the route too dangerous, with rivers unsafe to cross on foot. I later learned that this was a bucket list trip for horseback enthusiasts. I had never even rode a horse before. It was way out of my comfort zone to trust an animal to carry me up high mountain passes and to cross rushing rivers.
That’s quite a surprise – from walking to horse riding! That’s why it’s memorable indeed.
What do you like the most about hiking?
What I like most about hiking is the mental meditation that it is for me. It completely clears my head and rids me of my anxieties.
I couldn’t agree more with that. To me, the meditative part is the most alluring aspect of hiking.
Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?
It depends. I enjoy hiking solo more as a general rule, when I am just going out for a hike on the weekend. On trips, especially international trips, I enjoy the group comraderie, meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sharing the experience.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?
First, to be truly present in the moment. Put away the IPhone. Put one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the scents around you. Second, some things seem impossible when really they aren’t, it is just your brain telling you so. For example I look at a pass and think wow, there is no way I’m going up and over that. But you just put one foot in front of the other and next thing you know, you’re there! Third, when you’re lost and cannot find the way, sometimes prayer really is what works.
What advise would you give to women who are new to hiking?
1) Always go prepared- with water, rain gear, etc.
2) Don’t not go hiking because you don’t have anyone to go with, go alone anyway. Start at your local state parks and get comfortable there, then you will have more confidence to venture out for hikes in other places.
Please share with us your 3 favorite hiking photos and the reasons why they are your favorites.
This is in Banff National Park, Canada, in July of 2014. This was the day I went over my first real high mountain pass. I was very happy because I had accomplished something new. The scenery around me was so very beautiful!
This is going up Macchu Picchu Mountain in Peru, in April 2016. This was a very challenging hike, because you have to climb 2000 stairs above 10,000 feet in altitude. The air was thin and it was hot and humid. But about halfway through I got this crazy second wind and zipped up to the top!
The next picture is from the Tour du Mont Blanc in August 2015. This was right near the border of Switzerland and France. Our group was about to close the loop we started 10 days before. The weather was just gorgeous this day and I was enjoying every moment.
With all these beautiful trekking experiences you’ve had, what other treks do you still have on your bucket list?
What is your favorite hiking gear and why?
I love my Merrell Moab Waterproof shoes. They have taken me all over the world.
Andrea shares with us 3 favorite trails.
In July 2016 I took a trip to Yosemite National Park in California and did day hikes for 6 days. My favorite hike was the Panorama trail, which starts at Glacier Point, passes Nevada Falls, and ends in Yosemite Valley.
In February 2016, I took a trip to Hawaii (Maui and Lanai) and did day hikes for 6 days. My favorite hike was the Sliding Sands trail in Haleakala National Park, which is a dormant volcano. The terrain of this place is the closest you can be to walking on another planet!
In October 2015, I hiked a 100 kilometer section of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, starting in Sarria and ending in Santiago de Compostela. The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. This walk was 8 days, 2 of which were in the pouring rain. This hike really tested me. Even though the terrain was flat and much easier than trekking in the mountains, the 2 days of rain and amount of time walking on concrete really took its toll on my feet. This was also my first solo trek. On others I have typically gone with a group. It was a great experience.
What was the toughest hike or trek you have done?
It was actually the section I did of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It was physically more challenging to me because walking on flat terrain, sometimes paved, for longer distances was harder on my feet and legs than walking up and down mountains all day. I got leg cramps that I had never had before. I walked 2 full days in very heavy rain so I got blisters also. It was also mentally challenging. I expected to be meeting and connecting with lots of people, but the rain had everyone just trudging along only focused on getting to the next town. This was also my first solo trek, so when my phone died from getting too wet, it did increase my anxiety.
Yikes! That is one heck of a blister. I do agree with flat paved paths as a challenge. I’ve had that same issue in the past myself as it can be mentally challenging due to the lack of variety of the trail.
Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?
No, not really. On one of those really rainy days walking on the Camino, I did have a man pull over and offer me a ride to the next town. I asked the pair of hikers behind me and the pair in front of me if he had offered a ride to them and they said no. I’m pretty sure it was just a nice person offering me a ride, but being a female alone, my guard was up and I declined.
One last thing, Andy leaves us with her favorite quote from one of my favorite authors to inspire us all.
“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”– Paulo Coelho
Andy manages to document all her adventures via her blog, Andy in the World which launched in August of 2015. In her blog, she documents not only the treks that she has done but also her non-trekking travels. I do enjoy the fact that she is eclectic in that she does combine her love of the mountains with regular traveling. With us being so similar in tastes and with my social enterprise (Peak Explorations), I get the sense our paths will cross sooner than later, and that’s something I look forward to! Until then, you and I can follow Andy via her blog to see what mountain trails or cities she’s exploring. And if you did end up checking her Facebook page earlier, you would then have discovered that she has over 17,000 followers! Proof enough of her being a source of inspiration in the traveling and trekking world.
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