In response to the movie Wild being released, I featured some Wild Women who are going against the norm when it comes to people’s perception of what a hiker should be. The women featured are some of the most badass hikers, male or female, out there! There are so many amazing women that we needed a part 2 of the series!
Christy “Rockin” Rosander is an incredible Wild Woman! The Southern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is her backyard playground, and also where her trail name “Rockin’” originated—a testament to her enthusiasm for climbing big rocks. She’s hiked much of the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, the Lowest to Highest Route, and always has plans for more! She is an educator and found a way to combine her passions for hiking and teaching by creating tHInK outsidE, a hiking and outdoor skills course with a companion website. tHinK outsidE website provides resources and lessons for teaching wilderness and thru-hiking skills to elementary and high school students.
How and when did you first get into backpacking? Did you have a mentor or someone you looked up to?
Christy: The beginning of backpacking? Ah yes…shortly after my son was born 25 years ago, a friend asked me to join her on a group backpack. On this first backpack I was loaded down with borrowed gear from head to toe and was sporting cut-off jean shorts, a sports bra, and visor. I had no idea what the area was called at the time, but now know the destination as Little Lakes Valley and Bishop Pass in the eastern Sierras. I remember getting to the top of this high ridge (Bishop Pass) in borrowed moccasins because I had enormous blisters, looking over, and wanting to know more about that other side. Who could go wrong with the high Sierra as their first trip into the back-country? At the time I had no idea the long-term impact this first trip would unfold.
In my early days of backpacking I didn’t have a mentor per say, but currently have quite a few. At the top of this list is someone who cares not only for the environment, the hiking community, teaching about safe navigation and backcountry travel, but is also a very good friend, Cam “Swami” Honan. He has developed the website, The Hiking Life, a valuable resource for the beginner or experienced hiker. Last year he visited my classroom and spoke to my elementary school students about hiking in amazing and wonderful places. Thank you Swami for your friendship and wise advice. You make me think, work harder, and be safer.
When did you begin solo hiking? How was your first experience and what made you want to try it out?
Christy: Six summers ago I stepped out solo on the PCT heading north from Tehachapi. I was terrified. I had no clue if I could walk 16 miles without a water source. Where would I camp? What if I saw someone? What would I say? How would I make it through the night by myself? After making many mistakes and experiencing a few successes that first crazy day, I was hooked and never turned back.
The courage to begin hiking solo began on a Sierra backpack with a friend. I saw a lady hiker resting on a rock beside the trail and I stopped to talk with her a bit. She told me she was a retired stewardess from Chicago and had been hiking sections of the PCT for a few years to complete the entire Pacific Crest Trail and she was solo.This triggered my dream to start hiking solo the PCT one section at a time. She was the inspiration for the title of my blog “Lady on a Rock”.
What do you love about solo hiking?
Christy: Quiet mornings just before the sun rises. Following your own schedule and body needs. Relying on yourself and knowing you can do it one breath and step at a time. Most of all the confidence it gives knowing that if I can do this, I can do most anything.
Is there anything about backpacking solo that still makes you nervous or anxious?
Christy: Getting hurt and not being able to hike out on my own. This a where hiking trails like the PCT and JMT solo have really been reassuring. I figure if I am in need of real assistance I could literally just roll my body over the trail and eventually someone would come along to help.
Can you tell us a little about your program tHInK outsidE?
Christy: I am a full time elementary teacher and have the privilege to teach an outdoor workshop. Students explore a variety of topics using technology, field trips, and media, focusing on: navigation, survival, gear, trail maintenance, environment, physical preparation, and food all focused around thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
What do your students learn about and how do they connect with the PCT?
Christy: This year students went on weekly local hikes, learned outdoor nature skills such as: being a great observer, animal tracking, knot tying, bird identification, poisonous plants, recorded information in a nature journal, and how to practice Leave No Trace Principles. Also, the class had the privilege to video interview Shawn “Pepper” Forry and Justin “Trauma” Lichter, the first ever hikers to wintertime thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. In years past, students experienced guest speakers and conducted interviews with other noteworthy long distance hikers: Monkey and Mama Bear, Sunshine and Balls, Wired, and Swami.
What advice would you give to other women looking to go backpacking?
Christy: Go with your instincts: in life, on your job, with your family, at the mall, and in the back-country. There is always a price to pay if you do not take heed. And most of all, enjoy it all, even the pain and suffering.
What was the worst backpacking advice you’ve ever received?
Christy: Wearing high top leather boots, nothing good has ever come out of them.
What about the best?
Christy: Five years ago my oldest daughter encouraged me to start recording my adventures online while hiking. The blog ladyonarock.com was born. Through online blogging I have fostered many quality relationships and been fortunate to be a part of the generous and fun “Hiker Community”.
What do you cherish most about hiking?
Christy: This sport makes me a better person. I always have a trip I am planning and dreaming about. I think it keeps me young, healthy, positive, and strong.
Do you have any upcoming hikes or adventures planned?
Christy: Yes I do!! I am beyond excited about this summer’s plans. June, I am hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail with my good friend, Wired. Then heading north to the Lost Coast Trail meeting a few hikers I hiked with on the Continental Divide Trail. In July, my youngest daughter is joining me for my last remaining 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through Washington. It will be a momentous time finishing all 2650 miles of what all started as a section at time.