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 female hikers and backpackers out there that I’ve continued with the series.
Erin “Wired” Saver is one of the most passionate long distance hikers I know. Those who hike with her still aren’t sure exactly where she gets her energy from. Whether she’s blogging about the latest gear or trail update, getting in big miles, or inspiring others to hit the trail, she’s never without a big smile. And who can blame her? She’s hiked in some of the most gorgeous places in the world!
Over the years, you’ve hiked an impressive list of Long Distance trails. When did you first get into long distance hiking?
I got into hiking in a second wave of my adult life. I had been a marathon runner for almost a decade in Chicago before moving to Portland, OR in 2009 at the age of 30. I was immediately drawn to the trails in the Northwest, but feared the unknown with little outdoor experience. I joined the Portland area Meetup.com hiking and backpacking groups. It was a great way for me to get outdoors with groups, become comfortable with the trail, and learn more about gear. I found myself craving the more extended hikes and overnights. It was through Meetup that I first learned of the PCT and the seed of doing a thru hike was planted. I did my first thru hike in 2011 on the PCT. It’s all happened quite suddenly, and I’m fortunate that my life has fallen into place (I have saved all my life and work flexibly as a substitute teacher and nanny) to be able to hike 4-6 months consecutively each year. Hard to believe I’ve hiked 10,000mi in such a short period of time. I’m totally hooked!
Did you have a mentor or someone you hiked with when you first started out?
This will be an extended answer, and rightfully so. If it wasn’t for these personally influential women I don’t know that I’d be thru hiking today. Through Meetup I met a woman my age who had done a section hike of the Appalachian Trail and that was the first I’d heard of such a thing really happening. That’s how removed I was from the thru hiking community. I didn’t even know it existed! She made thru hiking a reality in my mind and was the one to plant that seed of doing the PCT. Another good friend I met through Meetup was also interested in more solo backpacking, so we went out on overnight trips for a whole summer figuring it out together. We even got Ray Jardine’s “Guide to Lightweight Hiking” book and read it to each other on those trips. From there, I looked at PCT thru hiker blogs from other women that I identified with. I am eternally grateful to Sticky Fingers, Cubby & Boston, and Rockin’, who are all women that maintained daily PCT blogs in 2010. Those blogs helped me to virtually experience a thru hike, and for the first time, envision doing such an endeavor solo. Sticky Fingers is a Portland local and even met with me to answer all those first time thru hiker questions. Of everyone, Rockin’(also one of your featured Wild Women) is my mentor…as a hiker, as a blogger, and as a human being. Her energy for life and sharing the experience is what has most influenced me to do the same. We are now good friends and find ways to do long hikes together. She is constantly striving to find that next challenge and that’s who I want to be when I grow up!
Tell us about your trail name “Wired”
First off, I can say that I was dead set against trail names when I started hiking. It was odd to me that adults would have such odd nicknames, as if they were trying to change who they really are or be someone else…and then I was given the name that fully encapsulates me and I couldn’t turn it down! I was in my first week of my thru hike and I had resisted attempts by others to give me a trail name in those early days. I don’t require much sleep, and can have a lot of kinetic and frenetic energy, which was coming off strongly in that first week. A hope in going on the PCT was that I’d learn to calm that aspect of my personality, but I found that it was only coming out even stronger on the trail. I was regularly overlapping with others that learned my quirks pretty quickly. I was also blogging for the first time in my life and that did not help with the already heightened stress level. I had a laptop sent to the first town to be able to upload video/photos. I was up late blogging in a lobby and returned to my room that I was sharing with two other hikers. I turned on the light, not realizing they would be asleep, and woke them up. I apologized and then said, “How are you guys asleep!? I’m totally wired right now!” One of them replied, “That’s it! YOU. ARE. WIRED!” I was confused and he repeated it a couple times until it set in that he was intending it as a trail name. There was no denying it. Nothing could be more descriptive of me in all forms of the word. I had to embrace it. I like to think I’ve calmed a bit and that it is now more associated with the blogging and my tendency to carry electronics. However, still when I walk up to complete strangers on trail sometimes and introduce myself by saying, “Hi I’m Wired.” They laugh and immediately say, “Yes you are!”
With these gadgets included in your pack, what have you done differently than many thru hikers to keep your pack weight low?
I think we all have certain luxury items and, although it is nice to have a lower pack weight, it isn’t the utmost priority in my gear selection. I lovingly call my 10.4oz battery charger “the brick.” A brick well worth carrying in my case! I know my pack weight tends to be about a pound heavier than others that consider themselves lightweight. I would say I’m a light backpacker. When I intentionally switched things up to hike lighter, I basically rebought all the same items, just the lightest versions I could find and still be comfortable. Few things were eliminated completely. It was a whole overhaul and every little ounce added up to many pounds off my base pack weight.
One of your more recent long distance adventures was on the Hayduke Trail. This route is very different than many long distance trails in the US. Can you tell us what drove you to take on the challenge of this trail?
The Hayduke is an 800+ mile backcountry route in S Utah and N Arizona that I never imagined doing. It was well out of my comfort zone in both exposure and navigation. I knew about it, but never even considered it as an option. How it evolved was that I had plans to do the Great Divide Trail the second half of the summer. The GDT is a later summer trail because it is in the Canadian Rockies and snow can remain on the mountains into July up there. I started looking at options for trails to do the first half of the summer and that is a shorter list. I had a friend interested in doing the Hayduke with me, so we started looking into it. Then he couldn’t go and I found myself surprisingly still interested. Somehow, my mind had switched over from fear of the unknown to interest as I read more about the Hayduke. I also felt that there was a lot of fear mongering and exaggeration as to the extremity of the hike. I wanted to give it a shot and dispel some of the intimidation factor. I decided to go for it, and luckily had another hiker that approached me before the hike and was able to start with me.
What advice would you give other women looking to backpack solo?
Oh so many things! Most of my tips can be advice for either gender. Backpacking solo is THE most empowering and alive experience I’ve ever had. It took some practice to get used to it, but once I did, I was hooked! Here are just some of the main things that come to mind right away.
-Ease into it. Start with day hiking solo to get a feel for it. Try walking in your neighborhood first just to practice and then get more remote. Even a 10min walk from a trailhead and back, and then extending it as you feel comfortable.
-Setup your tent in your backyard and sleep on your own for practice if you need.
-I found it really helpful to read journal entries from other solo women…especially those new to the solo experience as those were the ones that were most relatable. Seeing other women like me go out solo made it real and attainable for myself.
-Go backpacking with a friend on a trail that you’re comfortable with or maybe have done before. Intentionally take chunks of time far enough apart to not see one another (maybe 10mins apart). Extend that time and space as you feel more comfortable. Do the same with camping. Pitch tents close to one another yet far enough away to feel that solo experience and get further apart as you get adjusted.
-I like to have music and/or audiobooks to entertain myself if I need a distraction or some kind of interaction in my head.
-I find it more comforting to camp solo well away from trailheads or roads. Also, I oftentimes prefer to be out of visibility of the trail in case other hikers or animals walk by. I do not like to camp at well used campsites as they may be more likely to attract foraging animals.
-It will take time to adjust and feel comfortable for most people and that is normal. If you feel skittish and anxious, that is normal too. It takes time and multiple experiences sometimes to really settle in.
-I find it easier to sleep alone if there is the white noise of a stream nearby to mute all the little sounds in the night.
-Don’t pee close to the tent! I’ve had many animals(mainly deer) dig through the night where I had peed because they want the salt.
-Hang your food if that will make you feel less concerned about bears.
-Remind yourself of how rare it is to be harmed out there and try to rationalize fears when they do arise.
-I find it comforting to carry a Delorme InReach Messenger that will allow me to text anyone from virtually anywhere if I need help or to reach out.
-Take photos and look at them at the end of the day. Replaying your day for yourself will give you some great thoughts as you go to sleep.
-If you are skittish alone at night in the tent, then make sure you do enough during the day to make your body and mind tired and want to fall asleep quickly at night.
-Do your best to accept things as they are and be present in each moment.
-Don’t let fear stop you from trying it. If we all didn’t do things that challenged us, we’d never leave the house.. Let the fear be a motivator of challenges you want to attack and overcome.
Is there anything about backpacking that makes you nervous or anxious?
I don’t like things out of my control, so I get really anxious when those situations occur…stream crossings, avalanche danger, traversing across angled scree that could come loose…things like that. I also get nervous about weather. It’s a powerful thing and I’ve been in some pretty strong storms. You’d think I’d be afraid of hiking alone or animals…and maybe I was at some point…but now I feel so at home outside that it doesn’t really come to mind. Yes, if I hear rustling about at night in leaves near my tent, I naturally jump, but I rationalize that it’s just an animal walking by and they aren’t interested in me.
What do you cherish most about hiking?
Ooh…there are so many things!…One thing I really enjoy about hiking is that no two days are ever the same. I could go to the same place a dozen times and it will always be a different experience in nature.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Haha, this past summer, my good friend Rockin’ encouraged me to save weight by dehydrating tuna and salmon I had bought for daily lunch snacks in foil packages. It was for a 10wk trip and saved a good bit of weight to dehydrate it, but stunk up the whole house and every box I put it in reeked. I was in bear country in the Canadian Rockies and was super paranoid about it. It made my whole food bag smell. I am thinking I didn’t use thick enough Ziploc bags and probably should have used the air tight dehydrating bags. Not doing that again, ha!
What about the best?
Go solo! I almost didn’t go on my PCT hike when I didn’t have another person to go with me. I posted online to see if a random person wanted to start with me. Everyone replied, telling me to go solo and they were right! Hiking solo opens you up to so many more interactions and experiences that you tend to be closed off to as a pair. Best advice I ever could have gotten. I do enjoy going with my friends from time to time, but I still value that solo experience. Even when hiking with others, I will find that time to be on my own.
Do you have any upcoming hikes or adventures planned?
Oh man, I do!…BUT I feel like it jinxes it to announce it before the new year. I have plans for the next year and a half generally set and am really excited about it. Stay tuned for my January announcement. I can say some of it is hiking I never thought I’d ever attempt, and some of it is hiking I’ve been mentioning for awhile now and was just waiting for the right year to do it…
To see where Wired is heading next or some more great content, check out what she’s up to at Walking with Wired! You can also see more Wild Woman articles and more female focused content on Trail to Summit’s new female hikers page.
*featured image shot by Rita Jett