June 17, 2015 / Comments (8)

Wild Women: Trish, Alex, and Sage

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!

Today we are featuring a wonderful trio: Patricia Ellis Herr and her two daughters have been hiking and backpacking all over the United States with their goal of highpointing every state. Alex and Sage are among some of the youngest people to hike all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks, both at the age of 6. Alex currently hold the record for the youngest person to hike all 48 in winter (at age 9) and they’ve pushed themselves to new levels by backpacking the Camino de Santiago and Calofornia’s John Muir Trail.

What was your first experience hiking together?

Trish — I have taken the girls out walking/hiking since the time they could each toddle.  We used to wander around Walden Pond and through Drumlin Farm (both in Massachusetts).  At that age, it was more ambling than true hiking, but walking in nature is walking in nature…they girls loved to be outside (they still do) and the scenery was beautiful.

Alex (6) and Sage (4) atop NH's Mt Pemigewasset

Alex (6) and Sage (4) atop NH’s Mt Pemigewasset- PC Patricia Herr

Was there a moment that sparked a love for the outdoors and hiking?

Trish — There wasn’t a particular moment regarding love of the outdoors.  I’ve kept the girls outside as much as possible since they were born, so being outside is normal for them.  As for mountain hiking, Sage says the first time she got to the top of a mountain and saw the views, she was hooked.  Alex says her first ascent of Tecumseh, in June 2008, sparked her love of mountain hiking/climbing.  For Alex, it was the sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that she could tackle such a thing successfully, and that there were views to be had from the top.


How did you get into backpacking? Was it a difficult transition from day hiking?

Trish — The girls and I usually travel around the country and tent in campgrounds every year, so the extension of carrying the tent on my back instead of the car wasn’t a big deal.  The only thing that makes backpacking significantly different for us than day hiking is a remaining slight worry regarding animals at night.  I’m strict about no food smells in our tent, so the fear is illogical…but human, I guess.

photo (4)

Is there anything about backpacking that still makes you nervous or anxious?

Sage — I don’t really like the dark.  I’m also slightly worried about people out there harming us, though Mom says that kind of thing is not likely to happen on the trails.

Alex — The only things I’m sometimes worried about is animals.  At night, I worry a bit about bears, and on the John Muir Trail, I sometimes worried about mountain lions.  Most of the time, I don’t worry though.

Trish — I still worry a bit about food smells in our tent…sometimes I check four times to make sure I haven’t forgotten to put the toothpaste in the bear bag/canister, etc.


What was it like hiking the John Muir Trail? Did you find it more difficult or easier than the trails you typically hike in the White Mountains?

Alex, Trish, and Sage making Forester Pass look easy

Alex, Trish, and Sage making Forester Pass look easy

Both Alex and Sage — The John Muir Trail was much easier than hiking in the White Mountains.  The paths felt flat and smooth most of the time, and when the trail did go up a mountain, it went up using switchbacks.  In the Whites, the trails tend to go straight up and down the mountains.

Trish — I share the same opinion as Alex and Sage.


What advice would you give to other looking to get into hiking or backpacking together?

Katahdin, Sage and Alex, August 2011

Sage — Go at the kid’s pace.  If you need to turn around, don’t be shy, do it.

Alex — Also, do your research.  Don’t go out unprepared.

Trish — Ditto the above.  Go at the kid’s pace, don’t hesitate to turn around if the kid wants to, let the kid get dirty and explore, BE HONEST if the kid asks how far it is to wherever (if you say “almost there” when you aren’t, then the kid won’t trust you and won’t want to hike with you anymore), and don’t make assumptions about what your kid can and cannot do.  Give your kid the freedom to go as far or as he or she wants.


What was the worst hiking/backpacking advice you’ve ever received?

Alex — “Wear snowshoes all the time in the winter.”  You don’t need to wear them unless you are postholing.  It’s good to have them with you, but you don’t need to wear them if you’re not sinking.

Alex and Sage atop Mount Moosilauke January 2013- PC Patricia Herr

Alex and Sage atop Mount Moosilauke January 2013- PC Patricia Herr

What do you cherish most about hiking?

Sage — I like being up there, and knowing that I am up there.  I like the feeling of being on the summit, especially when there are views.

Alex — I like going up.  I like looking ahead of me and seeing how much we still have to go, and I like talking to Mom and Sage about stuff we don’t usually talk about at home.  I like having a view at the top.

Magallaway 2013

Enjoying sweeping views on Mount Magallaway, NH- PC Patricia Herr

Trish — I cherish being in the midst of all that LIFE.  The trees, the vegetation, the birds, the mammals, the frogs….everything is so very much alive.  When I’m inside, everything is dead — the concrete, the dishes, the furniture, etc.  Also, I love hiking with my kids.  They are so observant — they always point out things I would have otherwise missed.  They are strong, and sweet, and just plain good company.


Alex, Sage, and Trish backpacking along the John Muir Trail

Do you have any upcoming hikes or adventures planned?
Trish: We are hiking parts of the Great Wall of China this year.  Also, over the next four or five years, we hope to finish the New Hampshire GRID.  We also highpoint — Idaho’s Borah Peak is next on our list.


To keep up with Trish, Alex, and Sage’s adventures you can visit their site at www.trishalexsage.com! You can also read their book Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure


Share the story of when you took your kids on their first hiking or backpacking adventure! One lucky person will win a signed copy of Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure!


Looking for more inspiration? Check out these other wild interviews: Jennifer Pharr Davis, Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, Helen “Cat” Beckers, Heather “Anish” Anderson, and Kristin Gates!

Last modified: September 1, 2017

8 Responses to :
Wild Women: Trish, Alex, and Sage

  1. Kayla says:

    This is awesome!!

  2. Laura says:

    I love all three of these wild women! What an amazing mom and what a fabulous gift she’s given her daughters.

  3. Amanda says:

    My son is 9 and last summer we went on our first overnight trip in the smoky mountains. I was nervous because I didn’t want him to dislike the experience so I way over packed! I had so much to carry and it wasn’t until halfway through day one that he would create his own experience and personal connection to nature. He loved stopping and watching bugs, finding new flowers, and just getting dirty (and not having to shower!!) we’ve been backpacking (just an overnight) twice since!

  4. I’ve hiked with the Herrs a couple times. In fact, the picture at the top of your article is from when I hiked Marcy with them. In fact, I think Sage is eating one of my cookies in that picture.

    One early memory of hiking with my kids is Pine Mountain in the Whites when they were pretty young. During the easy flat early section they were complaining about how difficult it was and how tired they were. When we got to the steep section, though, that all stopped and they were having a great time. I think with kids a lot of time “tired” actually means “bored”.

    Don’t bother putting me in the drawing for the book, though; I already have a signed copy of Up.

  5. jamie Sanders says:

    Two years ago I brought my 5 year old daughter hiking and she was miserable- even cried. She hated the bugs, the lack of views, and we didn’t have any good snacks!! I was devastated but a few weeks later she asked if we could try hiking again. It was further into summer so black flies were no longer around and I got some very good recommendations on where to go. Being so young and inexperienced it would be hard to find a hike with fantastic views, but we ended up hiking to a waterfall and she thought it was the best thing ever! We’ve been doing bigger hikes since and I cannot wait to take her on her first overnight this summer!

  6. Rick says:

    My wife and I decided to take our two children (8 and 10) backpacking last summer as we had only been car camping with them before. My wife was extremely anxious about the whole situation, but once we hit the trail it was smooth sailing! We let the kids navigate (most of the way), reinforcing their knowledge from some AMC courses we took and all worked together to pick a spot and set up camp. It’s like pulling teeth to get them to do anything around the house, but they were so responsible on trail!! We’re planning to do another backpacking trip in a few weeks but with another friend of ours and their son. We hope it’s just as fun!

  7. dan mckee says:

    When I met my wife, we backpacked with our dog in Vermont or New Hampshire every Columbus Day weekend. When our son was born, he brought him on these family vacations, first carrying him in a child-carrier backpack until he could walk age-appropriate trails and distances. We stayed in AMC huts as he grew up and after joining Scouts, he experienced Winter hiking, again staying in the AMC huts. In 2014, he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail Northbound in 114 days, hiker #82. I was excited to see him off at Springer Mtn – solo, hike in the Berkshires on the Summer Soltice (I did not participate in the AT tradition), hike over Mt Moosilauke wearing a dress (another AT tradition that day), and was very proud to summit Baxter Peak on Mt Katahdin with him and his close thru-hiker friend. Summitting and completing this journey, we raised our warm beers to toast their achievements and congratulate all the hikers that day.
    As a parent, you never know where family time sharing wholesome exercise will take your children…or you!

  8. Shelly Huskey says:

    I have a love of hiking. Being outdoors has always seemed to help my heart, soul, and mind to mend from the day to day drudgery of being a human. Being that it has been such an uplifting experience for me, I have tried over the years to get my three daughters outside. It really only took with my eldest. As with growing up though, there came a time in our lives that she and I butted heads pretty badly. She was 12 then and horribly hormonal. LOL

    One weekend I was headed out to do the Spivey Gap to Erwin, TN section of the AT. I was surprised when getting my gear together that she told me she wanted to go with me. I tried not to go weirdly Momma on her shouting with joy and dancing around like an chimp swinging from light fixtures and furniture so happy that she wanted to tag along. I tamped down my exuberation and quickly began showing her what to pack.

    On the morning we set off and not very long after Miss Janet dropped us off at the trail head, the rain began to fall lightly upon us. It remained steady throughout most of the day. But, then there were times that it came down on us so hard that I could barely see her less than ten feet in front of me on the trail. To say that we were miserable the majority of the time would be a huge understatement.

    There was something mystifying and magical that the trail worked on the both of us that day though. Through the rain, mud, cold, and complete miserableness of the day we learned how to work as a team; how to communicate again; and how to trust as well as love one another all over that day. As we sat on top of the gorge towards the end our our journey. In our sodden states we walked to the edge and looked out over the Nolichucky River and the small town of Erwin. The clouds began to disperse, and the rays of the sun shone down upon us. We sat warming ourselves for a bit taking in the view. And, that is when I began to silently cry…. in thanks and gratitude….

    The trail had given me my daughter back….

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