• Mary Anderson


Mary wrote this post in May, just before beginning her southbound thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. She is now in Glacier Park, Montana, and has made it safely through the last snowfield.* Mary is writing not only about long-distance hiking but also about a lifelong struggle with the effects of childhood trauma. Here she touches on suicidality, emotional avalanches, and the role of friends.


By Mary Anderson

I have to be aware of avalanches while on the trail. Steep slopes, new snow on top of old snow, and soft, rotting spring snow are all things I need to keep an eye out for.

I need to be aware of avalanche dangers as well in my physical body and my emotional self.

I am good at pushing even when my body is in pain. I don’t use Novocain at the dentist, but sometimes I push too hard. If I will be able to complete this hike I have to avoid an avalanche of small pains and injuries growing into bigger ones. Many people have to leave the trail due to stress fractures or bad blisters. I have to keep an eye out for the signs of an impending bodily crash and ward it off by hiking my own hike at my own speed, neither comparing myself to other hikers nor trying to keep up with them.

I also need to prevent emotional avalanches. The idea of suicide has been with me a very long time. When I was three I was praying to die. I had to remove a rope with a hangman’s noose from around my neck before I set out to hike the first part of this trail. If I am not careful I can easily slip back into that place. To avoid it, I need to remain aware of crossing steep emotional slopes. I need to be careful when I push through old, rotting beliefs about myself. Stepping into a new, more positive vision of myself might sound good, but just like new snow on top of old, it can leave me in danger of an emotional avalanche. To avoid these I have learned to stay in connection with my friends. They will dig me out when I get buried, though I’d like to save them some work!


* A satellite message from Mary, received yesterday, reads thus: "6 to go bh sheep mtn goat grizz and cub done snow feet hurt knee ok." I interpret this to mean that she expected to hike 6 more miles to the next campground before calling it a day, and that she had seen bighorn sheep, mountain goats, a mama grizzly and her cub. "Done snow" means (I think) no more snowfields, at least for now. Although her feet hurt, her knee (which halted her hike for a few days) is okay. —ST

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