She may not be an Edmonds native, but ultra marathoner, personal trainer and record-breaking speed hiker Heather “Anish” Anderson calls it home and freely admits that she “wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Already holding the record time for an unsupported hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, this summer Anderson added another hiking record to her list of accomplishments: She set the speed record for a 2,189-mile unsupported hike from Maine to Georgia along the Appalachian Trail.
Unsupported means just that. She was on her own, with only what she could carry in her backpack. She woke at 4 a.m. every day, and often hiked till 10 p.m., starting and ending her day in the dark. She never took a day off. And 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes after setting out in Maine, she arrived at trail’s end, Georgia’s Springer Mountain.
In the world of timed events, new records are normally set by shaving a few seconds or minutes from the previous best time. Anderson didn’t just beat the record. She destroyed it, emerging from the trail a full four days ahead of the old record.
Anderson grew up in Michigan, and like many adolescents was plagued by doubts and low self-esteem during her teen years. “I was overweight and felt socially awkward,” she admits. “It was a tough time for me.”
Her turning point came at 17 years old when she read an online article about the Appalachian Trail.
“I read that you could actually walk from Maine to Georgia,” she said. “I was fascinated, and became obsessed with the idea of doing this.” Her parents were dead-set against the idea of their daughter spending months alone on the trail, but Anderson never gave up on her dream. And by 2007 the dream had grown to include climbing mountains.
“There were no real mountains where I was living, so I decided to move west,” she said. “I explored California and Oregon, but then I got to Washington and I was blown away. I knew I’d found what I was seeking.”
She first located in Bellingham, where she set a personal goal to scale Washington’s 100 highest peaks. While on the trail, she met fellow hiker, Edmonds native and Edmonds-Woodway High School graduate Adam Walker. Walker shared her enthusiasm for hiking, climbing and all things outdoors, and the two have been together ever since, both on the trail and off.
“I moved to Edmonds last year,” she said, “and I just knew that this is where I’m meant to be. I’m between two amazing mountain ranges with some of the best hiking in the world right at my doorstep. And Edmonds is right in the middle of all of it.”
What’s next for her? “Hey, Adam and I are still working on scaling those top 100 peaks,” she laughed.
–Story and photos by Larry Vogel