(Lander, WY) – A family of six and their pup from Washington State arrived in Fremont County last week as they hike north along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
They started this 5-month journey on April 13th when they departed the Crazy Cook Monument located at the Mexico/New Mexico border with a destination of Glacier National Park at the Canadian border.
This is the second major long-distance thru-hike for the Bennett family – Mindi and Adam along with their four children: 12-year-old Ruby, 14-year-old Tristan, 17-year-old Kaia, 18-year-old Sierra, and Muir, their 7-year-old pup – who are taking this journey one step at a time.
The CDT is ~3,100 miles total and crosses through five states. They are currently on track to complete the trail in mid-September; just in time for their school year to begin.
Six years later when Ruby was nine and old enough to take on the challenge, they completed the PCT. Hiking from the California/Mexico border through the Pacific states to the Canadian border for a total of ~2,600 miles. This checked the first of the three off their list.
The pandemic put a damper on their plans so they opted for something closer to home in 2020, the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). Adam’s parents were able to help with their resupply and his mom, Le Anne, joined them for about 500 miles of the 1,200 miles from the Continental Divide to the Pacific.
Completing the Triple Crown is still their goal and next year they are headed to the AT. Which is ~2,190 miles and spans from Georgia to Maine.
Glimpse of trail life.
All six Bennetts shared a little bit of their perspective on this journey which includes favorites, challenges, stories and more.
Mindi shared that family time and the people they meet are her favorite things on the trail.
“Being all together is just so rare with kids these days; there are so many activities. The time that we have together is my favorite, and then the people that we’re meeting along the trail – whether it’s trail angels feeding us or the hitches we get when we have to get into town. The hikers we’re meeting are phenomenal people from all over the world, all walks of life, and all social circles that we wouldn’t normally run into at home.”
Adam reflected on parenting and pushing through the difficulties.
“The trail gives you a massive buffer in parenting mistakes. It gives you time to realize, oh, I shouldn’t have done that. Maybe I need to apologize to my kid.
“When you’re out on the trail and you’re sweating and it’s miserable and it’s hot or it’s cold or it’s rainy or it’s too sunny – everything about it kind of breaks you down. But then, because you’ve broken down, you’re kind of in a better state. Maybe you’re more fragile or more in tune with yourself. I think the same thing with the kids. Sure, you want to wander off and listen to your music or whatever, but then there is also the part where you’re just thinking, how’s this gonna affect this or what should we do with that.”
Mindi also noted that thru-hiking doesn’t solve all the problems, but presents a lot of solutions that normally kids wouldn’t get in the real world and spurs creative ways of thinking.
“Not only find creative ways of thinking, but just also knowing you can do it,” Adam continued. “Not only can you do it but you have to do it. There’s a big section up head; it’s a 120-mile carry and there are really not any bailout points. A lot of times there’s a road and someone could come along. You know, we could just hike to this road and we can stick out our thumbs if there’s an emergency. You get in places like the Winds, and you know what, the blisters are bad, this is really tough and the packs are heavy because we have seven days of food. But you can do it.”
12-year-old Ruby shared the journey has been challenging and very long. Her favorite parts so far are the sunrises, sunsets, horny toads, and swimming holes.
14-year-old Tristan’s favorite thing is listening to very long fantasy books which are 20 to 50 hours long. Brandon Sanderson is his favorite author.
“I have hundreds of books that I listen to. I can’t do that during the school year because it messes up my homework schedule. Out here, I can listen to a book all of the time.”
Tristan noted he also really likes big views like mountains and rivers as well as rock formations.
18-year-old Sierra shared her favorite thing on the hike so far was the Gila River section in New Mexico.
“You walk down this little canyon that is just rock all the way up. Then you went down and it opened up and it was just huge rocks all around you. Then you went across a bunch of river crossings. We actually stayed the night at hot springs and that was really nice.”
Like Tristan, she also enjoys listening to fantasy books while on the trail to pass the time. Her biggest challenge so far was the Colorado altitude.
17-year-old Kaia explained her favorite thing is learning how to have a good time even when she is miserable.
“It’s hard to want to have a good time when you’re so miserable. It’s hard to just be like, the only thing that’s really making this miserable is myself. Even though it’s hot and dumb and I don’t want to be here. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to walk and you just want to sit down. You have to be like, well what can I do to make this enjoyable for myself and maybe my siblings in the meantime. Trying to make it bearable and also just trying to have it be a good experience for myself.
“When we first did the PCT I did not want to go. I told my cousin to run me over with her car. But when we got out there, I found that it’s fun to be out in the mountains and learn new skills that you didn’t know you had and be in a new environment. So, I just had to learn how to make it be fun and not make it miserable for myself.”
Kaia passes time by singing tunes from the 70s and listens to true crime podcasts, in particular, one’s that involve the woods and being terrified to be out there.
The Harry Potter series is a family favorite on the trails. According to Kaia, it takes her about two weeks to listen to all of the books and Ruby has listened to the series twice on this trip already.
After they finished the PCT in 2019, they went to Universal Studios for the Harry Potter experience.
“That was a huge mistake,” Mindi shared about that post-trail adventure. “Because we had just been walking for six months and then we get on these rides we are all motion sick.”
Mindi passes the time by documenting the journey for a daily blog, taking photos and making notes. Political podcasts are a favorite for Adam while he hikes.
Miles to go.
The Bennett family is averaging 18 miles a day depending on the terrain among other factors. On the flatter stretches, they can cover around 23-25 miles.
Eight brands are currently sponsoring them as part of the Thru-Hiker Syndicate.
Sponsorships help with shoe replacements for this family of six among many other things. An average pair can usually only get a maximum of 700 miles out of them, but most need replacement before then. They went through 24 pairs of shoes on the PCT.
Getting those replacements can be tricky, Mindi explained. They’ve had a hard time with shipping things on this trail than ever before.
Like most thru-hikers, food and other necessities are shipped to different locations along the route before they started. Sometimes the packages don’t make it on time (or ever) leaving them reliant on the town to have the items they need. As most Wyomingites know, a town isn’t always a town with supplies.
Food for six to seven days is about all they can carry which means they need to resupply in a town; Muir usually has someone else carry is food so he can play, but will occasionally pack his own.
He has a minimum tennis ball requirement of three on the trail. He also randomly found a fourth in the woods which we consider is his way of partaking in the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. The two-legged Bennetts also do their part to pick up garbage that others left behind and dispose of it properly when they get to a town.
Hitchhiking as a family of 6 and Muir.
“We have three people hide, and then signal them to pop out when someone pulls up,” joked Sierra.
All jokes aside, hitchhiking as such a large group hasn’t been too difficult for them, they shared. Splitting up can make it easier – a parent goes with each group.
“This is not a normal childhood but we’re hoping it looks good on college applications,” Mindi chuckled.
Advice to future thru-hikers.
“Get out and do it,” Kaia shared. “Don’t psych yourself out. If you have the time and the money to do it, you don’t really have to have anything else. Getting out and onto the trail gets you in shape. You start off slow and you work your way up to doing what everyone else is doing; you don’t have to be perfectly in shape to start.”
“It’s not just 20 something-year-olds who are in the best shape of my life out on the trail,” Mindi explained. “There are people of all genders, all walks of life, all ages, all abilities, and they’re just making it happen.”
They were headed north after our interview and made it to at least Dubois based on one of their latest uploaded photos.
To view all of the posts from the People in the 10 series, click here.