Heather Diaz is a Hive Athlete who found the ultimate challenge in ‚Äúslowing down.‚Äù She took her years of competitive distance running experience and applied them to a whole new endeavor‚Äîlong distance thru hiking. There are so many ways to interact with the world around us and to push ourselves in new ways. Heather's story leaves you wanting to find a whole new world in the peace and solitude of nature.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? And how did you get from there to where you are today?
I am a former long-distance runner and first-generation hiker from the suburbs of Houston, Texas. I moved around Texas for my bachelor‚Äôs and graduate degrees. Life took me to San Francisco in 2012 to chase my career, and I met my partner along the way. He asked me to go on a hike for our first date, which led to the Pacific Crest Trail two years later. The rest is history. After our thru-hike, we realized we prefer to live near the ocean and mountains, the best of both worlds, and it is why we moved to Santa Cruz.
You thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017. What inspired this trek?
I had planned to travel abroad for a few months in 2017, and my partner had planned to thru-hike the PCT. We decided to hike together versus separating for 5-6 months. As an experienced long-distance runner, thru-hiking seemed like the ultimate challenge. I‚Äôve run for 15+ years and 100+ races in my lifetime. Hiking felt like something new, dazzling, and unique. Since I grew up in a concrete jungle that revolves around team sports like basketball, volleyball, or running, I thought thru-hiking would be a great way to get out of my comfort zone while reconnecting with Mother Nature. It‚Äôs something I saw in a magazine or movie and never occurred that could be me.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned while on the trail?
1. Do your research. It helps sets you up for success.
Despite my lack of experience, I devoted hours to learning about gear. I listened to a thru-hiking podcast, read several article reviews, and viewed several YouTube gear review videos. I decided to focus on ultralight gear that is good quality and reasonably priced. Additionally, I prioritized having the perfect sleeping system since a good night‚Äôs rest is everything to me. I also determined if my pack is light, it‚Äôs easier to hike long distances. It worked like a charm.
2. Hiking as a couple is fun and empowering.
Some people think such an endeavor can make or break the relationship. The biggest takeaway is to remember you two are a team, and you must stick together no matter what!
3. Toxic Gear Culture doesn‚Äôt exist with thru-hiking (except for clothing).
Most of the gear you think you need, you don‚Äôt need. After hiking three days, I shipped 9 pounds of gear back home. The experienced thru-hikers use small brands that specialize in ultralight backpacking gear. People wear trail shoes instead of boots since they are lighter, and it requires more energy to carry extra weight on your feet. There‚Äôs a saying on the trail, ‚Äúone pound off your feet is like 5 pounds off your pack.‚Äù It‚Äôs not a fact, but it is what people feel. Lastly, it‚Äôs common to use a Smart Water Bottle for your trek, and mine lasted 2000+ miles, and it weighs significantly less.