Heather Anderson: Explorer, Trailblazer, Thru-Hiker
BY FAITH E. SAYLES ’18
2 MIN. READ
Every year, National Geographic recognizes six “Adventurers of the Year” — “each selected for his or her extraordinary achievements in exploration, conservation, and adventure sports.”
In 2019, Anderson University alumna Heather Anderson ’03 was named one of these six for her treks on some of the USA’s most iconic trails, and was praised for being the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail (National Scenic Trails) in just one year. She’s hiked the three trails three times each, and from 2013 to 2019, she hiked a total of 28,000 trail miles.
She’s legit, to say the least.
“Being named Adventurer of the Year was definitely an unexpected honor,” said Anderson. “My travels and adventures are motivated by my belief that this lifestyle is my calling.”
As an AU student, Anderson began cultivating her love of travel through the university’s Tri-S (Study, Serve, Share) trips, which helped broaden her worldview, deepen her love for the outdoors, and make way for new adventures.
Originally, Anderson aspired to become ordained and work as a missionary around the world. While life has taken her a different way since graduation, she has achieved many of her other goals, such as becoming an author, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and sharing her “deeply held tenets as a professional speaker and author.”
So far, Anderson has published two books: Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home (2019) and Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail (2021). Her next book, A Guide to Long-Distance Backpacking, is set for publishing in 2022.
Anderson continues to pursue her calling, though it has been “wildly different” from what she expected when she was a student. Despite that difference, she said AU paved the way for her to soar, noting that her academic writing courses and extracurriculars prepared her to become a traditionally published author.
“Lessons learned in a life well-lived can certainly fill a book or two!” she said.
To all those interested in or new to outdoor adventuring, Anderson says to “just start, and ask lots of questions.” Her desire is to continue traveling while sharing about her adventures and lessons learned — most notably: “To accept that which cannot be changed, to dwell in the present moment, and to love myself and others as children of God.”
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.