Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker: Likely the First Black, Female Triple Crowner

The ATC, the PCTA, the CDTC and the ALDHA-West—the organizations that oversee the long-distance trails we adore—don’t recognize any qualifier in front of the term “thru-hike.” They also don’t recognize any qualifier in front of the term “thru-hiker.” That has never stopped people from adding them, though.

Last year, Dale “Greybeard” Sanders became the oldest hiker to thru-hike the AT in a highly publicized attempt, while the Quirin family—Kanga, Roo, and Sherpa—made baby Ellie the youngest to traverse the trail. Even if the organizations that give us our thru-hike certificates don’t, it’s important to us to remind ourselves anyone and everyone can and does thru-hike.

Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker relatively quietly made her own significant mark on thru-hiking history this summer when she completed her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. She is (very likely) the first African-American woman to finish the Triple Crown.

To hike the Triple Crown is to thru-hike the three most prominent United States long-distance trails: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. It’s very, very hard to do. ALDHA-West (American Long-Distance Hiking Association, which tracks and recognizes Triple Crowns, has just 334 Triple Crowns on the books.

Chardonnay got her trail name while bike packing in Iowa, long before she first hit the PCT. Just a glance at her Instagram or blog will tell you she got that name because she loves chardonnay. But the name works on multiple levels—she seems like someone you’d want to drink a lot of chardonnay with.

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