From mountains to sea: North Carolina woman relives six months spent hiking the state

  If you’d polled Kimberley Brookshire’s friends a couple years ago, they’d likely have said the chances were slim to none that the Charlotte resident would ever think seriously about leaving it all behind to hike more than 2,000 miles through North Carolina.

“I wasn’t much of an outdoors person,” said Brookshire, 32.

But she is now. Last fall, Brookshire became the first woman to complete a “yoyo hike” of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. In plain English, she hiked the 1,200-mile route from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks and then turned around to do the whole thing over again. She finished the trek in November 2016, 206 days after setting out solo.

After years of working in the fashion industry — as a magazine writer and then as a teacher of young girls — Brookshire had the itch to try something different. She’d recently discovered that she enjoyed day hiking, and with the beginning of 2015 she resolved to try a long-distance hike, something that was completely outside of her comfort zone. The next year was devoted to reading books, gathering gear and taking survival courses.

Finally, she was ready. She took leave from her job as a nanny, sublet her apartment and embarked solo on the cross-state trek.

“At first it was terrifying,” Brookshire said. “I had never camped by myself or spent the night outside by myself except for maybe once at my house to practice, so it was a little strange. All the noises — I just know it was something that was going to come and eat me or tear my tent apart. It took about two weeks to really feel good in my tent.

“After that I slept the best I’d ever slept in my life.”

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