There are people who like to take a good walk … and then there is Kinsley Sawatsky.
Sawatsky spent the summer of 2022 walking not only around the block, not during a marathon, but across the United States, from the Mexico/New Mexico line to Canada along the Continental Divide Trail.
“It took me 166 days,” Sawatsky said, recounting the story of her trip during a recent meeting of the Greenville Kiwans.
The trail spans 2,850 miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Sawatsky began working at Boot Heel New Mexico, but she was not alone, as she quickly joined a companion named Jacob, also known as the Spice Rack.
An avid hiker, Sawatsky said it’s customary to team up with like-minded enthusiasts on such long walks.
“You just pick up people along the way and pretty soon you have four or five new friends,” she said.
These new friends came and went as they traveled their own paths and were usually referred to only by their “way names”. Listening to Sawatsky excitedly talk about her adventure, it’s no wonder she was “happy”.
“I’m proud of it,” she said.
Savatsky, 26, currently lives in Dallas but grew up in Caddo Mills and works for REI.
“That’s why I sell camping gear,” she said.
The first 820 miles of cross-country was in New Mexico, but Sawatsky said it wasn’t the most memorable part of the trip.
“It was very hot and nasty and there was no water,” she said. “For miles and miles there was nothing but sand and trucks.”
The situation changed when she moved north.
“When we got to Colorado, we had to face the snow,” Sawatsky said, noting that finding our way through the snow wasn’t always easy.
“There was always a trail of footprints, even if they didn’t always lead to the right place,” she said, adding that her newfound comrades saved the day.
“Without all these people around, it would have been incredibly difficult,” Sawatsky said.
The hardest part of Colorado was Gray’s Peak. At 14,270 feet, it was also the highest point.
Grace Peak was a fight, she said. “You crawl on all fours for some of them.”
It didn’t help that some of the commonly used trails were closed due to fires in Rocky Mountain National Park last summer, but Sawatsky said the extra effort was worth it.
“What I saw was absolutely stunning,” she said.
About 500 miles were spent walking around Wyoming, which Sawatsky described as mostly flat desert. It was also one of her favorite parts of the trip.
“It was very beautiful,” she said. “I think it’s the biggest sky I’ve ever seen.”
It was more than 1,000 miles across Idaho and Montana, but Sawatsky said it can sometimes be hard to tell one state from another.
“The trail goes right along the border and you can end up in both a few times during the day,” she said.
When walking cross-country, Sawatsky prefers “cowboy camping”.
“That’s why I didn’t sleep in the tent most of the nights,” she said. Although she only takes about 15 pounds of supplies with her, cross-country hiking is not a cheap hobby.
“It costs about $1,000 a month,” she said. and it’s not for the faint of heart.
“Those first three weeks, your body is really angry with you,” Sawatsky said. “I changed six pairs of shoes on this trip. If not, your knees and ankles will scream at you.”
But Savatsky never worried about the dangers on the way.
“Everyone was very nice, at least most people,” she said. “I get a lot more nervous when I’m walking around Dallas.”
The trail finally ended at the US-Canada border, which Sawatsky captured when a friend took a photo of her body slung across the line.
“It was a really cool feeling just to get there,” she said. “It was a truly monumental moment.”
Along with the Continental Divide and the Pacific Ridge Trail, which Sawatsky also completed, there is another one of the Big Three National Scenic Trails waiting.
“The Appalachian trail is what I’m going to do next,” she said, though she doesn’t know how soon that might be. After that, Sawatsky plans to focus only on the hiking sections of the trails, and not on the routes as a whole.
She has mentioned that her wanderlust is hereditary as her father loves long distance motorcycle rides.
“He has the same mistake,” she said.
When it comes to her travels, Sawatsky doesn’t really plan out exactly how much time she plans to travel from day to day.
“I just walk until I get tired,” she said.
Sawatsky details his travels on Instagram at @kinthewin and on Tik Tok at @happyontrail.