On July 23, 2016, Taylor and Minta of Hike Untied hiked all five trails to Mt. LeConte (39 miles total) in under 24 hours to raise awareness and funds to mitigate human trafficking in East Tennessee. Here, they share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their 19-hour hike!
Minta: The best part of this Hike Untied mission was simultaneously accomplishing a long-held hiking goal of completing all five trails to Mt. LeConte in 24 hours and knowing that this hike was just the beginning of an expanding effort to combat human trafficking with trail miles. Since Hike Untied’s inception with LeConte27, these hikes have been journeys for Taylor and I to physically practice our desire to address human trafficking in our world and our communities. Fully completing the hiking goal surely foreshadows the impact that Hike Untied can and will have on the future of trafficking mitigation. A favorite part of the hike itself was the opportunity to begin our walk with the stars still out, hike into a sunrise, experience sun and rain, hike into a sunset, and finish our hike with the stars out once again—a full day on the trail. The full–day experience reminded me that trafficking victims do not get a break from their situation. They are trapped day in and day out.
Taylor: I think Minta nailed this one on the head. I couldn’t agree with her any more or say it any better!
Minta: Our bodies held up much better than I was expecting! Going into the hike with four hours of sleep and 39 miles ahead of us, I was nervous that our bodies would simply give out in the late afternoon. However, knowing that we were hiking for a cause so much greater than ourselves equipped us with incredible strength and energy. While we could barely move the next day and grew fatigued during the last 15 miles, our bodies were overall up for the challenge.
Taylor: The hike went by surprisingly very fast. The five trails to Mt.LeConte (and one back down to the car) totaled to 39 miles and took us 19 hours. However, it seemed to last half that time! We started at 5:00 am on Saturday, July 23 and welcomed that Sunday by finishing right at 12:00 am. I must have been sleepwalking for the last few hours of our hike because all I remember after the sun went down was taking a picture at our third summit and waking up the next morning forgetting I had knees because I couldn’t bend my legs! But hey! Time flies when you’re having fun and/or sleep deprived, right? That sounds right.
Minta: On this particular hike, Trillium Gap was my favorite trail. Trillium is my second favorite route to Mt. LeConte overall, but the way its gentle ascent was woven into our itinerary for this Hike Untied mission worked especially well. It was our third trail of the day and our second ascent. We were juiced up on lunch and Oreos when we started at the trailhead and had a grand time passing all the tourist hikers headed to Grotto Falls and telling them about our mission along the way. Once we reached the top of Trillium Gap, we were officially halfway through the hike and still feeling strong.
Taylor: Our fifth and final trail, Alum Cave Trail (or at least what I remember of it) takes the crown for me. Minta and I shared a special moment as we approached our third summit. As we raced up the trail as the sun went down, we recognized how close we were to achieving a long-held goal of ours. I will never forget the hue of orange emitted from the sunset that made everything in sight softly glow. Witnessing this gentleness in nature was a really beautiful moment, and it reminded me of why we hike. We hike because we love the freedom we feel in nature. We hike to end human trafficking because we are passionate about bringing not only freedom but also justice to the 45 million people around the world who are unjustly enslaved by human trafficking.
Minta: The Boulevard. The Boulevard was our fourth trail and represented miles 21-29 in our 39-mile challenge. I used to run the mile in track, and the third lap was always the hardest—over halfway but not yet near the end. On this hike, the Boulevard was our third lap. It was eight miles without seeing another soul, the trail where our bodies began to feel weak, and the section where I took a bloody fall. The last three miles of the Boulevard were hiked in a sudden downpour and thunderstorm. Although the Boulevard was a difficult section of our hike, Taylor and I reflected much on the fact that while we were enduring the miles on purpose, that is a choice that the victims we were walking for do not have.
Minta: “Minta, Minta! Look! A Bear!” [no bear in sight] If Taylor ever says that again, I will kill him.
Taylor: Discussing the ways one passes gas, Minta commented that she is more of an “SBD (Silent But Deadly) girl.” I would have asked what she meant, but I too soon found out!
Minta: When there is an injustice in the human community, don’t watch. Get up and walk!
Taylor: Reflecting on this hike, it was kind of a blur. I just remember starting in the dark and ending in the dark and walking in between. That is not to say it was not an amazing hike! Minta and I had an incredible time; I just think we were more focused on this mission and our goal than we were during our first Mt. LeConte hike-a-thon to benefit Missio Link in Romania during December 2015. During this hike, we walked with a greater sense of urgency. Knowing what we were getting ourselves into (or at least thinking we did!) and knowing our bodies were capable of it, we focused our thoughts more on the purpose of our mission. We lessened the dull pain spreading through our legs by thinking about the victims of human trafficking suffering in much more extreme ways and not by choice, in the foothills of the beloved mountains we were hiking in. As the soles of our hiking boots wore down, Hike Untied grew stronger. This summer 2016 campaign for CCAHT and human trafficking victims in East Tennessee has marked a trailhead of where we can go and what we can do with our mission.
Thank you to everyone who hiked with us and donated! Looking toward the future, we plan to help as many survivors and anti-trafficking organizations as we can as we hike to raise awareness around human trafficking in communities around the world. However, we can not do it alone. Please continue to support Hike Untied and our mission by following our social media pages and getting involved in local anti-trafficking organizations, such as CCAHT, to help combat the industry and serve the survivors in your community. And don’t forget to #hikeuntied!
Taylor and Minta
To learn more about Taylor, Minta, and Hike Untied, click here.