Elysha Dyer, 28, of Lisbon Falls stands near a border marker at the end of the Continental Divide Trail in September.

LISBON — In September, after hiking almost 8,000 miles over a four-year period, Elysha Dyer of Lisbon Falls became one of about 400 people in the world to have attained “Triple Crown” status in hiking.

The Triple Crown of Hiking is reached when one completes the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine; the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches through Washington, Oregon and California; and the Continental Divide Trail, located along the Rocky Mountains.

Each of the three trails is more than 2,000 miles and varies in elevation, weather and trail conditions, according to the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West.

While most people are familiar with the Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing, which recognizes a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown of Hiking maintains a much-lower profile.

The American Long Distance Hiking Association is the only organization in the world that recognizes hikers who have completed the three trails. As of 2018, only 396 people have attained “Triple Crown” status since 1994, according to ALDHA.

Dyer said that in 2020, she will submit an application to officially join the ranks of those who attained “Triple Crown” status.

Three trails totaling 7,900 miles

Dyer said that she hiked a lot as a child, but nothing as strenuous as the long-distance trails she has hiked as an adult.

“When I was younger, it was smaller trails, like Tumbledown Mountain (in Weld),” Dyer said. “When I was in high school, I attended a backpacking camp and I thought: ‘This is for me. This is what I want to do.’”

Dyer hikes under the trail name “Yard Sale,” a nickname she came across during one of her hikes.

“I was drying my gear out after a rainstorm one day, and a hiker came through, saw my stuff hanging on the tree branches and said, ‘It looks like you’re having a yard sale,’” Dyer said. “After that, I decided to use that as my trail name. It makes sense, too. Whenever I get to camp, my stuff is strewn out everywhere.”

After graduating in 2015 from Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma, Dyer returned to Maine and was asked by a group of her high school friends if she wanted to hike the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail.

Dyer and her friends started hiking the Appalachian Trail on March 17, 2015 and finished on Sept. 27.

Along the way, other hikers looking to complete the entirety of the Appalachian Trail told Dyer about the “Triple Crown of Hiking,” which was new to her.

“I knew halfway through the Appalachian Trail that I was going to do all three trails and get the ‘Triple Crown,’” Dyer said.

After finishing the Appalachian Trail, Dyer said she started saving money. In April 2017, she flew out to California to begin hiking the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

“With the Pacific Crest Trail, I met up with a group of people at the beginning of the trail that were also looking to hike the entire 2,600 miles,” Dyer said. “I ended up sticking with them for the entire hike.”

After finishing the Pacific Crest Trail on Sept. 26, 2017, all that was left to do was hike the Continental Divide Trail, a 3,100-mile journey from Mexico to Canada that stretches across five states.

Dyer started the Continental Divide Trail on April 15 of this year and finished Sept. 14.

Even after completing the Triple Crown of Hiking, Dyer said it still feels surreal.

“It doesn’t really feel real yet,” Dyer said. “I’m sure it will, but it’s all really fresh right now.”

Dyer said she had the full support of her family after telling them that she wanted to achieve the Triple Crown of Hiking.

“My parents were totally fine with me doing the hikes,” Dyer said. “I think it was a little more surprising for my friends. When I explained to them that I was hiking 30 miles every day, that surprised them.

“A lot of them were surprised because most people have mortgages, car payments, or families that they have to prioritize. I don’t have a house or car payment, so that helps.”

Difficulties

Each hike came with its own set of difficulties, according to Dyer.

Dyer said after she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail in 2017 and 2019, respectively, she learned they were record years in terms of snowfall.

“There was one specific week on the Continental Divide Trail that my friends and I went into the mountains, over 12,000 feet high, in the middle of a whiteout snowstorm and we were the first group to go through,” Dyer said. “That means there was no tracks, no information and no condition reports to rely on or follow.”

Dyer said she and her friends went from hiking 30 miles a day in the desert “to killing ourselves in the snow and struggling to hike 10 miles a day.”

“It was very hard, both physically and mentally, but it was an incredible experience,” Dyer said. “We stuck together all day and helped each other out.”

Dyer said each hiker has his or her own strategies to stay fresh on the trails.

“For myself, I would get food boxes mailed to me,” Dyer said. “It’s not something that every person does, but as a picky eater, I like to have my meals planned out. My mom sent them to me and it helped me out.

“Some people will take four or five days’ worth of food and hike until they run out, and then go into town and get some more. Others will hike depending on what the weather looks like.”

“The list never stops.”

Despite completing all three “Triple Crown” trails, Dyer said that she cannot apply for “Triple Crown” status through the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West until June 2020.

“I finished the final trail on Sept. 14, and the ALDHA-West closed its application process for 2019 at the start of September, so I just missed the cut for this year,” Dyer said. “I’ll definitely be applying next year.”

Even after hiking almost 8,000 miles, Dyer said there are still numerous places she wants to hike.

Her next goal is to hike the Arizona Trail in 2020, an 800-mile trail that stretches across the entire north-south length of Arizona.

She said she also wants to do “some big mountaineering,” including hiking Mount Rainier in Washington or Denali in Alaska.

“I want to do other types of hiking other than thru-hiking,” Dyer said. “For me, the list never stops. There are always new places to hike.”

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