Jacksonville resident Susan “Hammock Hanger” Turner is an amazing woman. Since 2001, she has been recounting her adventures on TrailJournals.com: she’s been hiking on some long distance trail somewhere for the past 13 years.
In 2010, she took on the challenge of being the first hiker – male or female – to hike the planned route of the Great Eastern Trail, 790 miles from Georgia to Pennsylvania. Solo. In 2014, she received a well-deserved recognition, the Adventurer of the Year Award, at the Trail Dames Summit.
What makes the outdoors a compelling place for you to be?
When I am in the out-of-doors I feel whole. I feel relaxed. I feel the closest to “ME”. It reminds me that the girl in me still exists and loves to come out and play.
A place or interaction on the trail that made a major impression on you
There were so many wonderful encounters with fellow hikers, Trail Angels and local folks along the way. One such time was as I crossed over into New Hampshire on the Appalachian Trail. There was a heat wave, and water sources were drying up. I was rationing my water and had let myself get dehydrated. Being alone, I hadn’t even noticed my problem until I reached a road and tried to talk to a local lady. I had no voice. Nothing came out as I tried to talk.
The lady just lived up the road a piece and brought me home. She gave me lots of water to drink – no ice, she said – and some bananas and sliced tomatoes. As it turned out, I was in the home of the past Governor of New Hampshire. Unfortunately I forgot her name, but not her or her kindness to a tired, hot hiker.
A memorable challenge you dealt with on a hike
As the years passed and the miles accumulated, my knees deteriorated while my heart, mind and soul continued to plan hikes. I was on Day 3 of the John Muir Trail when my left knee just totally gave way on a long five mile descent. Luckily my partner was with me and s-l-o-w-l-y helped me make it down the mountain. The next day we were able to make it to the Vermillion Ranch. I took two days off to rest and ice the knee.
On the third morning, we needed to move on. I kept telling myself I was okay, I could continue. As the departure time drew near, I knew it was futile. I would be a detriment to my partner, which just wouldn’t be fair to her. I had to make the call to let her go on while I remained at the ranch and tried to find a way back to an airport and home. As she left, I remember crying like a baby. I so wanted to travel onward. It was one of the hardest trail decisions I had ever had to make.
The good news was that once I returned home I got both knees replaced and returned to the hiking world a very happy girl.
How have you helped other women to get outdoors?
I strive to give back to the trail as a whole by doing as many workshops as I can, such as Backpacking 101, Planning for the Long Distance Hike, The Solo Woman Hiker, Lightening the Load, and more.