Featuring… Alex and Sage Herr, aka the Granite Gals! I first met these incredible hikers through Facebook after they saw my blog and wanted to interview me for their podcast, granitegals.org. Their podcast features a new female New Hampshire hiker each month. We arranged a time and met in person in a field behind a ropes course park in N.H. so they could interview me about my hiking experiences. After having learned about their jaw-dropping accomplishments and experiences, I decided to interview them as well and post a q&a on my blog!
Some background about the Herr sisters:
Alex and Sage Herr are sisters living in N.H. , who share a passion for hiking. They are 15 and 13 years old, respectively, but Alex and Sage are not your typical teenagers. Finishing their 4,000 footers by age six, they were the 2nd and 3rd youngest females to do so. Since then, they have completed the 46 State Highpoints, Trailwrights 72 peaks, The 52 with a View, and a number of thru hikes including 165-miles Cohos Trail, the 211-mile John Muir Trail and el Camino de Santiago. They also co-founded the NH Terrifying 25 list and are co-adopters of the Alpine Garden Trail on Mt. Washington. I couldn’t believe their accomplishments, yet they were very humble and friendly.
I am excited to share a q&a I did with them.
Q: How did you first get into hiking?
Alex: I started hiking when I was 5 years old because I was a very energetic child. I would not sit still. Mom wanted a way for me to get out my energy. We did our first 4,000-footer on Tecumseh and it didn’t go so well because we weren’t really prepared. It was April and since there was no snow in the valley, we thought there was no snow in the mountains. Obviously, that was not true. We were just starting out. But the next time we did it, we were more prepared and it was more fun. And then we all got really invested in hiking and I really enjoyed it. And then we decided to try this list [the 4,000-footers] and it just kinda happened. And then Sage, she was really little at the time so she didn’t hike with us at first, but she started getting into hiking later.
Sage: I did my first 4K when I was 4. I did Tecumseh. I first started hiking because of Alex but then I fell in love with it.
Q: So you’ve accomplished so much in hiking. How do you have time to hike all those mountains (at your age)?
Sage: It’s part of our lives since we’ve been hiking since we were really, really little. We usually hike once per week. That could be 1, 2, 3, 4 mountains depending on what we’re doing. We have a lot of school work and other activities but it’s just part of our weekly lives. We just fit it in.
Alex: Since we’re homeschooled, our schedule is more flexible so we’re able to manage our school work and hiking. Sometimes we hike on the weekend, sometimes we hike during the week. We’re very busy.
Q: Do you do any other activities?
Alex: Yes. A lot of people know us because of our hiking online and don’t think we do anything else. But we do. We do karate and Girl Scouts.
Q: What has been your favorite hiking accomplishment?
Sage: We did the John Muir trail in California and that was really, really fun. It was 2 or 3 weeks long. And the scenery was just so different from N.H. It was amazing for us. There were very few trees and the clay was orange and red. It was really beautiful.
Q: How does hiking affect your life?
Alex: I think because of hiking, my focus has gotten better because I think being in nature and exercising, that combination, is really beneficial for the mind as well as the body. Because of that, I’m able to focus more on my studies.
Q: What do you like about solo hiking?
Alex: It’s very different than hiking with a group of people because you’re more responsible for yourself. You’re less likely to just let your thoughts wander. You have to know where you’re going and really be responsible for yourself out there. And also, your senses intensify and you become more alert when you’re hiking alone. It’s really nice. I’m not sure if I prefer hiking in a group of people or hiking alone. If it’s a nice day, I probably prefer hiking alone because it’s just really nice.
Q: I read that you co-founded the Terrifying 25 list. How did you choose the trails for that list?
Sage: We looked at all the trails in the guidebook and got suggestions from people for trails that had caves or ladders or were just very terrifying or just very hard to complete. We read the descriptions in the guidebook and just compounded a list of trails that we thought were terrifying.
Alex: The idea is that all the trails are challenging and somewhat scary.
Q: Has anything really scary or dangerous happened to you on the trail?
Alex: Yes. One thing that I remember vividly is we hiked Mt. Tom. There was a thunderstorm that formed right over our heads. It wasn’t even in the forecast. We were really little at this time. I don’t remember everything that happened, but Sage and I had to wait while Mom was getting her pack. She was coming to meet us. It was pretty scary because it was thundering and lightening. There was a lot of rain and we were up there. I remember I went off on the wrong direction and then I came back because Mom was calling me.
Sage: One time, Mom and I were hiking and we saw 2 moose really close to us. One was really close to me. It was a little scary because we were just staring at each other. And mom didn’t even see that was even happening until that last second.
Alex: Also, one time I was coming down Willey. [Note: there are many steep ladders on a section of trail]. I was sledding down the mountain and we forgot about a last pair of ladders, the worst ones. I went really fast [over the ladders], and boom, I was in the air suspended, and then dropped. I went over the ladders and crashed down. I was OK but it was kinda crazy.
Q: What is the longest you’ve hiked and what was that like?
Alex: The longest thru-hike we’ve done is El Camino de Santiago in Spain. It was about a month. We did have rest days. I was 10 and Sage was 8. The average day was 14 or 15 miles, but it was pretty flat. It was more of a cultural experience. It was pretty awesome. It was really different than a typical thru-hike [for us]. Now, our thru-hikes are 2 or 3 weeks long because we have more [school] work. We usually do a thru-hike every summer. This year we did the Coast-to-Coast trail [in England], which was 2 weeks long. The year before we did the Cohos Trail. It was very beneficial because the navigational skills I had to practice. I led most of the time because I was training to hike by myself.
Q: What are your future hiking goals?
Alex: We’re in the process of completing the grid. That is to hike all the 48 4,000-footers in each month of the year, but not necessarily in the same year. Our goal is to complete the grid by time each of us go to college.
These girls are girl-power rockstars and great role models. I hope this helps inspire more girls to get out hiking! Thank you, Alex and Sage for meeting with me.
See Sage and Alex’s interview of me on www.granitegals.org, a podcast where they interview women who hike the White Mountains each month.