Nika Meyers on her epic FKT on the 500-mile Colorado Trail
Nika Meyers is a rare breed. One who is comfortable hiking solo in vast wilderness areas, and putting the lessons learned to good use in her personal life. The runner and artist just posted a female FKT completing the 486-mile Colorado Trail in nine days, 14 hours, and 19 minutes.
She wanted to make her attempt last summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled her plans. She had also planned to challenge the overall FKT but hiking in monsoon season meant she went for and completed the female FKT.
"I’m incredibly inspired by my community as well as the thru-hiking community where people from all walks of life, ages, and abilities encouraged me to go for it," Meyers says.
Get Out There spoke with Meyers following her successful attempt, and her words were so inspiring and full of insight that we decide to keep it all for our readers' benefit. Enjoy.
What inspired you to take on this challenge?
Moving from Vermont to Colorado, I wanted to feel as connected to this landscape/place as I did where I grew up. Over the past four years here in CO I have been humbled by the mountains and am learning their ways slowly. I felt that it would be fun to try to challenge myself among them as well as re-visit some places that I experienced in 2016 along my Continental Divide Thru-hike from Mexico to Canada. Places that were brand new to me in 2016 have now become my backyard. I also still wanted to show the little girl in me that I can be a strong mountain fairy darting among high peaks and forested places.
What is unique and intriguing about this trail?
The Colorado Trail is wonderfully diverse in landscapes, places, and ecosystems. Every day is different as you hike through sagebrush, lodgepole woods, open meadows, subalpine forests, along jeep roads, canyons, exposed rock, and along high alpine ridges. It feels timeless. The people you meet along the way are amazing and I know the towns are wonderful from past hikes/visits even though I didn’t get to experience them along this recent hike. It is also awesome that it is a multi-use trail and that bikers and hikers can enjoy the route! To hike out of one of the most densely populated areas (Denver) into the mountains and connect places that I have previously experienced throughout the state, really expanded my perspective.
What was the most difficult part of this challenge?
The most difficult part of this challenge was hiking during a particularly strong monsoon cycle. The rain and storms made it so I was unable to get into any sort of routine or rhythm and was constantly managing terrain and sleep based on the timing of storms. It was mentally challenging knowing I spent way more time in my tent in the afternoons than I wanted to and had to give up on the original goal of the overall record.
Whare are some of the highlights?
· Day one, getting to feel wild and free while moving through a new landscape with fresh legs! All the mariposa lilies were blooming and I was so happy and content,
· No blisters on my feet until the very last day when I took very little care of my feet and the trail was very wet,
· A sunrise over the high alpine peaks in the San Juans full of warm light and peaceful beauty,
· Swimming in Cochetopa Creek,
· Getting to the end in a pouring thunderstorm and hugging my friends,
· The greenness of everything and the burst of wildflowers,
· Getting some wonderful trail magic along the way and meeting other hikers at very opportune moments when I need a mental boost,
· Feeling like a badass mountain fairy,
· Gratitude for having the opportunity to be a solo female who feels safe while hiking day and night.
You also did one of these long-distances trails in Vermont. What is it about these solo adventures you enjoy most?
I did set the first unsupported female FKT on the Long Trail in Vermont in the fall of 2019. I think the thing I enjoy most is feeling like I am deeply connected to the landscape I am moving through and the people that have come before me and are cheering for me from afar. I feel a strong sense of confidence and that I am who I am in a way that makes me my best self in other parts of my life. I also love seeing every sunrise and sunset, being present for moments, and experiencing emotions on a different level.
How hard and how long is the preparation?
It depends on the adventure but for this one, I consistently kept in moderate shape with the hopes of doing this trail at the end of June but it didn’t work out with work. I had put it off for the season as time off wasn’t in my favor but suddenly time off from work opened up and I had 4 days to organize and gather all my food and gear, cash my resupply and get to the trailhead in Denver. I’m grateful for my previous hiking experiences and supportive community for making the process all come together incredibly smoothly.
What tips would you offer others looking to try something like this?
Go for it! There is never going to be the “perfect” time but go with the time you are given and trust your instincts. It is just as much a mental mind game as it is a physical challenge so anticipate the non-physical challenges as well in preparation. Sometimes it is going to be hard to hear people’s negativity towards your dreams, there lack of confidence in you, or most often their lack of confidence in themselves being projected towards you. Believe you are capable because you are!
· Bring gear you know and have used before. Don’t expect to figure it out as you go as you might on other slower hikes.
· Eat food you trust with your body. This can be really hard as I learned fast that my body didn’t want anything I packed at the beginning except salty chips. Figure out a resupply strategy that works for you.
· Take breaks and air your feet out! I know it seems like you have to keep moving all the time but in an effort like this it is so important to stop for 5mins here and there and just re-charge. Remember, it is not a 24hr challenge but a multi-day event. Take the time to care for yourself and set an alarm when you need to. I set my alarm for 5mins and it worked like a charm.
· Reach out to the community! I am so lucky to have had the support of the previous record holder and others. It made it feel much friendlier and supportive rather than competitive and secretive.
· Hike your own hike. For me, I didn’t want to know where people before me going to for an FKT had camped, mileage they had hiked in a day etc. I just knew I had to finish by a certain time/date and did everything I could to make it there on time. If, however, you are more of a number’s person, do what feels best to you but try not to get caught up in someone else’s effort. This is your unique hike and enjoy that!