Welcome to Hot Mama Hikers!
I am Znara. Most of my stories begin with facing my fears and end with falling in love. When I was seven years old my parents put me in a pair of hiking boots and lead me to a different trail every weekend until we were trained enough to tackle part of the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains. I wore my own pack and drank hot chocolate every night before going to bed. I slept deeply in-between waking to the mice scurrying over our packs. I knew this was an amazing, other world when bees wouldn’t sting you, no matter how much you invaded their personal space. I found that I could withstand storms and pain with only happy memories. I fell in love with backpacking.
I also fell in love with ballet. I felt alive in a pair of pointe shoes moving to the music as though I was alone. Being a hiker and a dancer became my identity. When I feel weak, I look down at the tattoo on my calf of a dancer on a mountain. It reminds me of my years on stage and what it feels like to stand on top of a mountain.
When I developed arthritis in my knees at 23, I knew I had to make a change. There would be no more professional dancing. I could still put on a pack though, so I took a couple years off and headed out for a southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with my husband. The hike ended after 300 miles, but I had discovered a love for trail cooking, the wilderness and myself.
Femininity and strength lived vibrantly inside me as I became a mom to my beautiful Cap’n J, who is now in elementary school. I met day-hiker Alpine Florist and we founded Hot Mama Hikers in 2010. She is like my sister and her son, Little D is like a brother to Cap’n J. Hot Mama Hikers began when I told AF that I needed to get out of the house and hike some mountains. Her lips curved into a little mischievous smile and said “Can I come?”. Before we knew it, we had become a larger group of adventurous women who loved the outdoors and the serenity it provided to our tired souls. Now we have members of all ages and sexes who love to share these experiences.
My husband of thirteen years and I have since divorced and I became a solo backpacker when not leading Hot Mamas on hikes. My ultralight Tarptent has been my best companion. I discovered macro photography and a healthy obsession with photographing fungus in particular. I also discovered writing.
When I was in school I would stare at an empty notebook and wish that I could fill it with the words I didn’t have. Now I just let them flow and they are hard to stop. I am inspired when I take the risk of venturing out into the middle of a dark, giant forest all alone. Every nook and cranny interests me.
The end of this story is about me falling in love with more than the trail. When Johhny Null, my best friend of five years looked at me in my kitchen and said that he loved me, I felt like I had been hit by lightening. Now, I face everything with him by my side. I strapped a pack on him and dragged him to Tuckerman Ravine, the second hardest trail in the north east, and he fell in love with backpacking too. So I often have a warm sleeping back settled next to mine now, as I am camped by my favorite raging rivers. We are both drawn to share the wilderness and to spend our lives in each others’ arms. I can’t wait to find out what mountain view is next and what unknown path will draw me to its beauty.