A New Trail
Wood fell in love with maps when a work-study job during her junior year introduced her to the Evans Map Room, home to nearly 200,000 maps. Today her bathroom walls at home in Boulder are covered with maps of Colorado. “The one right next to the toilet is a three-dimensional relief map,” she says. “Every time I’d use the bathroom, I’d ponder this map. I had a magnifying glass on a string hanging next to it. One day I ran the string diagonally across the state. I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be cool to walk?’ ”
No trail runs diagonally across Colorado. When Wood plotted her 732-mile, southeast-to-northwest course, she created a thru-hiking challenge no one had tried before.
For 65 nonconsecutive days, from May to August of 2020, she hiked mostly on roads but also on trails across public land and private ranches. “I wanted to see the state as it actually is,” says Wood, noting that 98 percent of Colorado is rural. “I didn’t want to pick the pretty places or the popular places. It was a transect line, like in biology.”
Paleontologists also use transect lines. Wood got a head start in that field at age 12 when she discovered a complete dinosaur fossil on a Colorado ranch. It’s now on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Paleontology was the first of several careers for the English major. By the time she started planning her diagonal hike, at 53, she also had earned an M.B.A. from MIT and written a memoir she hadn’t been able to sell. Wood says she felt “stuck.”
Now she’s invigorated. Wood plans to hike across Colorado again in 2022 along the opposite diagonal and has written a book about her journey. She has also started a guiding business to share her love of hiking.