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Just a Fat Chica Moving Mountains One Dream at a Time!

Forward from Spruce Tone on Vimeo.

The world is listening now...  I'm Anjelica. My family and friends call me Jel, while my trail name is Casperina. I'm a proud Mexican-American plus-size hiker and backpacker taking on one mountain at a time. I was born and raised in Lakewood California where my only source of the outdoors was my own backyard. Growing up with crippling shyness and anxiety made life’s day-to-day extremely difficult. But I was made of fire that just hadn't been lit yet. My mother and grandmother gave me the world and for that, I'm sure is the reason for my relentless passion towards representation in the outdoors.

I'm my mother’s caretaker but to be honest, she's totally my bestie and number one fan while being a true believer in me. I work full-time as a speech-language therapist. Because everyone deserves a voice and there is nothing more powerful than helping my students learn to communicate and develop language. I also have a part-time job that I head to right after the first job. Let's just say, I work a TON! 

And somehow, I manage to squeeze in weekend hiking adventures that feed my soul and lift my spirits.

Oh, the places my body has taken me to

If you can dream it, your body can certainly take you there. I had no idea how vast and healing nature was. Or the amount of visually stunning places there were hidden deep in the outdoors. These places that did not easily give themselves away. But those you definitely had to work for, taking one step at a time, forward, have been such treasures. My mama likes to think I got into hiking from an ex. That is not the case, but he was a source of negative experiences in nature and had a huge disbelief in my capabilities on trail. To the girl that heard she would never be able to hike more than three miles, I love you. I wish I could have told myself then that I would Move Mountains and create small groups in the hiking community. I'm saving space for you and I to see this world.

In 2016, my hiking world was born. I quickly consumed my time by researching trails through AllTrails and social media. The Hiking Guy trail guides were where I learned about hiking tips and gathered all information regarding new hikes. I came across Karla Amador, the cofounder of the 52 Hike Challenge, and that's where the spark ignited. Here was a Latina woman empowering so many across the country.  Which made me think, so can I. It was a struggle viewing these gorgeous masterpieces in nature that only showcased and praised fit straight sized bodies. There was nobody that looked like me. And these speed records were overly congratulated. Where were the plus-size hikers? The turtle slow hikers? Where were all the people of color outdoors? Why was I always being negatively questioned on the trails? This raced through my mind and pushed me to show the world what we can do while proving to myself just how powerful my body was. I'm going to show up for myself, work hard and persevere through any obstacle. Trust me, there were many challenges. Financially, hiking was not in my favor to pursue. Let’s just say, this is where all the part time jobs come into play. Let’s not forget about that famous 20% off coupon and REI sales too! 

The 52 Hike Challenge would lead me to the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. These were inevitably longer and more ambitious hikes for a beginner. With every hike, I gained so much confidence in more aspects than one. My heart and past traumas were healing with every step and breath of fresh air I embraced. I was finding myself and loving the fearless woman I was becoming. Through writing my hiking experiences online, I grew more found with each hike I completed. It was like every mile was an open love letter I could share with the world. To know you're not alone is something special. Hikingis how I see and explore the world and it means so much to me to be able to take you along with me on these adventures through storytelling on my social media.

Most importantly, was the way I felt embraced and loved while hiking. The warm sunshine always felt like my grandmother's hugs. I could look up to the sky above and show her I was doing alright. The higher I climbed the deeper my conversations with my grandmother in heaven became. Listening to my heartbeat and labored loud breathing became therapeutic. 

No hiker left behind

I've experienced being left behind on group hikes. It is one of the most heartbreaking experiences to go through. Coming to find out that nobody waited for you to even see if you made it back down safely. Or if you wanted to connect with others in nature, but could not, because of your pace. No one should ever have to go through this on group hikes.

I started leading group hikes in early 2017. It only took a couple of hosted hikes to see the friendships being made between strangers. This beautiful fulfillment of bringing women together and out into nature would be my reason why I continue to host and lead hikes. We all matter. We all deserve our time in nature. I just wanted to help lead more of us there. The fact that women continued to keep showing up as I was learning along the way was very meaningful to me. That I could lead from the back with love is the best feeling. Anyone that has attended my hikes matters to me because pace was never of importance to them. And something so precious as time was be gifted to each other through each hike. 

Covid came to shake things up.

But, I believe in fresh and new beginnings. A lot of us were in need of mental and emotional healing. I still had so many outdoor goals to reach and when the restrictions started to loosen up, I decided to safely go after those mountain peaks I had missed so much. I took a shot at the Nüümü Poyo trail, also known as The John Muir Trail. It was with a group of friends I loved so dearly but unfortunately, it was not my time. I had to exit off trail for my mental health in 2021. 

The following year I would apply to the Thru-Hike Syndicate program. The determination to head back to the JMT was real. I wrote my heart out the same way I have since day one. This plus-size outdoor explorer was picked out of hundreds of applicants! I do want to make it clear, it is not necessarily about luck or being special. We are all unique and so special. But, I will stress that you have to keep getting back up every time you've been knocked down. I had applied the year before and was denied. Being told ‘no’ does not always mean no they don't want you. It can also mean not right now. This scholarship program is forever imprinted on my heart. They provided me with all my gear to successfully complete my thru hike and live my dreams. 

That same year I had also taken a shot at the Mountain House ambassador program. 2022 was the year to go after everything my heart dreamed of. They have been an extremely safe space for me to be accepted and supported. 

This once shy girl SOLO THRU-HIKED the Complete John Muir Trail. From the traditional start in Yosemite National Park to the top of Mount Whitney. Trail-blazed 230  miles in 23 days all alone. Being the only fat girl I would see out on this trail made me so proud. The pure happiness I felt in the Eastern Sierra is something I hope everyone has the chance to experience. Here is the bittersweet ending to a summer of bliss on trail: I chose to be solo out in the wilderness and it's as if you're forced to be solo coming back to your "normal" life. 

Accountability and friends were missing from my life. So I posted a flier and created a training series to hike the peaks and new trails in SoCal. Over 20 women showed up in January 2023 and I've been fortunate that they have been showing up ever since. From the start, I knew they were magic. They are all forces of nature that have given me purpose again. Reignited my flame to bring women back together to go after all their outdoor dreams, whatever they may be. My only hope is that they all see how powerful each one of them truly is inside. 

5 PEAKS. 5 AM. 5TH DAY of the 5TH MONTH. 

The 5 Peak challenge consists of 5 peaks in the San Gabriel Wilderness. You start at the Eaton Saddle trailhead. Arrive early because parking is limited! We take on Mount Lowe, Mount Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mount Deception, and Mount Disappointment. 

I love this hike because it challenges not only our bodies and minds. But for me, it takes back Cinco de Mayo and challenges the idea of what this holiday has incorrectly become. The importance of this hike holds so much space within me because it surrounds the date of when my grandmother passed away. What better way to spend what had always been a sorrowful time, into a courageous day filled with hiking and bonding among incredible women. 

Our training had been consistent from the start of the year, hiking every weekend while gradually increasing mileage and elevation gain/loss changes. We had some bumps and closures in the road which would change up our route and add more miles to our day. I was so surprised by all the emotions shared on the trail. How could we be dancing on the fourth peak? Our spirits were beyond mighty, and I couldn't have hoped for a better day because it was perfect and such a magical memory I get to hold forever with this group of women. So many of them had never hiked these mountains or multiple peaks in one hike. Our heads were proudly held high from start to finish. My favorite part of this hike was our snack break on the top of Mount Markham. It was a steep hike up that had us looking like mountain goats. The sea of clouds surrounding the nearby mountain peaks while we shared snacks, laughs, and selfies together was something only the gorgeous sky above would happily receive. As cliche as this may sound, my least favorite part of this hike was when it was over and we were all packed up in our cars heading back home. This difficult hike left me exhausted and beat! But I knew then what I know now. That moment was my Golden Hour moment of 2023. And I can only hope to create more magic on the trails in the coming years.

Stay In Touch

If you've loved our journey thus far, you can follow me on social media at @AdventuresWithAnjelica. I'm currently putting into the universe and dreaming up future plans to write a book. You can check out my Instagram for storytelling posts about past, recent, and upcoming adventures. I’m manifesting some plus size modeling with the outdoor world because representation matters. And am determined to create scholarships to send women of color and plus size bodies to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Your pace doesn’t matter, forward is forward. 

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