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Kaylei Ernster

Kaylei Ernster

Each hike teaches us something different about ourselves. Trails have a habit of giving us new insights on life, nature and our internal struggles. The crew at Hike the World is always interested in learning why people decide to leave one place behind for the opportunity of discovering a new mountain. Their journeys have a tendency to inspire us to challenge ourselves. 

We'd like you to meet Kaylei, a woman who impressed us with her story of strength and courage and her ability to drag herself out of her comfort zone. Any woman who can work in conditions of temperatures below -25 degrees and who can also climb mountains whose peaks reign 14,000 ft above sea level is definitely worthy of becoming a Hike the World Ambassador! We hope you enjoy her hiking story as much as we did. 


Mt. Bierstadt - 14,065 ft elevation

Does it ever feel like life is like one giant race against time? Like you don’t quite have enough of it- you need a few more hours in the day to sit, breathe and feel your peace?

I grew up around a county with 10 million people and graduated from a college that had 38,000 students in attendance. I adapted to 2-hour work commutes, and also to the jungle of the Los Angeles metropolitan existence; brunch dates, shopping expeditions, makeovers, the whole glamorous nine. It was fun for a while, but one day as I sat (a little claustrophobically) in the stagnant parking lot that IS “The 5 Freeway”, I looked at my fellow compatriots sitting in their own personal gasoline-filled bubbles and thought, “WHAT ARE WE DOING??”

This one is for all my homies out in the metro areas eager for a break and a moment to wake up- to break free from the hustle and bustle and learn to appreciate the beauty of life again. While living in LA, I often asked myself these questions:

  • "Why are we here?"
  • “What is life all about?"
  • “What else is out there?”

 Luckily, I soon found an opportunity to research these very questions.

Having just graduated from college, I had this giant window of freedom; an inviting gap year calling out to me, asking me to start designing my life. And so, I packed up my little Toyota Corolla and headed out to work on a dude ranch in Colorado.

Granby, Colorado: population 2,074. One stoplight. Five restaurants. The closest Target was TWO hours away… WHAT????.... My mind was BLOWN. I wasn’t in the City of Angels anymore, nope, my city brain encoded that I had in fact entered the wild.

Now, I didn’t have a guru of life or of the wild hanging over my shoulder, no one to help me through the incredible culture shock that I was about to experience. The transition was bumpy and ugly at first, as human as it could have been.

I discovered that mosquitoes CRAVE my specific blood type. That moose (plural) charge at and after people. That yes, lightning does like high altitudes and yes, it will strike within feet of your body and yes, it also sets trees on FIRE!!!.... I learned that gravel roads are not meant to be driven on at LA speeds and that antelope will certainly run out in front of your car as you enjoy a sunset cruise on the local highway…. :)

I also learned that there are little red flowers called fairy trumpets and that cinnamon bears exist. I witnessed a beautiful snowfall in June and an incredible show of rainbows blessing every ridge in July. I’ve watched Aspen leaves turn gold with the first sign of Autumn and I’ve felt the sun on my cheeks after a week of nonstop snowfall. I've tasted wild strawberries, raspberries, and had my first sip of natural Colorado spring water…

Strawberry Lake, Granby, CO.

I discovered that people, like ME (a lady born and raised in LOS ANGELES) can work in conditions of temperatures below -25 degrees and that they can also climb mountains whose peaks reign 14,000 ft above sea level.

Mt Cameron, 14,238 ft elevation, part 2 of a 3-peak hike! :) 

Upon meeting the wild, my soul woke up and she started singing. The melodies that arose, moved by the seasons and the mountains and the sky and the sun, filled me with deep gratitude. I gained a great sense of peace and humanity, just by noticing the small things in this big BIG world.

In 2019, I hiked 52 different trails. That’s one a week, every week, ALL YEAR LONG! WOOOOO HOOOOOO!!

Each mountain, each peak (maaaaan do those make you feel good), each step teaches you something different about life, about nature, about your compadres, yourself, your mental endurance, your physical capabilities.

So going back, what is life all about?

For me, it’s less about traffic and Netflix and video games and the act of endlessly scrolling. It’s less about these activities that are very seductive and distracting… and more about making the time to adventure, finding a moment to sit under the stars, under the sun, the moon. It’s about climbing up a mountain and giving your brain a moment to be still, so you can take it all in!

As Henry David Thoreau put it:

 “Live in each season as it passes;
Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit,
And resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”


Eager for more of Kaylei's adventures? She will be providing us with updates as she spreads her love of the outdoors. You can also follow her on IG @LifeisRadikaleInterested in becoming an ambassador for Hike the World? Click here for more information.  

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