Ultralight backpacker traverses nation, completes triple crown

Having completed the triple crown of hiking — covering 7,000 miles in 18 months — Sage Clegg was hardly prepared for the streets of San Francisco.

Clegg finished the final leg, the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, this past Christmas Eve. After the holiday, the nomadic hiker returned to “home base,” the couch of her sister’s house, and led some Oakland high school students, sponsored by outdoor education organization Outward Bound, on a three-day urban course through
San Francisco.

The group backpacked down Market Street, through Civic Center, across town, hunkering down in the zoo one night and on Angel Island the next.

“It was a great mutual exchange. I teach the kids how to set up a tent, cook outdoors and read a map,” Clegg said. “But in The City, I’m an instructor and also a student. For these kids to teach somebody something is huge. It’s great for their confidence.”

Among the lessons the students provided their instructor was public transportation training.

“Navigating the BART system is the craziest thing ever,” said the 31-year-old Mendocino County native who had begun the triple crown in July 2009 by conquering the Pacific Crest Trail.

After 4½ months of backpacking solo through three countries, the 5-foot-3 Clegg completed the 2,600-mile first leg of the journey in Campo, Mexico.

In order to finance her excursions, the UC Santa Cruz graduate worked last winter as a wildlife biologist in the Mojave Desert.

In May 2010, Clegg met the Continental Divide at Crazy Cook, N.M., and headed north. On Aug. 31, at Chief Mountain in Glacier Park on the Montana-Canada border, she completed the 2,600-mile second jewel of the triple

In September, she embarked on the Appalachian Trail at Baxter State Park in Maine, completing the triple crown on Dec. 24 at Georgia’s Springer Mountain.

Clegg is currently mapping out the route for this summer’s excursion, a 1,300-1,400-mile trek from Cape Mendocino to Death Valley.

“With 400 miles of road, I may bust out a mountain bike and try that,” she said. “Either way, it will be a human-powered adventure across California.”

An edible plants expert, Clegg has been approached to teach a foraging class in Golden Gate Park. When on the trail, though, she chats with everyone that she meets, but seldom gains sustenance from the wild fare.

“I literally eat sugar from dawn to dusk,” said Clegg, whose daily caloric intake ranges from 3,000 while packing ultra-light on the trail to 7,000 on “town” days.

Hiking for a cause

Triple crown stats: Averaged 10 hours hiking per day; averaged 22 miles hiked per day

Inspiration: Sage Clegg’s dear friend, Emily Sandall, who was tragically killed in a Half Dome climbing accident;

Outward Bound Bay Area: Urban exhibitions and outdoor leadership program based in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill; www.outwardbound.org

Info: www.sageclegg.com

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