For some women, turning 50 years old may involve a trip to Las Vegas or throwing a party.
But Julia Cloat of Sycamore isn’t like most women. She opted for a different way to celebrate that milestone: hiking 50 miles.
“What I really wanted to do for my 50th birthday was to prove to myself that I could set a goal,” Cloat said.
Cloat met her goal of hiking 50 miles – and then some – in celebration of her 50th birthday, which was Dec. 7. She climbed a total of 60.9 miles in four days – Dec. 29 to Jan. 1 – at Big Bend National Park in Texas, which still was open amid the federal government shutdown.
Cloat said the idea started to take shape during the summer at a book club she’s part of, where she was reading two books – “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel and “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. The books told stories of protagonists who made similar journeys and traveled long distances.
She said she casually worked out and tried to stay relatively fit by taking yoga classes and walking with friends a few times a week, but she never hiked more than one night at a time before she had kids.
Cloat said the thought of hiking 50 miles in a few days seemed ridiculous at first, but then she started to say the goal out loud to anyone who would listen.
“The more people who know about it, the more I have to do it,” Cloat said.
Cathy Pivonka, owner of Energize Fitness in Sycamore, said Cloat announced the goal during her morning Workout Warriors class a few months ago.
“And we were all just shocked and surprised and supportive and excited, and mostly proud,” Pivonka said.
Pivonka said she knew Cloat also was hiking in memory of her father, who died a few years ago and who also would take Pivonka’s Zumba classes while he was at Bethany Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in DeKalb.
“He would be so proud of her,” Pivonka said.
Cloat said she hopes people take away from her story that she felt so much younger and more alive just because she was out there doing something that she loved and met great people doing it. Even at the hardest point toward the end of her four-day hike, she said, she also kept thinking that as long as she could take one more step, she would be able to make it to the top of the mountain she was hiking.
“I think in tough times that’s just the approach you have to take,” Cloat said. “As long as you are moving forward, no matter how slow it is, you still have that momentum going.”