The most famous trail in the United States is the scenic Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 4,270 kilometers from the Mexican border to Canada, passing through deserts, canyons, forests and mountains in California, Oregon and Washington.
People who do this trail all in one go, end to end, are called thru-hikers. Few have managed to accomplish this and fewer still are those who have also managed to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail (4,873 km) and the Appalachian Trail (3,540 km).
Only 525 hardy trekkers have succeeded in thru-hiking all three trails, and for their achievement have been awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking. Among that select group is only one Mexican: Zelzin Aketzalli, who grew up in Iztapalapa, an economically challenged Mexico City neighborhood plagued by drugs and crime. Here’s her story.
Aketzalli credits her father for keeping her on the straight and narrow. “He taught me to love sports. He took me out to swim, run, box, and appreciate good sportsmanship. He taught me to take training and competition seriously, to understand the meaning of commitment. All this has stuck with me throughout my life.”
With dreams of becoming an engineer, at age 11 Aketzalli started working in a tianguis (neighborhood market), helping vendors put up their stands, hauling around heavy metal poles. “That’s how I earned money to buy clothes, running shoes or a skateboard. In the tianguis I was doing work usually done by a man and I think this experience marked my character. People would make fun of me, but I learned how to stick to my guns.”