Though Brittany Nielsen wasn’t the first to challenge the chaparral-choked terrain that composes much of the Condor Trail — a 411-mile-long route from Lake Piru in Ventura County to Bottcher’s Gap near Big Sur in Monterey County — the petite hiker was the first to ever thru-hike it all, reaching the end on June 18, 2015, after 37 days. To do so, she endured numerous hardships that had turned back others, including badly blistered feet, bear scares, and impossibly overgrown trails.
When Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) executive director Bryan Conant first picked her up at the train station in Santa Barbara, he was skeptical that she’d make it very far. “She stepped off in an outfit more suitable for exploring State Street than challenging some of the most difficult parts of our backcountry,” remembered Conant, who’s championed this trail through the Los Padres National Forest for years. “She had on a little skirt and a lightweight top. I was thinking, ‘Where’s your armor?’ and wondering if she really knew what she was getting into.”
With the help of an indomitable spirit and support from LPFA members who dropped off needed supplies along the way, Nielsen fought through the occasional urge to quit, even once begging Conant to come take her back to the train station. “There were times when it didn’t seem like there was any reason for her to continue on,” said Conant, “but she had the grit to keep pushing on.”
Nielsen will talk about her Condor Trail trek on Thursday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Veterans Memorial Building (112 W. Cabrillo Blvd.). The talk is free for LPFA members and $10 for guests, and it includes happy half-hours both before and after the talk. See lpforest.org.