Two and a half years ago, Sommer Brecheisen set off on a 3,100-mile adventure with her boyfriend, their two dogs, and a friend. They had decided to hike the Continental Divide Trail, a trail that spans Canada to Mexico.

“I thought the endeavor would be a good graduation gift to myself,” Sommer said. “I also wanted to prove that I was up to any challenge and spend valuable time bonding with my dogs and boyfriend. I saved enough money to sustain my trek across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. I am happy to say I completed the trail in just over 6 months, totaling 195 grueling and exciting days away from home.”

Along the way, Sommer experienced amazing forests, the ancient cave dwellings of the Mogollon indigenous people, and the unforgiving landscape of the southwestern United States.

“Northern New Mexico and the Gila National Forest region was my favorite,” she said. “However, southern New Mexico was my least favorite. The spiky cacti plants and rough lava rock proved to be hard for my two dogs to handle and made my heart ache for their discomfort. The long carries without water made our backpacks heavier than ever, and we were all happy to be done.”

Though the hike was an amazing experience, it didn’t come without its challenges.

“It takes a lot of grit to keep telling yourself that you can do it regardless of adversity. When everything hurts, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you keep forgetting why you even came out to the trail, you still have to keep moving to fulfill your basic need for water.”

Sommer credits her family for helping her overcome the adversity she faced on her trek.

“Everyone needs a support team and I had an amazing one. All of our parents spent time shipping us resupplies, and even making the long journeys to pick us up. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been so successful.”

Sommer also credits her family for inspiring her to start a career in education.

“I have many family members who also work in education and sparked my passion for teaching. Most of my family is from the Lawrence area since the 1800s. I’m proud to say I am 7th generation Kansan.”

Sommer worked as an in-home teacher for adults with mental and physical disabilities and spent two years as a paraprofessional assisting K-5 students before becoming a substitute teacher with MHED.

“I started substituting this last school year while I was working on my Master of Applied Teaching,” she said. “I like the flexibility of choosing when and where I work. I also like seeing so many different classrooms. I have gotten a plethora of ideas about classroom environment from seeing and using all the different spaces.”