About Me

PCT 2009 – Northern California with lichen bracelet

My name is Jennifer “Lion Heart” Smart and I am a thyroid cancer survivor. And it turns out that I love to hike long distances. This hasn’t always been the case. Other than a few backpacking trips as a kid into the Sierra, me, mountains and walking weren’t really a thing. I played a little soccer but I was the kid sitting behind the piano or violin practicing my little heart out.

I grew up in the forested mountains outside Ukiah, California on a 100-acre homestead. This unique experience shaped my love and appreciation for nature and an outdoor lifestyle. I’ve earned degrees in music management and geology plus a geoscience teaching credential. I helped build bicycle culture in Ukiah by creating the First Friday Community Bike Ride and the Ukiah Bicycle Kitchen.

In October 2006, while living in Arcata, California, I was diagnosed with papillary/follicular thyroid cancer. I made numerous twelve hour round-trip (driving) treks to UCSF for my complete thyroidectomy, RAI treatment and all follow-up bloodwork and imaging tests. The radioactive iodine treatment zapped my immune system and for a whole year I was in a constant state of sickness. The long lasting gift is that I am now a humbled allergy sufferer. In 2008 I launched my active life and recovery process by doing the 20 mile round trip commute between Arcata and Eureka by bicycle.

I first hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2009. Then I hiked the PCT again in 2013. Right after the question of whether or not I’d read Wild, was the #2 day-hiker question of “Why Again?” I always joked about loving the pain but I hiked to heal from a broken marriage, to help raise money for Thyca and to spend more memorable moments with the beloved PCT hiking community. My 2013 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike was dedicated to creating awareness about thyroid cancer and helping to provide resources to past, present and future thyroid cancer patients.

Long-distance hiking has created in me a strong sense of self, peace and a need for the next adventure. So no matter where my footprints fall or my bicycle tires roll, I believe in treading lightly on this planet and honoring my connection to all things.

Comments are closed.