Laura “Hey Girl” Johnston is a Washington-area native from Springfield, Virginia. She was born in Germany to American parents living and working there. Laura was raised in between Nairobi, Kenya and the Washington D.C. metro area. As an adult she has lived (and hiked) in Switzerland, Peru and D.C.
Her own journey to love the outdoors and exploring began when when her parents’ adventurous spirits, moved our family to Nairobi, Kenya. Her parents encouraged her to travel whenever possible. Hey Girl’s personal and work travels have brought her to 50+ countries around the world. With each new place she visits or hikes to, her wanderlust grows. “Maybe the most wonderful thing about hiking is it leads you from one trail to the next. While hiking you meet so many gorgeous places and adventurous people that inspire you to keep walking. It’s amazing where a little walking can take you and what it can teach you.”
Hey Girl’s thru-hiking aspirations began as an undergrad at Virginia Tech University, among the mountains of southwest Virginia where the Appalachian Trail (AT) passes. Nearly a decade after graduating, she hiked Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail and met other thru-hikers finishing their thru-hikes. Six months later she left for Springer Mountain, GA to start her own thru-hike of the AT (April 2-October 2, 2016).
Hey Girl’s first thru-hike changed her life. She grow as a person, a hiker, an American and a dedicated environmental steward. Living in the woods for six months at a speed of 2 miles per hour, hiking everyday, living minimally and connected to natural world solidified what happiness in the woods among beautiful places and good people can mean.
She appreciates the simplicity, the people, and the adventure of thru-hiking. “Thru-hiking the AT felt like summer camp for six months.” She loves day hiking and short backpacking trips, but also appreciates the depth of a thru-hike. “It bonds you to yourself, other people and the natural world on another level.” We learn our edges, our thought patterns, our motivations and our aspirations and that of others around us--being present with ourselves and one another, connecting with the trees, the landscapes, and living a purposeful life. “Any differences or social monikers that divide people in their daily lives are not a part of the trail. Everyone is equally dirty and looks relatively similar. There are no cars, fancy clothes or zip codes to divide people. Instead everyone hikers connect in conversations, look out for one another and experience the purity of the outdoors. The pleasures of life on trail are huge and they are simply about being and enjoying nature and the company you keep.
Hey Girl’s trail name comes from her friendly personality. When thru-hiking the AT, two other male hikers noticed her greet the other passing female hikers by saying, “Hey Girl.” After that, she became known as “Hey Girl!”
On the trail, she is a correspondent for the popular "Sounds of the Trail" podcast (1+ million downloads), a show about the ups, downs and switchbacks of trail life (for hikers and non-hikers). You can hear her interviews from the PCT in season 3 and from the AT in Season 2!
While on the PCT she is serving as a P3 (Protect, Preserve, Promote) Steward, a joint effort between the PCTA and Eagle Creek, LEKI, and Osprey, with thru-hikers helping promote and advocate for the PCT through blogs and social media. #P3 stewardship is aimed at learning about the PCT and the importance of protecting and preserving the human impact on it.
Hey Girl loves inspiring people to get outside for self-discovery, wellness and exploring.
Thru-hiking the AT brought Hey Girl to Salazon. When she returned home and started eating their delicious dark chocolate--an upgrade from the chocolate she ate on trail--especially the Salazon’s Trail Series. She connected with Salazon based on the quality chocolate and their commitment to support of The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Pacific Crest Trail Association, and Continental Divide Trail Coalition in their missions to protect, preserve, and promote our country’s National Scenic Trails.
Hey Girl spent the first decade of her career working in environmental conservation for Conservation International and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund working with corporations, nonprofits and individuals around the world working to conserve the planet’s biodiversity. She specialized in grant management, writing, climate change, capacity building, training, monitoring and evaluation and partnerships. Laura's work has led to strategic advances in the fields sustainable finance, conservation and sustainable development. She alao spent three years studying the impact of Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” on Americans’ opinions and behaviors of climate change. She is a Climate Reality Corps leader, as well, and encourages others to join this movement! She also has worked as a consultant, an English-as-a-Second language teacher in Peru, and as a brand ambassador for Salazon Chocolate.
Hey Girl loves to to spend her free time outside in nature -- hiking, riding her bike, swimming, surfing, skiing and practicing yoga-and with the people she loves! She also loves to cook, travel and spend time with friends and family doing all of these fun things.
FAVORITE SALAZON CHOCOLATE BAR
72% Organic Dark Chocolate w/ Sea Salt & Coffee (it’s delicious and gives me an extra caffeinated pep in my step)
Sounds of the Trail podcast-Hear Hey Girl’s interviews in Season 2 on the AT and in Season 3 on the PCT
PCTA P3 (Protect, Preserve, Promote)
Trail Journals: AT and PCT
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