Intrepid Mary Mansfield braved bears and wolves and wore out four pairs of shoes on a mammoth 2,653-mile trek along the length of the US from Mexico to Canada.
The 40-year-old, who hiked up to 25 miles a day for six months, said: “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried.
“It was like I was in a completely different world and I was in absolute solitude and peace. I’m incredibly proud of what I have done.”
Mary, of Hadfield, Derbys, decided to tackle the Pacific Coast Trail after a change of diet cured crippling migraines she suffered for 15 years.
The former sales rep, who became vegan six months ago, said: “I didn’t notice my headaches at all on the trip and took only one tablet.”
But there were accidents as Mary tackled the wilderness.
She fell on a rock in California, cracking two ribs, and almost plunged down a cliff in the snow, pulling herself back from the edge with her ice axe.
She said: “That was pretty scary. I had to take a couple of days off.”
Mary – who set out with a tent, sleeping bag, spare clothes, pots and pans, basic survival equipment and a satnav – covered 5,600,000 steps on her epic trip.
She carried food for up to 10 days, stocking up in towns and villages along the trail and grabbing just an occasional night’s sleep in a hotel.
Her lonely route took her through the deserts of southern California, the thick forests of mid-America and the snowy mountain passes towards the Canadian border.
Mary recalls the frightening moment she found a brown bear blocking her way on a track in thick woods.
She said: “I looked up and saw it about 70 yards away. It was a scary encounter but it went off in the other direction.
“I also came face to face with a wolf in California but it ran off when it saw me.”
Incredible photos of Mary’s journey show the scenery she travelled through.
She said: “I was never daunted by it and was just happy to be able to do it.
“I just kept pushing and knew I had to complete it, for myself. Failing was not an option.”
But it was an experience Mary could not have imagined two years ago. Since the age of 25 she had suffered chronic migraine which doctors struggled to control.
Only daily painkillers allowed her to carry out her day-to-day routine.
But after carrying out research online, Mary found a suggestion that cutting out meat can help to reduce headaches and decided to give it a go.
Six months later, in June 2018, she had gained a new lease of life and began her search for adventure.
She said: “Migraines had a huge impact on my life.
“I was on meds every day and just doing basic things was a struggle.
“I decided I wanted to do the Pacific Coast Trail after six months on a vegan diet.
“It was something I always wanted to do but never felt able. The idea is to do it without stopping, living with just what you have on your back.”
Mary, who is planning a book about her adventures, returned home in November to be greeted by her mum and partner, Derek Fox, 53.
She said the novelty of hot baths and fresh fruit and veg have yet to wear off, adding: “It was without doubt the best experience of my life.
“It was amazing and I can’t begin to explain what an epic adventure it was. I felt like a wild mountaineer.
“And it turned out to be the best painkiller I could have wished for.”
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