For 11-year-old Hiker Lily Paquin, Life Is All About Moving Up

Climb every mountain.

On the Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island, a herd of bison blocked a hiking trail just as Lily Paquin and her mother, Jamie, attempted to pass. Lily remained calm and helped Jamie relax. She came up with a plan to go off the trail through a field of tall grass.

Lily smiles as she remembers this story. The only thing that bothered her was the little sticky burrs left on her clothing while trying to avoid the bison. Together they completed the trail, 44 miles, a roughly 10,000-foot elevation gain/loss over the course of five nights and six days. Lily was just 7 years old at the time and already a seasoned hiker.

Now 11 and a fifth grader at Robinson Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, Lily has actually been hiking since she was 3. Her parents both surf, but she wasn’t too interested. So her mom took a course from the Sierra Club to learn how to hike the backcountry. Her goal was to find something they could do together as mother and daughter.

A 5-year-old Lily accompanied Jamie on their first hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is 2,650 miles long—it starts in Campo on the U.S./Mexican border and continues through California, Oregon and Washington, ending at the Canadian border in British Columbia. “I loved it,” remembers Lily of starting the adventure.

The pair set a goal to hike a portion of the PCT each year, and so far they have completed close to 200 miles. At this pace, they will finish the PCT by the time Lily is 30 and Jamie is 70. “Her resilience, perseverance and determination make her an incredible hiker,” explains Jamie.

At just 10 years old, Lily hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT), which runs in conjunction with the PCT. The JMT extends 211 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. Lily’s backpack weighed approximately 5 to 10 pounds, consisting of her sleeping bag, clothes, a book, 1.5 liters of water, rain gear and an extra pair of socks. She also wore a fanny pack to carry snacks.

The mother-daughter duo hiked 10 mountain passes and 130 miles over the course of 13 days. The trails included Cottonwood Pass (11,140 feet), Guyot Pass (10,925 feet), Mount Whitney (14,505 feet), Forester Pass (13,153 feet), Kearsarge Pass (11,835 feet, twice), Glen Pass (11,978 feet), Pinchot Pass (12,130 feet), Mather Pass (12,100 feet) and Bishop Pass (11,972 feet).

“Every adult we met out there said that it was the hardest thing they had ever done,” says Jamie. “And Lily can do it too. We are above 10,000 feet the entire time, and it is treacherous mountains. The fact that she can hang in that environment doing super hard endurance hikes just amazes me.”

“I feel like I can do anything when I accomplish a hike,” shares Lily.

Her most memorable and scariest hike so far has been Mount Whitney. It is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada. “As I reached the top, there was a big snow field that I had to cross. One slip, and I would fall off the mountain,” Lily explains. “When I went to the top, my head started hurting and I was a little dizzy—a little altitude sickness. But then when I came down, I felt much better. It was one of my biggest accomplishments so far while hiking.”

One of Lily’s favorite moments was at a campground. On a mission to wash their hands, they went down to a large, beautiful lake. “I was looking for frogs and fish,” she recalls with a huge smile on her face. “Then we just sat there, and I read my book. It was super chill.”

Hiking is just one of her many amazing skill sets. Lily is also a black belt in tae kwon do and currently working on a second black belt. Her second belt incorporates weapons into her poomsaes (a defined pattern of defense-and-attack motions). “Lily is a very hardworking student,” says teacher Master Park. She’s been training with me for four years now, and during those four years she has never disappointed me. She always gives the best of her abilities and is a quick and efficient learner.”

When she’s not hiking, Lily is studying or running. She consistently wins the Robinson Elementary School 5k race in her age group and also won last year’s Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair 10k in her age group. Although disappointed to miss out on her last opportunity to run the Robinson 5k—cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic —she’s looking ahead.

It comes as no surprise that American professional surfer Bethany Hamilton is Lily’s idol. “Even though she lost her arm to a shark bite, she has always pursued her dreams and never given up on trying to accomplish her dreams.”

LILY’S YEAR IN HEALTH

HOW DO YOU BALANCE FITNESS WITH FUN?

I wrestle with my dogs and love to read in my free time.

GUILTY PLEASURES:

Watching TV and eating donuts.

FITNESS ROUTINE YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT:

Doing the splits!

ATHLETIC FOOTWEAR:

My favorite running shoe is Nike. For hiking I love Salomon trail runners.

HEALTH GOAL:

Finishing the John Muir Trail and hiking Kilimanjaro with my mom.

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