Karen Krueger got an ovation from the rest of her hiking group when she reached the top of Yellowstone National Park's 10,423-foot Mount Washburn last summer. Her hiking partners knew what an achievement it was for Krueger to conquer the three-mile uphill trail.
Krueger, 48, had recently embarked on what she called "a physical transition." She had set of goal of losing 115 pounds and was about halfway there.
"It was so difficult" to get to the top of the mountain, she said near the end of a weeklong trip, "I don't think it's sunk in that I did it. It'll probably sink in on the plane home. But right now I'm focused on what I didn't do."
Because of a fear of heights and a fear of falling, Krueger avoided certain segments of some hikes. But overall she was happy with what she did.
"I'm extremely glad I came," she said. "I live with nagging doubts that I can do things. But I'm much better than I was six months ago."
Part of her impetus was a divorce, and part was dissatisfaction with the sedentary life that often comes with an office job. Krueger, whose base is Washington, D.C., is a diplomat with the State Department, currently posted to Ottawa, Canada's capital.
"You get in a rut with your life," she said. "There's nothing wrong with my life, but there's more out there. I've spent most of my life being intellectual. I wanted to feel it in a different way, but not from a bus. I wanted to experience nature, to reconnect.
"I'd never had hiking boots. I'd never heard of moleskin. A whole new world has opened up."
Thinking about her journey in transition, Krueger added, "I'm still at the beginning, because I have a long way to go physically. But spiritually I'm farther along."