While seeking inspiration on Instagram one morning, I came across Bryce LaDuc and her hiking adventures. Each photo grabbed my attention, and I became completely enamored by their vivid colors and the epic quality of each moment. The experience motivated me to contact LaDuc, and during our 15-minute phone conversation I learned more about endurance, self-motivation and dedication than I have from any of the self-help books lining my shelves.
LaDuc is an Adirondack “46er,” as she has climbed all 46 major peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains after successfully reaching the top of Saddleback Mountain in May 2015. Logging over 400 miles across 30 trips, this accomplishment is now one of her greatest achievements. Before becoming an Adirondack 46er, LaDuc had never completed a hike over 10 miles, never spent sunup to sundown in the woods, and never owned a headlamp or gloves. “You are led to believe places [around the world] are out to get you and they’re dangerous, but it’s just an eye-opening experience,” says LaDuc. “[By traveling] you learn so much about yourself and diversity, and you obtain a greater understanding about what you appreciate in your life and what you want to change. Once that adventure starts, you’re addicted. It’s like, ‘What can I do next?’ It’s all about satisfying your curiosity.”
LaDuc was first inspired by American Author Cheryl Strayed and her successful hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs 2,659 miles from Mexico to Canada. “She made me open to the idea that just because you are a woman, it doesn’t mean you can’t hike alone or travel alone,” LaDuc notes. “It sounds like I know her personally but [hers] was a very inspiring story about how she changed her life just by getting out in nature. Don’t let your fears overcome you because the second you do that you aren’t going to change or adapt. It’s part of life to go out and experience things. Until you do that I don’t think you are going to satisfy that part of yourself that actually wants to do that. If you are living in fear, that’s what your life is going to surround itself with.”
LaDuc currently resides in Glen Falls in upstate New York but she’s always ready to embark on a new adventure. “I’m one of those people that can’t stand monotony and sitting still,” she admits. “I’m [also] very curious and I ask a lot of questions.” Raised in a tiny Wisconsin town (population 4,000) with her two brothers, LaDuc saw the outdoors as a lifestyle and a challenge, and when she left home after college she quickly realized the world is much grander than she originally thought. “Wisconsin was such a small place [and] I wanted bigger and better things,” LaDuc recalls. “The scariest thing is going and doing something in which you are completely new to everything around you. You almost feel like a child because you don’t know where you’re going or doing. It’s very eye opening. That was a big reason why I started traveling to different places [and] doing different things because, once you overcome that fear and you are able to do it and make a life, it’s just an incredible feeling. It makes you capable.”
LaDuc wears a lot of hats and bandanas after losing her hair at age eight from ITP, an autoimmune disease. Initially misdiagnosed, she was treated for alopecia, but on her 21st birthday she started bruising all over her body. “One morning I woke up and tasted iron, and I leaned over the bed and blood was gushing out of my mouth,” she remembers. “I ended up at the emergency room. Long story short, a normal person has anywhere from 175–200 thousand platelets in their body, but I had 15,000 in my body and a nurse told me, ‘If you brush your teeth wrong, you could bleed to death.’”
LaDuc was soon taken to a blood center where they took blood marrow and doctors determined that she could have HIV, Lupus, Aculeate Leukemia or ITP. “I ended up have the best option of the four: ITP,” says LaDuc. “Basically my spleen was killing off my platelets. I’m currently in remission and have been for a long time. If I get sick or notice I’m bruising easier or I’m out of breath, I have to go get immune boosters and things of that nature.” During LaDuc’s road to recovery, her hair never really grew back. “It grows in but it’s really patchy, so I just keep it shaved because it’s just easier,” she explains. “I haven’t had an ounce of hair since I was eight but, at this point, it’s made me who I am. I’m much more compassionate towards people because of it. It made me more of a type of person that people open up to. This has been my whole life, so I don’t know any different.”
Today, LaDuc looks forward to every new adventure on the horizon, and she has a list of places she would love visit, including Iceland, New Zealand and Croatia. “I want to go everywhere so my mind is constantly in a different place,” she admits. “I have a real uncanny knack for wanting to be everywhere where I’m not.”
You can follow Bryce LaDuc on Instagram @laducb