Michelle Durtche Challenges Franklin Trail

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Michelle Durtche is a fifth generation Carpinterian with literally hundreds of Medel relatives living here in town. Her husband Rob is a local firefighter, and they have three children ages 15, 17 and 22.

When did you first go up the Franklin Trail? Why?

Right before last Christmas I got on the scales and was horrified that I weighed 203 pounds. I’m only 5-foot 1-inch. I wasn’t just overweight, I was totally out of shape. I had watched my friend Brenda hike the trail and lose a lot of weight, so I decided to do it myself. I realized there would be time to hike after getting my kids to school.

What was your experience the first time?

The first time was so hard that I cried. I was so angry at my husband, too. Even though I had decided to climb, he had sweetly encouraged me, so I just blamed him for the pain. It took me over an hour to get to the gate. It was really hard.

Why did you go back again?

It was the soreness that was so good. I felt alive and energetic for the first time in a long time. My kids were so proud of me that I had made it up the mountain. They even started hiking with me from time to time, yet now they won’t because they say they can’t keep up with me.

What’s the farthest you have gone on the Franklin Trail?

Twice I have hiked all the way to the start of the third phase, that’s 5.9 miles up the mountain. It is still hard. I’ve seen four snakes, a coyote and a fox. I’m really looking forward to getting all the way to the top when the final 2.9 miles are complete.

Has the trail changed you or your life?

Yes it has changed my life. I just feel so good about myself now. I’m confident. I’ve lost 43 pounds. Using my Fitbit, I track my calories consumed and burned with a goal of burning 1000 calories more than I eat. I love shopping now. I’m happy that I’m a good role model for my children— now they see me eating well and getting stronger.

Has your hiking influenced others?

There are now a few of us hiking the trail together. We are participating in the second Annual Turkey Trot. Today we called it “Meditation Monday.” We hiked up the Franklin Trail then relaxed. One of my friends made me cry when she said, “You motivated me.”

Anything else you would like to say?

I’m so thankful for the people responsible for the opening of the trail and the upkeep of the trail. Their work has truly changed my life. Sometimes I climb to one of the benches by myself, sit for about 20 minutes and look down on Carpinteria. I think about my grandfather, my “Papa,” who farmed here and loved to hike the hills of Carpinteria. I know that what I’m seeing is what my Papa saw.


Author Debbie Murphy is an adventurer, real estate broker and community volunteer.

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