Serra’s parents would unplug the family’s cable box each summer during her high school years. It was their way of forcing their kids to spend as much time as possible outside and encouraging them to be active. Prioritizing outdoor activity became a way of life for Serra, and a tradition she carries on today with her children.
Carrying On An Outdoor Tradition
Serra grew up in Massachusetts on her family’s campground and spent summers at a lake house in New Hampshire. She comes by her love of nature and physical activity as a result of her parent's rule that their children be involved in the community and active. “Our parents instilled in us early that it’s fun to move and be outside,” Serra said.
In High School, she played three sports – cross country, soccer, and basketball. Then, she and her siblings would spend time at their lake house each summer. “We weren't indoor kids; we were always outside playing,” recalls Serra.
Even as an adult, Serra continued to find ways to spend time outside and stay fit. She’s an avid runner and ultra runner and enjoys participating in Tough Mudders and Spartan races. In 2018, Serra earned a coin in the elite heat of the Spartan World Championships in California.
Serra’s Favorite Hike in the Whites
Settling the outdoor adventurer’s debate, Serra is firmly “Team Pemi Loop” in the White Mountains. Pemi Loop is about 30 miles, compared to Presidential Traverse’s 20 miles, and brings an additional 2,000 feet of climbing compared to the Traverse.
“Presidential Traverse has its own fun things, but on the Pemi Loop, you can break out above treeline and run those ridges. I think of myself as a better climber than coming down the hill, so I really like some of the climbs and the breathtaking, picturesque views,” she explains. “Most people don’t realize this is only two hours from Boston.”
Leg-burning climbs aside, Serra always looks forward to the Galehead Hut, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s most remote hut in the White Mountains. The Hut offers good food and a place to refill water flasks. It’s a nice stop near the halfway point of the Pemi Loop to refuel.
Ultra Racing on the Laurel Highlands Trail
Serra is an adventure seeker. That much is clear from her running and racing resume. But ultra-running on Pennsylvania’s well-known Laurel Highlands Trail is challenging, even for an experienced runner.
In June 2021, Serra toed the start line of the Laurel Highlands Ultra – a 70.5-mile foot race boasting 11,000 feet of climbing. Serra recalls most of that climbing is in the first few miles. “The first eight to ten miles has six to seven thousand feet of elevation; you’re going up constantly. It’s wild,” she laughs.
Forty-five miles and 15 hours into the race, Serra succumbed to ultra-stomach. The hot, humid June day made it difficult for her to stomach food and water. Nevertheless, she recalls seeing another runner in worse shape than her and helping them into the aid station around mile 60. “We got into the aid station and got some food. The volunteers were great. They helped me get my headlamp set up, then sent me off for the final 10 miles,” she explained.
That’s when the race turned from a physical challenge to a mental one. “By mile 60, the field is really split up, so you’re going into the night section alone. I spent 20 hours on my feet and felt depleted,” she recalls. Putting the final aid station behind her, Serra plugged on to the final few miles of the race.
“I start running and I look down to see this tail. I think to myself, ‘there’s a skunk and it’s going to spray me,’ I bushwacked around and kept running,” Serra said. Then, she saw another skunk tail. She thought it was odd since the race director didn’t warn runners about skunks as they had about other animals racers may encounter.
Above, Serra shares images of her 2021 race at Laurel Highland's Ultra, a 70.5-mile footrace in western Pennsylvania.
“When I saw moths with purple eyes, I realized something was wrong. I was hallucinating.” The Laurel Highlands Ultra is Serra’s longest race to date and her first time hallucinating as a result of fatigue. Once she realized the skunks (and purple-eyed moths) weren’t real, she could recalibrate her brain and focus on the trail.
Serra finished the 70.5-mile race with a huge sense of accomplishment. It’s a feeling she wants other people to experience too. “As you get older, you don’t always have that sense of accomplishment in personal achievements. I would love to be that person on a hike with someone who has never hiked before and isn’t sure they can do it. I want to be there as they get to the top, take the best photos, and feel so psyched because they did something they didn’t think they could do. I want to help people find that huge sense of accomplishment,” explains Serra.
“Hiking can be intimidating. But for me, the whole thing is about having a fun time and pushing your limits,” said Serra. She’s looking forward to guiding hikes with Guineafowl Adventure Company and helping people conquer new experiences and reach new heights, literally or proverbially.
If you’re considering a hiking adventure in the White Mountains, but would rather leave the packing and planning to the professionals, Guineafowl can help. Guineafowl Adventure offers curated, full-service, end-to-end guided group hiking and outdoor experiences, so you can relax and enjoy your time communing with nature in the White Mountains. Visit our website to see a listing of scheduled hikes, or contact us to book a corporate or private hike for your small group.