Kate Cloud and her 47-pound pygmy goat Little Leaf arrived at Carrizo Plain National Monument in California on a whim.
Three hours north of Los Angeles, the site’s 250,000 acres boast rolling hills, ridges, ravines, dried pond beds and the infamous San Andreas Fault.
The pair’s reward for their spontaneous hike is etched in Cloud’s memory: 360-degree views of breathtaking purple, yellow, orange and green superblooms.
Little Leaf, pink bow between her ears, rolled, jumped, and bounced among the Great Valley phacelia, hillside daisies, fiddle necks, and baby blue eyes.
For the last three years, Cloud and Little Leaf have been travelling across the United States, hiking untold trails and exploring nature, a woman and her goat.
“Every night, our backyard is somewhere different,” Cloud explains.
Cloud’s adventure began when her daughter moved out of their home in Washington State for college. An empty nester, Cloud decided to explore the country on foot.
She hiked the 4,265-kilometre Pacific Crest Trail and the 3,540-kilometre Appalachian Trail and was planning on completing the 4,873-kilometre Continental Divide Trail to earn her Triple Crown of hiking, but returned to Washington to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there, she met the runt of the litter at a goat farm. The kid was clinging to life and not expected to survive.
Something about the goat with the leaflike patch of white hair moved Cloud, who nursed the aptly named Little Leaf to health.
“I made her a promise. If you fight for your life, so will I, and I will make your life full of adventure.”Kate Cloud
Both fulfilled their side of the bargain. Together, they’ve hiked tens of thousands of kilometres of trails in more than 40 states.
Their story inspires fitness in others too; more than 25,000 people follow their travels on YouTube and Instagram. Cloud has heard from followers who hiked a certain trail or attempted a new activity because Little Leaf had done it first.
“When they see a goat doing it, then they think ‘I can do it,’’ Cloud says. This summer, Cloud plans to change things up and bike cross-country on the Great American Rail-Trail with Little Leaf riding in front in a bucket.
“Freedom, adventure, the things I’ve seen and experienced—they’re so much more satisfying than material things,” she reflects. “Why would you want anything else?”
To follow Cloud and Little Leaf’s adventures, follow them on Instagram @little_leaf_goat.
Photography by Dream Team Photography
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Read This Story in Our 2023 Summer Outdoor & Travel Issue
Featuring Alison Jackson, Canadian cyclist and only North American male or female to win the famed Paris Roubaix. Travel the country’s most stunning hot spots by campervan. Become a better trail running by improving your ascents and descents—plus, train outdoors with Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers. Enjoy plant-based summer recipes and so much more.