West suburban 8th grader finds passion in the beauty of nature

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — From cell phones to video games, we are living in the age where most teenagers spend quite a bit of time using electronics. But for a west suburban teen she prefers to ditch all the noise by exploring and connecting with nature. Saanvi Mylavarapu is one of Chicago’s Very Own.    

For most people, finding your passion can take a lifetime, not for 14-year-old Saanvi — she’s already discovered her passion.   

“I just really enjoy hiking a lot, and adventures and rock climbing,” she said.

Her father Naveen says “enjoys” is an understatement.    

“For my daughter it’s passionate or obsessive hiker,” he said.

He said it all started with a short family hiking trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in 2014.

“I loved that I could explore and I didn’t really have any boundaries for me to explore,” Saanvi said.

Soon the family vacations were turning into hiking expeditions with Saanvi leading the way. To date, the fearless eighth grader has completed more than 50-day hikes at 18 national parks. Among them, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the Iceberg Lake Trail at Glacier National Park.                

“It was a very interesting park for me because they say by 2030 all the glaciers in glacier national park will be gone, I really wanted to take in everything,” Saanvi said.

With a spreadsheet her dad uses to keep track of her adventures, Saanvi has logged more than 500 miles since her quest to be closer to nature started. Her favorite and longest hike, 18 miles at Yosemite Park.

“I think everything has something unique about it but for me I can never take the image from Yosemite Valley from the top of the half dome out of my head. Or just Yosemite Valley,” Saanvi said.

She said some hikes can be scary and navigating difficult terrain and unexpected wildlife has become a thrill.   

“We came across a brown bear in our path actually, it was pretty far away so that was cool,” Saanvi said.

“This girl is happy all the time, snakes come, bears come and they’re fine with all this,” her father said.

She said it was experiences like these that test her boundaries.   

“Facing all of your fears and getting through the fears that you didn’t even know you have, that’s what makes a good hike for me,” Saanvi said.

And although her dad admits he could probably do without the strenuous hikes he said something unexpected has happened.  

“One of the biggest things that we found was the family bonding that we could never get in our day-to-day life and there we are all together,” Saanvi’s father said.

To document her adventures, Saanvi documents her hikes and recently started an Instagram page @chalkbagsntents where her friends and followers can be inspired.    

“My friends are really supportive of it, they all follow me and like every single one of my posts so,” Saanvi said.

While she may seem all grown up, she’s still undecided on what she plans to be in the future.

“In fourth grade I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, now I want to become a wildlife broadcaster,” Saanvi said.

But she does know where she wants to live.

“Definitely when I grow up I know I won’t be living in the suburbs,” Saanvi said. “I’ll definitely be living in Colorado in the mountains.”

Saanvi says he hopes to climb Mount Everest some day and this summer she and her family are planning a two-week trek to Mount Everest base camp.

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