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German activist travels through JDRT on walk across America

Heike (pronounced Hike-A) Pirngruber is a world traveler from Heidelberg, Germany. If you are traveling through the John Day River Territory (JDRT) this week, you might get a glimpse of the globe-trotter.

Heike is traveling with Butch, her four-month-old Australian Shepherd sidekick. If you think that walking across the country in hot weather sounds daunting, you are right.

Butch, a four-month old pup, is accompanying Heike on their Walk Across America.
Stephen Allen/TJ

But Heike and Butch are walking for a cause that is dear to her heart. Heike is walking to New Orleans to raise money for One Tree Planted, a non-profit organization that plants trees around the world. She hopes to raise $50,000, which will be plant 50,000 trees.

Heike is passionate about climate change and identified One Tree Planted as a reliable partner. The organization plants trees in the areas that have experienced significant forest loss. Based in New Hampshire, the organization is one of the leading non-profit organizations committed to planting native tree species.

At a young age, Heike says that she enjoyed traveling and took every chance she could get to wander. For a time, she worked for ZDF, the largest television broadcasting company in Germany. Heike worked as a camerawoman, a job that took her around the world. Her travels opened her eyes to different cultures and places. She also saw the many problems that the planet is facing.

In 2011 Heike left her job at ZDF and began traveling intensively. “First and foremost, I am an adventurer, long-term traveler and outdoor enthusiast,” Heike says.

In 2013, Heike started a bike-trek around the world. She traveled across 101 countries, 59 of them on a bike. She logged more than 40,000 miles between 2013-2019. She became known as “Push Bike Girl” and started a blog to capture her adventures (pushbikegirl.com).

Heike in Africa in 2014. Heike biked over 59 countries. (pushbikegirl.com)

Remarkably, Heike came through Condon during this time – in 2016 – something that she didn’t recollect until she was stopped on Main Street by Shannon Coppock. Heike met Shannon and Cindy Hinton at the Drive-In during a snow storm in March 2016 and they set her up in the fire station that night. Heike says that she loves traveling through the United States. “The people are super and so friendly. The environment and open space is incredible,” she says. Heike did note that Oregonians are friendlier than Washingtonians.

After finishing her bike trek in 2019, Heike started thinking of ways to make a difference in climate change. She had planned to travel through South America and to walk the entire continent. But due to COVID, Heike changed her plans.

“I always wanted to do something for the environment because I just love it that much. So I started researching and at first I thought I’d do something against plastic, plastic in the ocean,” she says. “But I couldn’t find a really good NGO for that so I thought, okay now we need to rethink this.”

Heike then researched the importance of planting trees as a way to combat climate change. “The thing we need to do right now is planting trees, but not just randomly, without any concept, Heike says. “It doesn’t make sense to, let’s say, plant gum trees in Oregon. We have to go back to native species which belong to the area.”

Heike says that the devastation in the Amazon Rain Forest and deforestation in Indonesia are well known problems says but that everyone can make a difference in their neck of the woods. “We all know what’s going on and in South America… and in the Amazon, or in Borneo or in somewhere in Central Africa, but we can do something locally for future generations.”

Heike and Butch are relying on the generosity of people along the way. They are happy to have accommodations, a warm meal and someone to talk to.

Heike’s visa will expire within 6 months and she hopes to finish her trek to New Orleans by Halloween. Heike says that the goal of raising $50,000 is achievable and says that all donations will go to One Tree Planted – she is not taking any funds for herself.

If you cross paths with her, you’ll enjoy meeting this traveler. If you aren’t one of the lucky people who will meet her – she hopes that you consider giving to her cause.

“I love traveling in the U.S. and I want to make this a great place for future generations,” she says.

To follow Heike’s adventures across America and to donate to Heike’s cause – visit pushbikegirl.com and click the ‘donate here’ button.


  1. I know Heike since some years, following her on facebook. Nevertheless, I was surprised to read that instead of cycling, she now wanted to walk across the US. Heike is a trustworthy person whom I always support!


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