Friday, January 18, 2013

A Walk With Buster

After a few weeks of walking through the sweltering Southern California desert I met a young man toting the trailname Buster. We shared a few cold beers at the Casa de Luna, chatted about his time in Antarctica, our mutual urge to get a mohawk and how much we were enjoying our respective hikes. I left Casa de Luna a day before him and didn't see the guy again until central Oregon, almost 1,600 miles later. Buster finished his hike a few days ahead of Sweet As and I but we met up in Portland after we finished and spent some time catching up. Buster has since used his creative genius to compile a video chronicling the most time intensive and interestingly-benign aspect of thru-hiking: the hiking itself.

Note: I am the hiker whose head is being shaved :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Since joining the nine-to-five crowd for forty hour work weeks, watery coffee, and ergonomic desk chairs, I have thought almost constantly about my next adventure. Although I fought violently, I have come to terms with the fact that my initial goal of hiking the triple-crown in three consecutive years is no longer in the cards. Unless I can find a way to eat less and earn more, I will not be on the Continental Divide Trail in 2013. While I initially saw the delay as a major hiccup in my plan to wander about the world, I have come to see the silver lining. Taking a summer off from thru-hiking allows me the opportunity to do two things: train for a few endurance races with my buddy Frodo (Triathlon, 50k, 50 mile, 100k, 100 mile, 24 hour), and save money for an even more epic adventure in 2014.

What is this epic adventure you speak of?

I have begun referring to it as the Trans-America Tri or TA3 for short. The plan is to stage a consecutive, self-supported, three-fold crossing of the United States by bike, hike, and run.

Possible Routes
(Red: Bike, Green: Run, Blue: Hike)

Is this man mentally stable?

If mental instability is the desire to push myself physically and mentally, to do awesome things now so that I can do other awesome things later, or to take on an epic challenge despite the naysayers, then I will wear my padded helmet of instability with pride.

What is the next step?

While I know that the hiking portion of the trip will take place on the Continental Divide Trail, the bike and run routes will require some serious planning.  Although I will indeed need to finalize a nearly infinite number of details (route, timing, gear, website, sponsorship, etc.) and plan for the  numerous  things that can go wrong, I am focusing my efforts on the two major factors I can currently control: improving my physical fitness and putting money in the bank.

The future:

While the exact start date of the TA3 has yet to be determined, I need to log some serious miles on my feet and hours in the gym if I want to coerce my body into 8,000+ miles of forward progress. The most important determination I need to make is what I want out of this thing. Is my goal to become a professional adventurer like Andrew Skurka or David Cornthwaite, which would require a serious website, marketing, dedication and a lot of time during the event, or ought it be a more personal adventure, with occasional updates from the road?

I am thankful for the people in my life who have already been supportive, I am excited for the things to come, and I can’t wait to get moving. I will leave you with two of my favorite quotes:


“Be bold, say yes, and write your own story.”


“Crazy is just a word the lazy people use for the dedicated .”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Hypocrisy of it All

Finding myself back in the midwest after a blissfuly sweaty, mentally stressful, utterly relaxing and frequent view-induced coma having summer was much more of a culture shock than I expected. Not only was I lacking greenbacks, motivation to commit myself to a life-sucking career, and patience for the hometown where I had spent the majority of my life but I was struggling with making decisions about what the hell I was supposed to do next. Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the dirtbag lifestyle is how difficult it can be to maintain.

While I do not require filet mignon,  Urban Outfitters and a room at The Four Seasons to survive; ramen noodles, short shorts and a tent still have an impact on the balance of my bank account (which has dwindled substantially since leaving my last job), not to mention monthly student loan payments, insurance and the occasional six pack of brews. I feel extremely fortunate to have spent 8 of the last 18 months hiking but somehow it doesn't feel like nearly long enough. Life is certainly too short to spend it doing anything other than following one's passions. Why it is then, that the majority of the people on this planet are failing so miserably at actually living?

While I hope to find myself on the CDT come June of next year, the likelihood of that happening is less than I am comfortable admitting.  In the last month I've moved, acquired a "real" job and found myself moving further away from a lifestyle that love. On one hand most people work to make themselves more comfortable. They acquire a shiny car and a nice house and they fill it with lots of things that will make their lives easier. On the other hand, I have decided to enter the working world of sweater-vests and mini-vans, long enough to fund another four months of ramen noodles and body odor. Perhaps I am the one with his priorities out of order.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Epilogue: Work to Live - Live to be Alive

After spending four months immersed in the sweat and salt encrusted goodness of thru-hiking, the thought of jumping directly back to reality made my brain hurt. In order to ease myself back into the brutal world of shopping malls, cotton and refrigeration, Sweet As and I decided to spend a few weeks traveling before I made my way home. In a fashion consistent with the epicness of our adventure thus far, we met some native Vancouverites upon our exit from the woods who took us in, fed us and transported us from Manning Provincial Park to the fine city of Vancouver, B.C.

The kind folks who rescued us from the trail: (Left to Right)  Maya, Noel & Clyde
Upon arrival, the gracious young woman who was kind enough to transport us to Vancouver, opened up her home to Sweet As and I and spent four days showing us the nooks and crannies of the city. When it was time to leave we hopped on a train to Edmunds, WA and spent a few days reading and enjoying the sun-soaked porch of dedicated blog followers and family friends Dick and Ellen Preisman.   Thank you Dick and Ellen for feeding us more than we could eat, ensuring our glasses were never empty and giving us a pleasant place to decompress.

On the train once again, this time heading toward the town of Bellingham, we rendezvoused with Joker, Wrongway, Hawkeye and Kombucha. It was fantastic to have all of us back together in one location, having spent the last 1,900 miles hiking around one another. We ate good food, shared stories and enjoyed the kind of quality company that can only come from experiencing something amazing together. After of few days of revelry and in a fashion that can only be described as fitting, the group that became known as The Six Pack (there were six of us) disbanded. Wrongway set off on his bicycle, Hawkeye and Kombucha left to tour the west coast in their Subaru, Joker remained in Bellingham to work and Sweet As and I set off for a Seattle, Portland and eventually home.

Sunrise run in Seattle
While the days spent wandering the streets of Seattle and Portland were wonderful, I couldn't shake the inevitable end of my adventure. On September 11th, a curious day to travel, I boarded the Amtrak out of Portland and made my way home. It was a bitter sweet departure from Sweet As. Bitter in the sense that I was leaving a person who became a good friend and who not only understood what I had just accomplished, but was there to witness the majority of it as well. Sweet in the sense that I was beginning, understandably so, to get sick of the dude. At any rate, a fifty hour train ride proved the perfect environment for reflection and upon my arrival home I felt a sure yet unwarranted sense of security.

To say that I miss life on the trail would be an understatement, to say that I dislike living within the confines of an urban environment would be unreasonably true and to say that I am truly addicted to hiking would be the understatement of a lifetime. I have a problem (probably more than one) and while the only solution does not involve the addition of cow bell, my soul will not again be whole until I set foot on the Continental Divide Trail.

Work. Hike. Repeat. 

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

August 26th: Oh Canada! (PCT Mile 2,660)

After exactly four months I found myself walking for the last time. In good spirits I trod towards the monument that marks the border of the U.S. and Canada. In an unusually somber yet joyful moment of unplanned, misunderstood, long-coming, sweaty, tired and reveled-in wandering, I finished my walk of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Sweet As and I spent a few hours at the border, mostly drinking PBR and telling stories about the 25 hikers who signed the register in front of us and about our friends who will finish in the days to come. While I am certainly proud of myself for completing this trail and I have had an absolutely amazing four months, I can't seem shake a genuine feeling of displeasure. As cliche as it sounds, the journey was more important to me than the destination and I discovered on this trail how much I truly enjoy hiking. Though I am looking forward to cotton clothing and regular showers, the simplicity, lack of stress and complications, freedom, nature, the amazing people on and off trail, flexibility and pure self-reliance are only some of the reasons why I will most certainly be back on trail next summer. The trail was good to me. I had fantastic weather, made some great friends and got to see a new part of the country in an intimate way. Though this trail is over and I have to return to the working world, where I'll be forced to pick out clothing in the morning, where urinating on the closest tree will no longer be acceptable and where ramen noodles is a dinner that will not be looked forward to, I look forward to a break from hiking but the allure of the CDT is sure to pull me back for more.

My name is Samwise. I am a vagabond. I just hiked the PCT.

August 25th: So Close (PCT Mile 2,654)

August 24th: The Last Road (PCT Mile 2,620)

Today was incredibly pleasant. I walked and it was good. Simple living. Northern Washington is surely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The trail snaked high up on true alpine ridges and wound down through lush river valleys. Mid-morning we crossed Rainy Pass, the last paved road before the Canadian border. One would think that, after nearly four months and 2,500 miles, I wouldn't have much to say to Sweet As but I enjoyed good conversation as we concluded our second to last full day on the trail. My my how the time has flown. Only 41 more miles to go.