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The Story Behind the Names

By: Bryan Wolf

We are given titles at birth, and those names after many years seem to become us. Quite different than this is the way we get our trail names. We first must represent a quality and then own the name.

Popularized on the Appalachian Trail, and now adopted on many long distance hiking trails, it is customary to be given a new name, a trail name. The reasons for this can be many but, put simply you take on a new identity from that you which previously possessed and are renamed. Traditionally you are given the name while on the trail, and it is most often a funny representation of your personality as seen by others or a moment that has redefined you. There are no official rules however.

Over the past few years we have come across many AT hikers through the store and on the trail. We’ve reached out and asked them to briefly capture the story of who they became on the trail and how. We’ll update this blog occasionally with new entries. Enjoy.

Captain Blue, aka Andy Neikamp: “I got my trail name of “Captain Blue” on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in May of 1994 while on a section hike. I was a 160-mile trip with a group of friends and did not have a trail name. On a rather cool evening, after a long day of hiking, I changed out of my hiking clothes and into warmer evening clothes. For some reason I was dressed in all blue clothing. My friends starting making fun of me. I wore blue long underwear, a blue fleece top, blue socks, blue gloves and a blue hat. They started to call me “Blueberry” like the fellow in the movie Willie Wonka. I did not want the trail name of Blueberry to stick so I quickly said “just call me Blue.” After thinking about it a moment I said “make that Captain Blue.” And the name Captain Blue has stuck ever since.”

Goatman, aka Craig Buckley: “It was a strange night in the Kentucky woods. Some friends and I sat on a ridge overlooking the gorge, telling ghost stories under a blood-red moon. Seriously. That’s what was happening. That’s how we get our jollies. We began discussing the possibility of an actual creature stalking us through the woods (modeled after, we found out later, the Pope Lick Goatman.) We all waited to hear his cloven hooves clambering up the sandstone, but never did. From then on, I would feel the Goatman’s presence whenever I entered wild spaces and realized, on my way to Maine, that perhaps the Goatman felt so near because he was inside of me, scratching and screaming to tear his way out of me and back onto his feral throne. This is all just a fancy way to say that I named myself because I didn’t want hippies to name me Lollipop or Mustard Shirt.”

Ice Man, aka Bryan Wolf: “On the trail I don’t need to use code names like “Bryan”. My trail friends except me for who I am and that includes my mutant abilities. I took on my trail name at the start of the AT, given by my hiking partner Joe. I decided that my first backpacking trip ever would be SOBO on the AT through winter (06′-07′). Mix together a jovial spirit, love for comics like that of X-Men, and the strange comfort derived from cold icy conditions and we both thought it was fitting that I was and now would officially be Ice Man.”

Shinbone, aka Eli Staggs: “Shinbone came after about 200 or so miles on the trail. I was complaining about everything that hurt so I was asked the question “what on you doesn’t hurt”. I replied my shinbones were doing pretty okay and there was my name.”

Leapfrog, aka Will Babb: “I got the name Leapfrog on my first day on the trail. My parents were hiking the first few miles of the AT with me, so I had to stop fairly often to wait for them to catch up. As I was hiking, I would pass another hiker named Turtle (he hikes slow). Each time I stopped to wait for my parents, he would pass me. We kept passing each other, “leapfrogging” each other for the rest of that day. At the end of the day, when I caught him for the last time, he said “hey Leapfrog” as I walked up to him. I stood there confused for a minute, looking around for somebody else he might be talking to, before realizing that he was giving me a trail name. The name has stuck and I’ve lived up to it plenty of times since then on the trail, “leapfrogging” people as I hike.

Karma, aka Kevin Jones: “After hiking with strangers for a couple of weeks we had many of conversations. Several felt that I had a lot of “Good Karma” in me. I shortened it to “Karma” to keep people guessing if it was representative of good or bad karma. The name has followed me ever since across many of trails, jobs, and locations. The name and trail will always be a big part of my life.”

Love and Ditto aka Audrey Greene and Dylan Price: “At the end of long days of hiking, before making it to camp, the combination of exhaustion and low blood sugar often caused Audrey and Dylan to bicker with one another. One afternoon, after arguing about something silly, Dylan (not ready to say the words “I love you”), uttered the word “love.” Audrey, sharing the sentiment, but still feeling hangry responded with “ditto,” and then the trail names Love and Ditto were born.”

Siesta, aka Chris Landers: “Starting the PCT on 7/4/16 I found out quickly that the days are very very long. With that being said I knew I wouldn’t hike sun up to sun down (4am to 10pm). So I would often find a warm and dry place in the sun, under a few pine bows or against a large wind blocking tree trunk to get off my feet for a bit. I would take several breaks like this every day. After hikers started noticing this they began to chatter about how I took naps in some pretty weird places throughout the day. So one night around the campfire with friends the topic arose about my napping habits and I was given my trail name.”

Natedawg, aka Nathan Hankins: “Really I just couldn’t shake the name. After the fifth person tried to name me Natedawg I just gave in and accepted it as my trail name. Just was peoples natural response to me.”

Guinness, aka Katie Moser: “I was constantly wearing a lot of black, mostly because women’s outdoor clothing just didn’t seem to have fun colors at the time. I had to turn down some trail names like Ninja, Newspaper, and Penguin. When people found out I also enjoyed darker beers like Porters it was settled, Guinness it was.”

Archer, aka Erik Weekman: “I was playing cards with a few hikers and we were trying to distract each other as much as possible since the game required concentration. I had to think of something fast so I did some kind of high pitched laugh/ cackle, and one of the hikers not playing peeked into the shelter and said “was that a Hyena? That sounded like a hyena.” That’s how I got my first trail name, Hyena. Later in the trail, I was sitting around a fire talking with other hikers about TV shows we liked, and we were all throwing out quotes from shows. The ones I remembered were from the show “Archer” and I had everybody rolling around on the ground laughing. Eventually one guy caught his breath enough to say, “that’s your new name.”

Early Bird, aka Brian Senez: “I started my southbound thru-hike late in the season in September.  While my friends and family were very supportive many others expressed concerns that it would not be possible for me to complete the trail.  This was my first long distance hike and I was both motivated and determined to accomplish my goals.  My trail name references my love of predawn starts.  Every morning I awoke with excitement around 4:00am energized and ready to climb some mountains.  It soon became apparent that I much preferred hiking before sunrise and having a few hours to relax in the evening rather than hiking into the night and doing evening chores in the dark.  This routine was unusual and stood out from most other hikers on the trail.”

Barbarosa, aka James Robinson: “My second day on the AT in 2013 i got the name Barbarosa after the German emperor of the third crusade. The name means big red beard. I got it because I already had a full beard when everyone else was still scruffy.”

Fetch, aka Ben Read:  “I got my trail name given to me by my real life partner and hiking partner, Tipsy (that’s a whole other story right there) in the first few hundred miles of our NOBO hike.  When we set out on the hike I had quite a few more miles under my belt and would say I was more prepared from an endurance standpoint while my longer legs gave me a quick pace.  Of course, it didn’t take long before she was out hiking me though!  Anyway, I began to hike ahead and bounce all around to see what the next half mile of trail had in store, to see whose voices we could hear up the trail belonged to, to get water, to find a campsite, etc.…  And there you have it, Fetch… as in go and fetch,  it’s a natural fit.  Funny thing though, Tipsy and I never called each other by our trail name during the hike.”

So next time you take a walk about town just think about who you pass. They may not be an Andy or Katie like you expect, you’re walking among the Captain Blue’s and Guinness’s of the world and you don’t even know it!

For a look into the psychology of trail names I found this blog humorous: Psychology of a Trail Name

For more trail names visit: AT Trail Museum

Thru-Hiking Options for the Rest of Us

By: Jim Rahtz

Despite the growing popularity of long distance backpacking, it is still a very select group that has completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. The commitment required is immense. Not only does the hiker walk over 2,000 miles, they give up the comforts of home, family and friends for five months or more. They often also give up their jobs or even the potential of a job for that same period.

Those that have hiked all three of the trails are members of an even more exclusive club. The few that have completed this “Triple Crown” of hiking have covered nearly 7,000 miles and have a total hiking time of around a year and a half. This level of dedication to hiking is not possible for most. It is however, possible to experience the best of these trails and still have a life. That’s right, it is possible to be a thru-hiker without major disruption to your career or family. It’s even possible to hike the Triple Crown; just the Junior version.

The Junior version of hiking’s Triple Crown? You might be saying to yourself, “Where did he come up with that?”

I hadn’t been interested in taking a 2,000+ mile hike. Being in your late 50s with titanium in your foot can do that to you. However, I was still looking for adventure. Known as “the most beautiful long trail in the world,” the 486 mile Colorado Trail seemed to fill the bill. I had enjoyed shorter backpacking trips, loved the scenery of the Rockies and felt my life needed a new challenge. It was one of those “bucket list” kind of things. The hike itself turned into a great experience that I was glad to have undertaken. The trail was everything that I had hoped as I spent a month in an incredible mountain environment on a path often shared by both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

divideIt was near the finish after a tough 22-mile day that I found myself sharing a campfire with several other thru-hikers. Gimpy, a guy in his 60s who had a long history of hiking, was talking about his other thru-hikes. At one point he asked me about hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). I replied that I didn’t have the time or a strong desire to hike the whole AT. I was however, thinking about hiking shorter “long trails” such as the John Muir Trail (JMT) through the Sierra Mountains of California. He suggested that after the JMT I should hike the Long Trail in Vermont. That way I would have hiked some of the best of the three foremost cross-country trails.

Not a bad thought. That’s when a plan was born for a new challenge. I could do the Triple Crown of Hiking, only the Junior Version! The Colorado Trail is considered by many to be the best part of the Continental Divide Trail. The John Muir Trail is an iconic hike that shares much of its length with the Pacific Crest Trail. And the Long Trail, which runs through Vermont and shares 100 miles with the AT, crosses the very spot that inspired the AT. Thru-hiking this Triple Crown would not only be epic, but achievable.

Over the next year I was fortunate enough to complete all three trails. For those with weeks, not months, available to hike; I recommend them highly. But which trail is the best? It all depends on what you are looking for.

bromley-viewVermont’s “footpath in the wilderness” is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the country. The Long Trail was not only the inspiration for the AT, it shares 100 miles with its more famous cousin. If you are looking for an AT type experience, this southern portion is the trail for you. Expect plenty of shelters, convenient resupplies and lots of company. While parts of the trail fit the AT description of “walking through a green tunnel” there are also numerous big views. The trail runs the very spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains, crossing the bare peaks of Camels Hump and Mt Mansfield, along with several mountains with cleared ski slopes. One such spot is Stratton Mountain, where Benton McKaye conceived of the idea of the Appalachian Trail.

Once the AT and LT split though, the crowds are gone and hiking becomes significantly more challenging. There were many slopes where hiking involves climbing ladders or metal rungs drilled into rock walls. There were spots where I saw blazes and thought someone had to be kidding. It was on the LT that I realized that hiking could be an adrenaline sport. Oh, and the famous “Vermud” does exist. If just going backpacking is not enough of a challenge, the Long Trail is for you.

The newest and longest of the three trails, the Colorado Trail wanders through eight named mountain ranges, six wilderness areas and some of the most beautiful scenery in the Rocky Mountains. The CT shares approximately 235 Miles with the Continental Divide Trail and traverses open coniferous forests, aspen groves, high mesas and rugged alpine passes.

Designed to be accessible by horse (no ladders), the trail is well constructed and maintained. There are not shelters along the way so a tent is a necessity.  With the average elevation over 10,000 feet, the trail spends extended stretches above tree line (with no spots to hang a hammock). Altitude is a significant consideration as snow can remain well into the summer months and afternoon thunderstorms are a real danger. Despite some rain and hail during my 29 days on the trail, the sun shined at least part of every day.

Don’t expect crowds on the CT. In the more remote sections I was more likely to see a marmot on the trail than another hiker. Convenient resupplies can be far apart. I typically hiked 70-100+ miles between town stops.

marmot1Beyond the aforementioned marmots, wildlife is prevalent on the trail. While hiking, smaller critters were abundant, plus the occasional deer, bighorn sheep and elk. Where else would you need to share the trail with two bull moose at 12,000 feet? There are also sightings of black bear near the trail.

The 210 mile John Muir Trail shares 170 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail and by most accounts is the most scenic section of the PCT. The path travels from Yosemite National Park to Kings Canyon National Park through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the top of Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. The scenery in the Sierras is just spectacular, earning the label of “The Range of Light” from John Muir.

The trail is full of iconic views such as Half Dome, Cathedral Peak, Evolution Valley and several high passes. Despite hiking during the 2015 drought, water was never an issue. Much of the trail appeared very dry, but enough melting snow was left to keep countless clear creeks flowing and abundant alpine lakes reasonably full. There is only one mountaintop view, but it’s outstanding. At 14,505 feet, the summit of Mt Whitney is the official endpoint of the JMT. On a clear day, the view goes on seemingly forever.

As the entire trail is within either National Parks or wilderness areas, the wildlife sightings were incredible. Deer were plentiful through the lower elevations and seemingly oblivious to hikers. Most impressive to me were the close encounters with predators. I stumbled within feet of coyote and even a bobcat there. Multiple encounters with bear left no doubt as to why bear-resistant canisters are required.

Like the CT, the JMT has high elevations and big climbs. The hike crosses 11 passes before the big climb up Mt Whitney. However, also like the CT the JMT is well constructed with switchbacks when prudent. It’s a good thing due to the need to carry a tent and the extra weight of the bear canister.

bear-w-cub-tcbBeyond the topography, the JMT provides some additional challenges. Resupplies go from easy to non-existent as you travel from north to south. The last relatively convenient resupply option is at Muir Trail Ranch, halfway through the 220-mile hike. (Yes, I know the trail is 210 miles, but you still have to get off Mt Whitney.) Stuffing enough calories into my bear canister to supply 110 miles of hiking was interesting to say the least. It involved some tough choices as well as standing on the lid before it would close.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with the JMT is just scoring a permit. If you want to start in Yosemite, plan on faxing in an application 24 weeks before your planned start date. By the end of the day, you will find out if you were successful. You probably were not. Apparently, there is such demand that over 97% of all applications are denied. One hiker I met on the trail had been denied 22 times before she received a permit to start at Happy Isles Trailhead.

The National Park Service is in a difficult position. They have a legal duty to protect the wilderness from overuse and want to provide access to a true wilderness for those that do receive a permit. Based on my hike, the existing quota system seemed to result in a quality experience. While I was not always alone, the trail was not crowded and I always found a good spot to camp. That does not makes getting the permit any easier, however. You’ll need to plan ahead, yet be very flexible.

mcclure-meadowtcbookHow did I do it? After multiple unsuccessful attempts to secure a permit from the starting point (Happy Isles), I changed my approach; literally. Scoring a permit from Tuolumne Meadows, I arrived at the park early and used the free bus service that runs throughout the park to day hike the 20 mile section I would have otherwise missed. On the plus side, I was able to hike that section backwards, exchanging a 6,000 foot climb for a 6,000 foot drop.  It certainly wasn’t the perfect way to do it, but I’d rather have walked the entire trail “imperfectly” than not do it at all.

So, just because you can’t, or don’t want to, spend half a year hiking doesn’t mean you can’t be a thru-hiker. There are viable options to have a life changing experience without abandoning the life you already have. America’s three foremost cross-country trails have shorter options that are achievable, yet still epic. Fair warning though. Once you pick one and hike it, your bucket list may get longer. Perhaps you’ll even hike the Triple Crown; just the Junior Version.

authorCincinnati native Jim Rahtz is an outdoor author and photographer whose work has won multiple awards from the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. His newest book, Backpacking’s Triple Crown: The Junior Version is available at Roads Rivers and Trails as well as through Amazon.com

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10 Things I Sent Home from my Thru-Hike

All hikers do it. They throw that extra [insert whatever] into their bag, just in case. On a weekend jaunt this is no big deal. A few extra pounds are good for you. They give your legs a better workout and justify the three packs of instant noodles you’re having for dinner again and the post-hike pizza and beers that are sure to happen in the nearest town on the way home. On a long-distance hike, however, you get pretty sick of every last ounce that you’re carrying and the time comes when you have to ask yourself, “Do I really need any of this?” The answer, of course, is yeah, you do. But not all of it.

I got to wondering what most hikers end up sending home after a little bit of time on the trail. So I got in touch with some of my hiker buddies, racked my brain for trail memories, and came up with a list of 10 things that seem perfectly sensible to take on a multi-month hike that, after a while, got sent back home in a stinky box to unsuspecting loved ones.

I’d like to thank Jubilee, Iceman, Tundra Wookie, Cincinnati Kid, Shinbone, Treegasm,  Sockless, Blazer, the Bartender, Blue Tick and Ado for their contributions. The following interpretation of their data is my fault, not theirs.

-Goatman

#1: Camera

What? Your camera? You’re hiking one of the most iconic trails in the world and you sent home your camera? What about the memories and the romantic sunset photos? What about proving to the world how cool you are by taking pictures of yourself standing in front of summit signs? Well, cameras are heavy. Even small cameras are heavy. It’s better to just let day-hikers take your pictures and send them to you when they get back into WiFi range. You’ve got hiking to do; delegate! Not to mention the fact that most phones have built-in cameras these days. Just put that sucker on airplane mode and snap away. (I was going to suggest sending your cellphone home as well, but didn’t want to put up with the backlash. That being said: send your cellphone home! No one wants to talk to dirty Hiker Trash anyway. What are you going to talk about, walking and eating?)

#2: Big Knife

It’s fun to think that you might need a 5-inch blade to pierce a bear’s heart or build an igloo with while in the woods. If you are hiking within the Arctic Circle, you are probably justified in your choice of blade. However, most of the long trails in the U.S. are near enough to roads and thus civilization that the likelihood that you will need a Bowie knife is slim to none. Now, if you plan on getting into a lot of knife fights at the local watering holes along the trail in defense of your honor, don’t let me tell you how to live your life. However, if you’re on the trail just to hike, your knife will get used more to clean your thumbnail before a tough hitch (gotta get that baby shining in the sun if you expect anyone to stop!) than it will anytime else. Toenail clippers are much more useful and, in a pinch, you can totally cut Trail Magic pizza into slices with the nail file they always have attached.

#3: Extra ClothesDSC_0610

And by extra, I mean any clothes that aren’t worn everyday. Think you’re gonna need a nice pair of town clothes to impress the locals? You can’t hide the stench of your filthy body with a clean shirt. If anything, they may not trust you if your garments don’t match your disheveled beard and noisome body odor. Extra socks are nice, especially a specially protected, sacred Clean Pair for the day you decide you would rather cut your feet off than put them into the same pair of wet socks for the 5th day in a row. A base-layer for unexpected chilly nights is a good idea. But both pants and shorts? Two shirts? A flowery dress for whimsical barn dances by the light of the harvest moon? Send ’em on back. The trail ain’t New York City. There’s no one to impress out there but me (and I will be impressed just to see you out there hiking, clothes or not.)

#4: Games and Toys

Grow up. You’re a hiker now. Think you might bring a pack of cards to while away a rainy day? You’ll be hiking. How about a frisbee to toss while waiting on a shuttle? You’ll be eating. A chess board to challenge opponents around the fire at night? You’ll be sleeping. You will pretty much be hiking, eating, and sleeping exclusively. Taking a zero day and thinking about getting a Magic: The Gathering tournament started at the hostel? Everyone else is at the bar eating, drinking, and sleeping. The others are hiking. Don’t worry. You won’t be bored. You’ll soon learn fun trail games like “Look at that Stick for a While” and “What’s that Noise in the Night” or my personal favorite “Am I Too Tired to Pee?”

#5: Books

Along the same lines of #4, books seem like a great way to relax before bed and get some education at the same timeDSC_0193. I read constantly at home. If I’m not working or actively involved in conversation, I’m probably reading. When I’m on the trail, however, I may get 3 pages read before I pass out. Are these few minutes of peace and quiet worth the pound of paper and glue? Probably not. Even the guidebook gets no love. I ripped out every page as I came to it. A lot of hikers end up sending entire sections home as mementos. Think a Kindle or other e-book is a better idea? Well, e-books pages don’t make good tinder for a fire in Maine when its been raining for two weeks.

#6: Stove

Any food that needs cooked can be packed up and sent home. Never had cold noodles soaked in stream water? Welcome to hiker cafe. I know what you’re thinking: what about the comfort of a nice, hot meal after a dreary day of socked out views and less than ideal stream crossings? There’s a nice, hot meal waiting for you in the next town. And the town after that. Imagine how good that cheeseburger is going to taste after eating barely rehydrated oatmeal and crumbling protein bars for a few days. You can’t have joy without sadness, you can’t have light without darkness, and  you never truly taste a well cooked meal until you’ve been eating partially frozen peanut butter with a tent stake for breakfast for a week.

#7: Stuff Sacks

So you’re gear is all nice and organized and you’re ready to hit the trail. You’ve got your toothbrush and soap separated from your sleeping mat and your rain fly is conveniently in its own bag to keep it from getting everything else wet. Good for you. Now dump all that stuff out of its tiny bags and shove it in your pack anyway you can that’s comfortable. Every time you get to a shelter, your bag is going to vomit all of its contents onto the ground anyway. Your toothbrush will be full of mud, everything will be slightly damp, and individual bags for everything will only stave off for so long the eventual mingling of smells that you will become.

#8: Maps

This one might be a bit AT specific, but unless you plan on bushwhacking down the sides of mountains or following strange creeks to their sources, you probably won’t need a map (the CDT is another story, of course.) Here’s how you find your way on the trail: You wake up. You look at the way you came into camp. You go the other way. If  you don’t see a blaze within a few hundred feet, you turn around and try again. You can also sniff the air and follow the scent of the early risers that have conveniently already cleared the spider webs out of your face. Want to see what exists along the side trails and blue blazes? Just keep in mind that every step off the trail is a step you have to do again. And it’s usually a climb.

#9: Back-Up Anything

Think you might use that extra tent stake? That’s what sticks are for. Have an ounce of iodine in case your water pump breaks? Giardia is for the weak. Just swish some dirt around in your mouth, you’ll be fine. Tent repair kit? Pole Splint? Mat patch? Shoe Goo? Duct tape. Duct tape might even clean your water. You never know until you try. Back-up food in case of emergency becomes extra snacks on the day before town. Anything you need while you’re on the trail can be traded for with hot sauce. Let others carry it for you. You just hang on to that hot sauce and everything will be fine.

#10: Tentgoatman 032

Shelters were built for a reason. Cowboy camping makes your soul tough and your ears sharp. Caught out in bad weather? That’s why night hiking was invented. Just walk to town, curl up under a train, and sleep like the hobo you have become. Like the privacy of your tent? You’re in the woods. Walk 30 feet in any direction that’s not the trail or a campsite and you’ll have all the privacy you could ever want. Besides, you can always curl up under someone’s vestibule in the middle of the night if you get cold or lonely. They will probably just think you’re a bear and start clanging stuff around to scare you away. If you refuse to move, they’ll pass out in fear and both of you will get a good night’s sleep.

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A Walk in the Woods

A Thru-hikers Review
By: Bryan Wolf

The book was amazing! Most conversations begin or end with the book and how the movie did based off those expectations. For my enjoyment, but also the sake of a fair review I decided to look at the movie independently. It seems only fair to separate the two, after all, in today’s day in age is any movie as good as the book? What book isn’t tainted by corporate sponsorship, time crunching edits, or acting short falls? The poor Dartmouth Co-op was overtaken by big money and replaced with a box store competitor.

So yes, the book was amazing, but I put that aside and instead ask that you watch it with only the eyes of an outdoor enthusiast. Was the trail represented, the trail experience, or the trail culture? Luckily for the AT, much of what makes the trail so spectacular was not represented. A movie that showcased the trails true magic on the big screen could mean an increase in hikers that the conservancy would struggle to handle. So here are some things the movie did wrong and some things they did right.

WRONG: Any hiker nut can point out the simple mistakes. Ask any of us to watch the filming of a backpacking scene, buy us lunch, and we’d be more than happy to coach the actors. Why do they constantly hike with their hipbelts unbuckled? Why are Bryson’s load lifters limp for the first half of the movie? Why did they bring trekking poles but not once did they use them? Why were they still wearing 3 flannels in what would of been June? Why was Bryson always clean shaven? These are not amateur hiking mistakes, they are a poor attention to details that will make the AT faithfuls laugh at the movie for the wrong reasons.

RIGHT: While nothing in the movie is spot on, I’m proud of Hollywood for even getting close. On the AT you are constantly surrounded by strange people, some with attitudes that don’t mesh well. The solution, hike faster, or hike slower. Keeping yourself in good company is a real thing and their judgmental gear junkie friend isn’t all that far fetched. I’d say Mary Ellen was the exception, not the rule, for sure not the best the AT has to offer, but true none the less.

WRONG: What cliff did they fall off? What grand rock wall did they look up from on the AT? The AT has enough risk and “danger” that it doesn’t need Hollywood exaggeration like that of 1,000 foot drop offs. Nor does it need black bears that look like steroid raged grizzly bears. It looks like they shot mostly in the Appalachians, but most green screen or CGI shots are over the top.

RIGHT: The trail was mostly miserable. That was the most accurate part of the movie. When Bryson and Katz are cursing at each other and each deep in their own misery they stumble upon gorgeous overviews of the Smoky Mountains or of McAfee Knob and an overwhelming sense of purpose and satisfaction sweep over them. This is life on the trail 100%.

WRONG: As I noted up top, trail culture was not represented. They somehow made no friends, had or knew no trail names, never had trail magic, met a trail angel, or stayed in a hostel.

RIGHT: Trail etiquette was fun to watch and had some wrongs and rights. I loved how all passing hikers would say hi and have polite interactions. Even the group of young scouts motoring up the mountain each had a different canned response. It is one of the unique things about hiking culture that is completely absent in daily life. People stop and say hello, and have a genuine concern for one another. While the overly preppy hikers asking to help the old men across the stream (an easy crossing by all standards) was overkill, the camaraderie was nice.

WRONG: For a fat man that didn’t lose any weight, Katz sure didn’t talk about food enough. A hikers’ daily life consists of only a few things, walking, getting water, and eating sum up the most of it. Your conversations on the AT consist of even less things, mostly that of food and gear. In that way the movie was yet again terribly inaccurate to the experience.

RIGHT: The movie was funny, enjoy it for what it is. It’s not the book, and it’s not a documentary. If you want a real trail experience that doesn’t need to sell tickets to the mass population try watching a movie like “Appalachian Impressions” of “Flip Flop Flippin’.” If you want some comic relief with stunning views of the Appalachians, then this is it.

Have you seen the movie, if so, what are your wrongs and rights? Add them here.

Appalachian Trail: North Adams to Great Barrington Massachusetts

Date: July 14-21

Trip length: Four days of hiking along with three days of travel on a Greyhound Bus.

Conditions: 70-90 degrees during the day accompanied by slight breezes and plenty of shade. Rain storms during one day and two nights. Temperatures at night ranged from low 40s to mid 60s depending on elevation.

Distance: 63.6 miles.

Distance from Cincinnati: North Adams is an eleven and a half hour drive.mtgrey-summit

Directions: I71 N – I271 N – I90 E – NY 7 E – NY 2 E – Phelps Ave in North Adams Mass.
The trail head is on the left side of Phelps Ave. up the hill past the elementary school.

Water: Sources are plentiful along this stretch. I was able to fill up multiple times a day while only carrying one liter at a time. All sources must be filtered but water from town was often available. The AWOL AT Guide provides all specific locations for water sources.

Highlights: Mt. Greylock, The Cobbles, St. Mary of the Assumption Church Hostel, Upper Goose Pond Cabin, Great Barrington, Tom Levardi’s house in Dalton, and the North Bound Hikers.

Levardi House

 

 

 

 

 

Description: Lying in the heart of New England, the Massachusetts section of the Appalachian Trail is highly developed. Every day you cross multiple roads and walk through towns such as North Adams, Cheshire, and Dalton. Opportunities to hitch into towns just a few miles off trail are plentiful. The terrain varies from steep climbs to astonishingly flat.

Day One: (14.7 miles) Hiking this section south bound (SOBO) means your first day will spent climbing over Massachusetts highest peak, Mt. Greylock, which stands at 3,491 ft. The climb is about 6 miles to the peak from the trail head in North Adams. Over those 6 miles you ascend 2800 feet with the bulk of that elevation gain achieved in the first stmarythree miles. Once you summit the climb down leads you into the town of Cheshire. St. Mary of the Assumption church allows hikers to stay in two rooms at the rear of the building. AC is provided in the building as well as restrooms and water. The church accepts donations for the generous service they provide.

Day Two: (15.2 miles) Leaving Cheshire you face some pretty casual terrain. Although the elevation profile shows rolling hills and flat terrain, beware that the trail is full of rocks and roots to dodge as you plod along. The A.T. winds it’s ways straight through the town of Dalton where Tom Levardi lives. Tom has been allowing hikers to grab water and even camp at his house for years. Levardi House.jpg2Many hikers congregate at his house to relax and enjoy good conversation. Ask him about borrowing a bike so you can ride to Angelina’s Sub Shop for their Steak Bomb Overload. But watch out you might not want to move for the rest of the day if you eat the whole thing! If you can muster the energy though, Kay Wood shelter is three miles up hill outside of town. There are small stealth camp sites by the streams seven and a half miles south of Dalton.

Day Three: (14.7 miles) All the way to Upper Goose Pond Cabin the trail is incredibly flat. This is a very relaxed day that ends at one of the best shelters along the A.T. The Cabin is half of a mile off the trail but well worth the trek. The caretakers at Upper Goose serve pancakes and coffee for breakfast every morning. Canoes are also provided at the cabin to explore Upper Goose Pond which has a cool little island out in the middle of the pond. The cabin is a big attraction for hikers so if you choose to stay, the likelihood of you running into thru hikers is very high. The goosecabin provides another great place for conversation and a taste of thru hiking culture.

Day Four: (19.0 miles) Between Upper Goose Pond and MA 23 (the road you take to hitch into Great Barrington) the trail picks up in elevation gain. You climb over a few hills including Mt. Wilcox which has three shelter options. Views are sparse and the sounds of the woods will be your entertainment for the day. Apart from the beauty of the woods there isn’t much to see but Great Barrington is a fantastic town! Restaurants such as the Neighborhood Diner, Siam Square, and the Gypsy Joint are great places to have a meal while celebrating the end of your section.  Great Barrington has shuttle services that can take you to The Cookie Lady on Washington Mtn Rd. From there The Cookie Lady can shuttle you back to North Adams to grab your car and head home. Massachusetts

 

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An Introduction to the AT

An Introduction to the AT

By: Bryan “Ice Man” Wolf

SOBO 06’/07’

I’ve heard it spoken of as romantic, miserable, magical, adventurous, life changing, and testing. I’ve spoken to those who have dreamt of the experience forever and those that have experienced it with little to no previous knowledge of its existence at all. In journals and books it is a place of community as much as it is a physical journey. Now it is even portrayed as a place of great comic relief on the big screen. In my personal opinion, the Appalachian Trail is all of these things and more.

How did you first hear about the Appalachian Trail? Were you raised with a great awareness of the outdoors and knowledge of its possibilities? Many were turned on to it by a book or happened to be channel surfing while National Geographic was playing a documentary on the trail. Not one of these things can ever explain what the AT is or what it could be to you. The truth is, to sum up a 14 state trail that is about 90 years old takes much more than any one story, including my own.

And who am I to know the AT so well? I’ve backpacked close to 2,500 miles on the AT, including my 2,175 mile winter thru hike in ’06/’07. For me the trail has become like a close relative, one that I visit often, that I know well, and that has seen me grow while traversing life’s ups and downs. Because of the AT I have memories that live in my mind stronger than a lot of other moments in my life. I can still replay many of these instances vividly in my head.

On Mt. Success in New Hampshire, I would fall waist deep into a bog. Then, on Mt. Greylock, the wind would push us backwards over the icy mountain top. Later still, while in the Shenandoah, I would fight through the stinging pain on the top of my foot that sent a shock through me with every step. The worst of the moments may have been at the Overmountain Shelter where the wind blew the snow and negative temperatures through the cracks in the shelter walls while I tried to shiver myself to sleep.

Then, of course, there were the good times. We ended our day earlier than planned after the Mt. Success catastrophe, which led to the most stunning of shelter views on the entire trail at Gentian Pond Shelter. Our departure from Greylock led us to Dalton, MA, and to one of the most gracious of trail angels. The next day after that night at Overmountain, my best friend and hiking partner would meet his future wife. What of the Shenandoah pain you ask? No good came of that. Sometimes the trail is just cruel.

Today I spend more time with the AT than ever. As part of a local outfitter, I’ve prepared dozens of people for a thru-hike and hundreds for overnights. I’ve mailed them care packages, written meal plans, answered late night calls after worrisome days, hiked with them, dropped them off and picked them up from the trail. I give what advice or help I can, to help tip the scales that send over 75% of hikers home from their journey earlier than expected.

If by chance this article is your first impression of the AT, what is it you should take away? Thus far, I’ve more or less described an existential experience between each person that interacts with the AT and the AT itself. Should I describe trail conditions or trail logistics? Or should I fill your head with the beautiful and magical encounters that I have experienced out there? If you could, would you brave entering into this fairy-tale-like world to see it for yourself?

Perhaps my generalizing is intentional. Perhaps this horrible ankle twisting trail is already overcrowded. To be honest, I enjoy the solitude of sitting atop a mountain peak alone, knowing that the soft breeze is all my own. My instincts suggest that I sway you from the trail. Find your own trail, your own family, and your own fairy tale. But I can’t honestly in good conscience say these things, because the trail is to be shared. I know that generations will enjoy the exploration of setting out for a journey in the woods. Both the young and old will learn more about themselves in a few miles than in the past few years, and I also know that the trail will provide so many with the most imperfect, perfect experience.

So if your heart pulls you to a quiet place in the woods, if your feet just want to move, and if you are ready to listens to nature’s lessons, perhaps you can find what you are looking for on the AT. If so, maybe our paths will cross on that long line from Georgia to Maine, or perhaps before your trip we can sit and I can help prepare you for that next great adventure!

Published in the 2015 Tri-State guide to the Outdoors

 

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Overnight Loops on the Appalachian Trail (A Cincinnati Guide)

Overnight on the AT

Top 3 Hikes Less Than 8 hours from Cincinnati

By: Craig “Goatman” Buckley

 Interested in getting a taste of the iconic Appalachian Trail without the time commitment required for a long section hike? Behold! Three hikes that will get you out on the AT for an overnight backpacking trip that you can do on a long weekend. All three trails are less than an 8 hour drive from Cincinnati, are loop hikes that require only one car and no shuttles, and aim to highlight a beautiful portion of the AT. No excuses: Get out there and hike!

 

South and North Marshall Loopshenandoah

 

Where:                                 Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

From Cincy:        424 miles (about 7 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     13.1 mile loop

Trailhead:            Jenkins Gap Parking Lot (mile marker 12.3 on Skyline Dr.)

Fee/Permit:       $15 (7 day) $30 (Annual) Permit required for overnight camping

Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia is a beautiful introduction to the Appalachian Trail. This 13.1 hike is easy when broken up over two days, gaining only 2100 feet of elevation throughout. You will follow the Mount Marshall Trail across three streams abundant with wildlife, from white-tail deer to black bear and up to the Bluff Trail which, as its name portends, leads along the bluffs below the summits of South and North Marshall. Along the way, take a side trail to Big Devil Stairs for an amazing vista of the rolling hills of Virginia. Camping is available around this junction (ask a ranger for details!) and, in the morning, climb up to the AT itself. Stop by Gravel Springs Hut on your way to chat with any thru-hikers taking a break and fill up your water at the spring. From there, climb up to the summits of both South (3,212 ft.) and North Marshall (3,368 ft.). Rock outcroppings and distinct cliffs afford a view of the vast Shenandoah Valley below. Continue on the AT as it weaves up and down the ridge until it pops you right back out at Jenkins Gap and your waiting car.

 

 

Mt. Cammerer Loopcammerer loop

 

Where:                 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC

From Cincy:        315 miles (about 5 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18 mile loop

Trailhead:            Big Creek Ranger Station, Cataloochee, NC

Fee/Permit:       $4 per night, per person for a backcountry permit

 

Talk about a hike with a little bit of everything! The Mt. Cammerer Loop is an amazing way to see the best of the Great Smoky Mountains in the vicinity of the AT. From the Big Creek Ranger Station, you’ll climb steadily up the Chestnut Branch Trail and meet up with the AT on top of the ridge after a couple of strenuous miles. Hiking southwest along the ridge will bring you to Mt. Cammerer Trail, a 0.6 blue blaze off the AT that leads to a rocky scramble to the summit where a beautiful stone fire tower lies nestled in huge boulders. From here, take in 360 degree views of the entire park, mountains as far as the eye can see. When you’re done drooling over the scenery, hike back to the AT and continue hiking. You’ll cross Rocky Face Mountain before coming to the Cosby Knob Shelter, a great halfway point at which to stay the night (don’t forget your permit!). The next morning will take you down off the ridge onto the Low Gap Trail. You’ll lose elevation here as you drop into gorgeous forest scenery. Keep an eye out for wildlife. After a few miles, you’ll begin following Big Creek, a wide, boulder-strewn stream that leads past such thing as Mouse Hole Falls and a great wooden bridge, and then back to the ranger station and your ride home.

 

 

Fairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers LoopFairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers Loop

 

Where:                 Troutdale, VA

From Cincy:        362 miles (about 6 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18.3 miles loop

Trailhead:            VA Rt. 603, 5.7 miles west of Troutdale

Fee/Permit:       None

 

The beauty of southern Virginia cannot be easily summarized in words and on this hike, you get not only that, but views into the ridges of North Carolina as well. The most strenuous of the three hikes, this hike begins with almost immediate elevation gain as you follow the Mt. Rogers Trail up to the ridgeline where it meets up with the AT. Keep trucking! It will be worth it, believe me. As you crest the ridge, the world below opens up and the rest of the hike is stunning view after stunning view of the sparsely populated, rolling landscape. Summit Mt. Rogers and you’ve reached Virginia’s highest point. Stay the night at the Thomas Knob Shelter about 8 miles in for an amazing sunset or keep hiking and camp at any of the great campsites off the trail further on. As you hike, your view will be the legendary Grayson Highlands before dropping down from the ridge, down through the Fairwood Valley, and finally looping back to your car.

 

Published in the 2015 Tri-State guide to the Outdoors

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Southbound: episode 19

February 4th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our first night out of Damascus brought us into Tennessee, the 12th state of the trail. We didn’t leave town till 2 in the afternoon, but we made sure we left with full stomachs. Our first impression of the trail in Tennessee was awesome, very smooth nice hiking. The following day was a nice 22 mile ridge walk with a lot of amazing views of snow capped ridges in the distance. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground to pose a problem, but the snow bothered us later on. The shelter was too wide to hang our tarp over the opening, so the wind kept blowing snow onto everything.378

We cleaned the snow off all our gear and hit the trail. It was a cold and snowy morning, but it cleared up as the day went on. We could look down on Watauga Lake as we climbed down to the dam. It was a beautiful walk around the massive lake. On the way down to Laurel Fork Gorge, I slipped and busted my left knee. Nothing too serious, just a little blood and a mild limp. Laurel Fork Gorge and Falls were incredible. Probably the most spectacular falls of the trip. Just a little ways farther and we made it to Kincora Hostel nestled between the mountains. The hostel is run by Bob Peoples and his wife. He has pretty much dedicated his life to helping hikers and volunteering on the trail. Since he started taking in hikers over a decade ago, 13,000 hikers had stayed at his place. He is a very inspirational man. The walls and ceiling of the hostel were covered in pictures from hikers that finished the trail. Once we send him our picture, we will be the first of 2007 to go up.   380
In the morning, he ran us into town to resupply and pick up our package from the post office. “Sky Watcher” met us at the hostel to join us for a few more days. Luckily, his brother was able to drop him off on his way to the coast. He was excited to break in his new boots. The climb out of Kincora gave us our first glimpse of Roan Mtn and the surrounding highlands. Sky Watcher’s 2nd day was a long 18 miler over some nice terrain. We also passed by the highest falls on the AT, Jones Falls. There wasn’t much water gushing over the falls, but there was a lot of ice built up all over it.

We thought the following day would be simple, only doing 8 miles, but we were wrong. The deep snow slowed us down and the -10 degree wind chill over the balds cut right through us. To top it off, the shelter was a nightmare. It is an old barn that was given to the trail to use as a shelter, it sleeps like 40 people, the views are great, and its well ventilated. Basically, it is perfect for summertime, not during a wind and snowstorm. The snow blew in from every direction and every crack. We tried hanging both of our tarps to block the snow, but it didn’t help. We ended up wrapping ourselves in the sleeping bags with the tarp, but the snow still managed to pile on our faces. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep to well. The thermometer read zero degrees when we crawled out of bed. It was hard to get moving.397

We climbed up to the Roan Mtn highlands and were greeted with spectacular 360 degree views. We haven’t seen such breathtaking views since the White Mtns. When we crossed over Carvers Gap, we met up with Ice Man’s cousin Karma and the wonderful Miss Janet who was nice enough to shuttle her up to the trail. Since our sleeping bags got wet the night before, Miss Janet threw them in her car and cranked up the heat to dry them out. We are so lucky. After a nice lunch break, we finished the climb up to Roan Mtn Shelter, the highest shelter on the AT over 6000ft. The trail was like an endless white alley all the way to the top. We were fortunate to have a fully enclosed shelter with no wind finding its way in.AT Winter Hike
It still got really cold inside and Karma had a rough night’s sleep. She woke up with a bad headache and a sore neck, so instead of pushing out big miles, it was smarter just to climb back down to Carver’s Gap and head into Erwin to rest up. We continued on in the deep snow, half-skiing down the mountains. We met Karma at the next road crossing and she took us back to Miss Janet’s hostel in Erwin. While we cleaned up, Karma spoiled us by cooking an excellent dinner. In the morning, we had a great big breakfast and bid farewell to Sky Watcher once again. Since we had Karma’s car, a day off, and a need for warm weather, we drove down to Savannah, GA to visit a friend from back home. We were lucky to see both the moonrise and sunrise over the ocean. It was an amazing feeling to be at sea level just hours after being at 5000 ft covered in snow. We didn’t stay long, but we wish we could have. When we made it back to Tennessee, three of my brothers came down to visit. We got to enjoy the company while playing cards, eating pizza, and sitting down to watch a movie before bed.

The following morning Karma bid us good luck and headed home. The rest of us boys drove up to Carver’s Gap and hiked up onto Roan Mtn Highlands where we had been just a few days before. The views were just as immaculate as they were when we first crossed over the highlands. I was glad we were able to take my brothers up to see the things that keep us moving. That night Ice Man and my brother cooked a huge Mexican style feast. It was awesome. When they headed home in the morning, we picked up from where we left off. We brought Miss Janet’s dog, Fabian, with us on our hike since she was going to meet us at another road in 19 miles. He was fun to hike with. Supposedly he has over 5000 miles under his collar.Joe with AT Dog Fabian
Today Miss Janet dropped us off at another point and we hiked 25 miles back to town again. We came across a couple more balds with views on all sides as well as some great overlooks near the Nolichucky River. It was a real workout to hike through the deep snow, but once we dropped in elevation it cleared up quite a bit. After 9 hours of straight hiking, we were ready for a foot long sandwich, a shower, and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we will be at the hostel working off our stay for the past few days. We were lucky enough that Miss Janet opened her doors to use since she isn’t open for another 10 days.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Today the memories and impressions left from this section of trail are as loud as ever and present in everyday life. Through our second hike with Sky Watcher we got to know him a little better and would go on to have amazing Alaskan adventures with him years later. We instilled a sense of adventure in Joe’s brother Vince who came to visit and now has over 700 AT miles under his belt.  Miss Janet has become one of the most infamous of Trail Angels and helped us not just with hiking the trail but also with supporting our lives away from the trail. It was Miss Janet’s hospitality that really provided the space needed for a bigger relationship to spark.

I won’t get into a sappy love story on you, but Karma (my cousin) and TW hit it off pretty well. Soon after the trail they found themselves married and years later from then we all three found ourselves opening RRT.  I can tell you that I didn’t and couldn’t of ever seen all of this coming.  That is the magic of the trail to spawn long lasting and meaningful relationships and life lessons.

The trail itself was beautiful in this entire section from Damascus to Kincora. The balds that we passed and ridge walking leaves plenty of room for views along the way. The weather turned on us a little bit but that’s what we signed up for.  I will give you a fair warning, the barn shelter is not good for winter hikes and snow storms.  Joe and I had wrapped our tarp around our bags trying to keep them “dry” but it wasn’t going to work. To date it may be the worst sleep I got on trail as I shivered the majority of the night. There are plenty of road intersections here and this area would be perfect if you are looking for a 3+ day trip on the AT.

The morning after the barn was the day we were meeting Emily (Karma) at the road. I hustled and covered 3 miles in sometimes deep snow in little more than an hour. I was part excited, part cold, and in part just didn’t want to leave her alone roadside wondering where the heck she was.  The whole time with family members and the side trip to Savannah really didn’t set us off pace and all happened fast. However, it was really rejuvenating especially for Joe who couldn’t think of much else.

From the Beginning

RRT
At The Core
Written by: Bryan Wolf

While business sense is the only thing that can keep the doors open, there is another reason that the doors were ever opened at all.  Getting those thoughts on paper ended up being extremely difficult.  I wanted to write about myself which is hard enough, but I also wanted to make it a piece that describes RRT. I wanted to share how our fates were intertwined this whole time. What I came up with is this:

In 2000, I had little interest in going outside, and less in extreme adventures. I don’t believe I had a grasp even on what it meant to go out in nature. It took just one instance; however, before I would blossom quickly into an adventure junkie . Looking back I think it was that limited exposure and poor understanding that made me thirst for more.  A direct exposure to something so beautiful, like tasting something so sweet for the first time, and forever craving it thereafter.  It goes to show that if you can just open someones eyes, they may be inspired to take it to all new levels.

A post high school graduation road trip would of never happened without trying to live up to my brother Rick’s wild side, in fact that mentality still gets me in trouble. My brother was in college at the time, and he was good at it.  I don’t just mean the grades,  I mean the experience. I realized I had never experienced anything quite the same way he does; to the fullest. I don’t remember hesitating when he black canyoninvited me to cross the country with him, because at that crossroads, there was no real choice. With Rick and three perfect strangers we crossed the entire American landscape on our way to San Francisco.

Do you remember the first time that you took a deep breathe of fresh air and felt adventure filling your lungs? The people I was with, and those we would meet, allowed me to open up and pierce the shell I was hiding in all those years.  What I found when I came out of that shell was the most nurturing and addictive substance ever to be consumed by man, it was naturecrack (leezie 2011). It wasn’t the sights, the sights can be captured on high-definition television. You can try and witness all the beautiful sights of endless blue skies, deep red canyons, or towering white peaks though a TV. These are not just sights however, they are more a sense or emotion, and therefore can never be expressed or experienced on 72 inch plasma. Sharing the experience; that is the only way to understand or help anyone else understand what it feels like. The power of nature lies in every sense of your being.

I wanted to see the country’s wonders, I wanted my feet dangling from its deepest canyons, so I traveled on with old friends and with new. Each year I crossed parks, states, cities, and landmarks off my list.  It was early 2006 when I first realized for all the experience and check marks I still needed more.  It was my friend Joe that opened my eyes this time. Joe’s introduction to our wonderful world was much different than mine.  Through the scouts, Joe was brought up to always look for the longest lasting trip, the biggest craziest trip! I had been across the country with Joe already, so what was this big crazy trip?

Yellowstone FallsShooting pool and making life lists was a regular occurrence for the two of us, and it was one of those fateful nights that a new idea was born. What if instead of a dozen places in a dozen days we had but just one goal in mind……for six months.  The plan was to be completely consumed in nature and to completely consume it, to have an experience that was not in passing but challenged our commitment and understanding of everything. A feeling came over me much like it did years earlier: I don’t remember hesitating when he invited me to hike the Appalachian Trail with him because once again, I don’t feel life gives us the luxury of hesitation. Hesitation can be associated with disappointment, at least with all decisions regarding stoplights and the Appalachian Trail.

Nature would be defined differently from that moment on and yet undefinable.  Adventure would hold new meaning but with it be as contradicting as the previous statement. Adventure is of course synonymous with high adrenaline activities, but this time I found it to equally stand for the peace and tranquility found in truly knowing the wilderness. Stillness and silence was an adventure like no other.  The store (RRT) was born on one of our very first days on Appalachian Trail in late 2006.  It started with a dream and a passion, the way all good things come to be. In the midst of one adventure we were constantly planning the next.  We thought about having our own place to call home, a hub for adventurous spirits with the goods and advice to create those adventures.  We couldn’t turn and open up shop then, but that idea would never fade.

2178This experience we wanted shared on every platform that we could reach. We created a web site (the same one that hosts the store page now) and with it a blog and link to our photo journals while on the AT.  Beyond sharing with family and friends we wanted to reach a wider audience so we sought out media and were published in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Still, we wanted this trip to be big, and we wanted this thirst for adventure to spread so we decided to hike for a cause. On our 2,175 mile winter-journey we would raise $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southwest Ohio. What I saw was an opportunity; this was our opportunity to turn what we were doing into something bigger than ourselves. As each of us make our way in life we fight to be and to do the best we can.  When we find our moment(s) however, we need to ask ourselves if we are making the very best of the situation? Don’t be satisfied with “good for one” if you can use that moment and turn it into something that is “great for all”.  This is a lesson that I hope to carry with me for life.

I would spend 170 days out on the Appalachian Trail, my first backpacking trip ever.  This trip showed me a million things about myself, but even more of the generosity and compassion that is in this world.  The trail is much like a fairy tale, many of stories seemingly impossible or at least unlikely this day in age.  It was all real, and like I promised myself, to the fullest.  While I expected answers to very specific questions, I received almost the exact opposite; I would learn answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask.  You don’t always need to solve a problem, you just need a better perspective on the situation.

That entire experience was rewarding in a million ways, and as addiction goes, I wanted more. Our next trip we tried a new charity “Hike for Haiti” as I attempted a barefoot hike through Vermont’s Green Mountains. Barefoot through nature teaches humility as well, as that trip ended prematurely. When we came home my feet had no time to soften from the sharp rocky trails before more sour news came; our adventure hub had closed its doors. Nature Outfitters, a base of not just gear but support that had been a Milford staple for 20 years, was gone!  There was only one logical thing to do at this point, open our own shop.  It was a phone call after one of my evening classes at UC from my cousin Emily that set things in motion. store transition Confidently Emily and Joe asked if I was in for another adventure, and being that we are all very optimistically stubborn the next chapter soon began.  In a haste of 20-hour workdays Joe, Emily, and myself , opened the doors of RRT, not 2 months after deciding to do so.  That dream we had on the AT several years back was going to be real!

Not a moment passes that we don’t feel blessed to be in the environment we are and doing what-it-is we’re doing here at RRT.  There are too few people in life that truly get to do what they are passionate about. It was late 2010 when we opened our doors, but I couldn’t help but to feel like there was 10 years leading-up to this day. My personal growth and never ending love for the outdoors needed a home base.  With like minded friends we had the opportunity to create just that. The original idea for RRT was actually a story telling, trip planning cafe, but Roads Rivers and Trails would become much more.

CEFEveryday I look for new adventures but also new ways to share them.  RRT was never created to be a retail giant, nor was it purchased as a retirement hobby: It was created from scratch and is an adventure unto itself.  For me, adventure exists year-in and year-out through Alaska back country trips and AT visits, but adventure is also in creating running groups, educating today’s youth, organizing presentations, and preparing people young-and-old for adventures of a lifetime. One of the very first lessons I learned, and the backbone of RRT, is that it’s about sharing the experience. Through this adventure I’ve been part of more adventures than one could dream, and although I’ve had my own summits and trails completions I can honestly say my greatest satisfaction is having been there when new friends have experienced their own.  Twice now I have reached the summit of Katahdin (plus two times on my own) and shared in the pure explosion of emotions from thru-hikers, acting as more of a spectator as they finish their crowning achievement. Teaching and then leading inner city kids from classroom to trail, I have seen strangers from different schools cooperate and explore together, often for the first time.  With each day the definition of adventure changes and grows to be more than I ever expected.

Camping and Education FoundationRRT is a tool that we created: A tool that fuels adventure and drives passion. That is our business at it’s core; Our business is us. As the little guy in the market we don’t have command of supply chains, nor do we have extensive capital or corporate support, but what we found is that we don’t need those things to succeed.   In life and in business it seems it is never about the advantages that you have but the disadvantages that you overcome.  These lessons are often taught in nature, where self discovery and personal awareness last a lifetime. I challenge you all to escape to nature, even if right now you find yourself sitting at a desk.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember the first time that you let that adventurous spirit in. Let it fill your lungs once again.

Dream big, and share often.