Twerk (Tommy)

Mile 2,591

 
 
 

(1) Where are you from?

I grew up in Redding, California but have been living in Portland, Oregon for 4 years.

(2) What day did you start?

April 15th.

(3) What day did you finish?

October 5th.

(4) Do you have a trail name?

Twerk!

(5) If so, where did it come from?

Exactly where you would think. ;)

(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?

A hot bath when it was cold, an ice cold soda when it was hot as hell, a salad when I was sick of eating Clif Bars and Ramen - sometimes I would even miss my parents and my family when I found myself alone for a period of days. I also dreamed of all the things I wanted to accomplish after the trail and that if I just kept walking, those things would happen if I finished the trail.

(7) Did you experience anything miraculous?

Friendships. Real, genuine, beautiful friendships.

(8) Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?

Yes. One of the most perfect days in Washington. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and I sat on this huge rock overlooking Glacier Lake (Mile 2450). As I sat there eating my dehydrated bean dip in a tortilla and relaxing on the edge of this giant granite rock, I noticed a butterfly circlingg around me. It would land on my pack, then on my camera then on my food bag. It kept flying around me for about 5 minutes until I just stuck out my finger. Within seconds, it landed on my finger and just sat there. It flapped it’s little wings and just stayed there. If the trail teaches you anything, it’s to enjoy the most simple of moments. I was having a hard time that last stretch. The trail was almost over and I couldn’t figure out how to process my emotions. The butterfly was a reminder that everything was going to be okay. It took my mind off of reaching the Canadian border and just let me sit there and be as present as I ever could be.

(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?

My motivation. I think back to a year ago when I was working a shit bartending job that I couldn’t stand. It got to the point where I rather castrate myself than work for one hour there. I was extremely depressed and gaining a lot of weight. I had no creative drive or energy. I thought I might be doomed to just work as a bartender until I was 70. It almost makes me tear up when I think that I let myself to get that point. Now, today, I have walked 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I have felt the highest highs and the lowest of lows, but I always kept walking. Not only that, but I created a photo project during my entire hike and completed that. Getting here to the Northern Monument to me means a lot of things, but in the sense of my future successes, it means that I can never EVER tell myself that I am not capable of accomplishing something that I’m passionate about.

(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?

The people. It’s the biggest reason I take hiker portraits because I knew it would be the thing that I would miss the most. A lot of people take photos of the epic views, the plants, the wildlife. To me, the nature is a really big bonus, but in the end, it’s these humans that I want to remember forever.

(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?

Not finishing. I had a failed thru hike last year. I walked about 900 miles before I eventually thought “this isn’t for me”. About a month later, I was missing the trail so bad that it eventually threw me into a deep depression. I felt like a failure. It felt even more miserable when my friends I hiked with started finishing the trail months later. I was incredibly disappointed in myself. Returning this year, I told myself on my very first mile, “You’re finishing this you little bitch. Whether you like it or not, you’re making it to Canada. You are not coming back a third time. Just walk.” That little voice subdued really quickly because at Mile 5 of 2,650, I broke out into tears because never in my life did I feel like I was supposed to be exactly where I was. I was home and this time, I wasn’t afraid.

(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?

Sad, devastated and maybe even a little bit of a lonely feeling that this life is now over? Completely. Fearful? Definitely not. I think it’s stupid for me to be fearful because fear coincides doubt. I understand why a lot of hikers fear leaving the trail because a lot of us have no idea what comes next. However, doing something on a scale such as 2,650 miles and 5 months of living in the woods, it teaches you that you are capable of anything you put your mind to. Cliché, yes, but usually clichés are unconditionally bona fide. I have no excuse to be afraid. I didn’t just climb that mountain, I climbed many mountains, and I plan on to keep climbing them because at the top is a new lesson learned and an incredible goal achieved.

(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?

The interaction between humans. It’s genuine, its raw and it’s beautiful. We acknowledge each other even if at the moment we are strangers. There is an unspoken kindness and unconditional love and respect for each other. The camaraderie is unparalleled in any other community I’ve ever seen or been apart of. Any thru hiker will tell you that the trail has changed their life, and I think it’s because of the genuine interactions you experience with other hikers that change you. You can hike with a person for a couple hours and immediately be friends - regardless of your age, race, sexuality, ect. You could hike and camp with someone for a week and then remember you don’t know their real name because we all introduce ourselves by our trail names. This is the best I can put it into words. It’s really something you can only understand by walking in the woods for 6 months with other humans. But I will tell you, it’s magical.