(1) Where are you from?
(2) What day did you start?
I started from the Mexico border in Campo CA on 4/25/18
(3) What day did you finish?
I finished on 10/6/18 at the Canada border
(4) Do you have a trail name?
My trail name is Bard. I got the name on day 2 from another hiker because I carried an acoustic guitar strapped to my pack. I carried the guitar for the entirety of the trail.
(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?
When things weren’t going well on trail I wouldn’t really day dream, but I would try and focus my thoughts on the next thing I had to look forward to, whether it was a hot dinner or reaching the next town or finishing the last climb of the day, etc. There’s always something to look forward to.
(7) Did you experience anything miraculous?
I don’t think I experienced anything miraculous necessarily, but the trail as a whole was very spiritual for me. And how could it not be? When you are spending that much time in beautiful wilderness and in silence, you definitely feel closer to God.
(8) Any memorable encounters with the elements, or wildlife?
There were too many to recount them all, but one major encounter with the elements that comes to mind was the day hiking into Tuolumne Meadows, CA when we were hit with a huge flash rain/thunder and lightning storm. It was the first major rain we had encountered on trail, and the storm was literally right on top of us. No gap of time between the lightning and thunder, each crack made my ears ring for a few seconds, and the whole sky was black. It took about an hour to wait that one out. And then we didn’t get into camp until after dark that night.
(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?
Ya, My calves are bigger.. Also, A big theme on trail for me was learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You power through tough situations that you didn’t think you could get through, and then come out better for it on the other side. I now truly feel I can exist happily in any ‘uncomfortable’ situation, whether it be physical, mental, social, whatever.
(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?
I miss a lot of things about the trail. I miss the people, I miss falling asleep at night to the light of the stars, or to the yipping of the coyotes or the bugling of the elk.
I miss getting into a small town after 10, 20, 30 miles of hiking, ordering a chicken fried steak, cold beer, and a hot coffee and laughing with friends, so carefree that a bystander would never guess we would be hiking many many more miles the very next day.
(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?
(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?
I’m kind of afraid of night hiking now. There was one time on trail I did the 24 hr challenge which consists of hiking as many miles as you can in one day. So for about 10 of those hours I was hiking through pitch black dark wilderness completely alone. I had to keep my headphones in the whole time so as to not be paranoid by any other noises in the woods. And I definitely lost the trail a couple time. That night was one of the biggest mental tests I’ve ever faced in my life.
(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?
I touched on this earlier, but it’s the comfortable vs the uncomfortable. Most of the hikers on trail, if it’s their first thru-hike, are out of their comfort zones. They are growing as human beings. In the ‘regular’, 9 to 5, excess food, excess shelter, excess everything society that most Americans subscribe to, they are living deeply rooted in a comfort zone, where there is not much risk. On trail you experience so many drastic highs and lows just in one single day, and it is like that for 5 straight months. In the words of John Prine, “you’re up one day, the next you’re down”. But life off trail is more like a flatline, and if you’re not careful it can feel like death.
(14) Would you like to add anything else?
I’ve had many friends ask me questions who are thinking about doing a thru hike themselves, and my advice to anyone thinking about it is to just do it. Buy in fully and do it. It is so so worth it. If you have the mental fortitude, anyone can do this trail. The physical will follow.
I hiked the entire trail with a 50 lb pack, an acoustic guitar, no trekking poles, and only went through 2 pairs of shoes. You can accomplish more than your mind is allowing you to believe, so just go do it. Start becoming comfortable with the ‘uncomfortable’. It will make you a stronger person.