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Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail: The Ultimate Mid-Life Crisis

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Episode #91 - Linnea Van Manen (Shiver)

Linnea Van Manen struggled with Lyme Disease as a young girl and felt the effects through her teens. Lyme manifested itself by intense bouts of bursitis in her knees, so much so that a year before heading out to the Appalachian Trail for a solo thru-hike, Linnea was confined to a wheelchair for some of the time. She was a flip-flopper (or OBOer) and spread her hike over an eleven month period with seven months of hiking, much of it utterly alone. Despite all manner of incidents and...


Episode #90 - Kayla McCarthy (Popeye)

Kayla McCarthy, her father, and her mother set out to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2014. Only Kayla and her mother reached Katahdin as her father injured himself and had to leave the trail. As Kayla told her story I was struck by how much the dynamic of their hike had to change, with Kayla stepping up into a partnership with her mother, as opposed to being the daughter of a couple. The trail throws interesting conundrums at you as you hike and any observer of Kayla and Molly could see the...


Episode #89 - Tom Healy (Toasted Toad)

This week's guest, Tom Healy, is somebody who I hiked around for a while in 2014. He seemed so comfortable out in the woods that I assumed that he had been a lifetime hiker. It turns out that, like me, this was his first long-distance hike. Since he completed the Appalachian Trail, Tom has spent more and more of his life hiking longer trails and regards it as his lifestyle. As we spoke in this interview I found a few more similarities in our journey, but it was in the post-hike worlds...


Episode #88 - Eli Best

This week, Eli Best tells me about the journey she took on the Camino De Santiago back in 2004. She had suffered a heart attack and organ failure several years before and the Camino was her way of testing herself in a life that had almost been written off. She shared the journey with an old friend of Steve's. Colin Bowles had moved to Australia as a teenager and found fame as an author while there, writing under the name of Colin Falconer. Their journey together was transformative in...


Episode #87 - Spencer Leebolt and Blaike Bateman (Pit Boss and Play By Play)

Spencer Leebolt and Blaike Bateman have almost reached the halfway mark on the Appalachian Trail. Spencer is Blaike's stepfather and, although he had originally intended to hike the trail on his own, he took the opportunity to introduce Blaike to the trail for the adventure of his (early) lifetime. Blaike is just 14 years old. Steve found them to be very much a team, with each having the other's back. They have been videoing their journey, so you can keep up with them on YouTube at...


Episode #86 - Devan Horn (Shawty)

For a hiking show, Devan Horn wouldn't normally belong. Yet this extraordinary woman, a long-distance runner and rider, chose to hike the Colorado Trail while her party of five other women did it on horseback. She was able to draw distinctions and comparisons between the two modes of transport and provides great insights. She also took part in two Mongol Derbys, with a third coming this year. Click on the link to see more details and wild video of this amazing race. When our...


Episode #84 - James Smyle (Mayhem)

This weekend, April 28 and 29, the Flip Flop Festival will be held in the adjoining towns of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, partly to celebrate the beginning of the outdoor season in Harpers Ferry but, more significantly, it is actively promoting flip-flop hikes as a viable, responsible approach to hiking the Appalachian Trail. James Smyle earned the name of Mayhem when he did his first thru-hike, back in the 90s, but the more laid back Mayhem went again in 2016, this time as a...


Episode #83 - Mike Carbonneau (Strummystick)

Mike Carbonneau loves to play music on the trail. He is a section hiker who fell in love with hiking in his 50s. Since then, he has been taking on large sections as he makes his way towards a completion of the Appalachian Trail. He has combined this love of hiking with a love of music, organizing several trips to the trail with a group of like-minded young musicians. Mike usually uses a strumstick to entertain folks and three of his recordings are scattered throughout today's show. If...


Episode #82 - Daniel White (The Blackalachian)

Daniel White is something of a rarity on the Appalachian Trail. Black people are unrepresented on hiking trails and Daniel provides us with, perhaps, some of the unhappy reasons for that underrepresentation. He hiked in 2017 and found the trail to be an unexpected source of love and light. Daniel and Steve discuss what it feels like for a young black man to "go into the woods" and Daniel has a few stories to share that would be unlikely to be part of a white man's experience. As with...


Episode #81 - Ben Montgomery

With so many future histories being made right now on the Appalachian Trail, Ben Montgomery brings us the story behind the story of Grandma Gatewood. Ben is a former Pulitzer Prize finalist and transitioned from journalist to writer when he discovered the tale of Grandma Gatewood. That she happened to be a distant relative didn't hurt his case. Ben and Steve discuss her life and hike in their conversation, as well as the human connection that Ben made with this indomitable woman. Ben...


Episode #80 - Ben Barbante (Juan Durer)

Juan Durer has certainly earned his trail name. Once he had decided that living for now was far better than waiting for retirement, he has been a man on a mission. He hikes then moves on to the next hike. When Steve caught up with him, he was just two miles into another long-distance hike. He is rational, indeed intentional, with the life he is leading and his laugh comes easily and is contagious. Since he finished the AT in 2016, he has hiked in Japan, Australia, Africa, and done "a...


Episode #79 - Maria Wishart (Wheezy Pee)

For Maria Wishart, hiking the Appalachian Trail became part of her life and, when she could no longer drive the distances required to get her AT "fix," her solution was to move to a more convenient spot on the trail. Maria and her husband had shared most of those hiking miles but after the move, her husband was constrained by work, so Maria started hiking on her own. But Maria's story is much more than another hiker doing the trail in sections. She got into hiking when she set foot on...


Episode #78 - Curt Ebert (Disciple)

Curt Ebert was the pastor in his local church when the call came to hike the Appalachian Trail. The remarkable circumstances surrounding that call are introduced in this conversation with Steve. Curt had little hiking experience and, though they were a family who enjoyed the open air and had gone on day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, his decision was, for many reasons, somewhat unusual. Curt's wife was able to join him for the first 50 miles of the trail, then shared the 100 Mile...


Episode #77 - Bill King (Field Trip)

Bill King has had his mind on an Appalachian Trail thru-hike since he listened to a presentation from another thru-hiker. He is a retired school teacher and has found the inspiration to start his flip flop hike in April 2018. Despite a diagnosis of neuropathy in his feet, Bill has simply battled through the pain, taken the appropriate medication and kept moving forward. Bill has an abiding love of nature and expects to be smelling the roses on his way up the trail. He also anticipates...


Episode #76 - Laurie Potteiger (Mountain Laurel)

Laurie Potteiger came to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to help them out prior to her attempted thru-hike in the 1980s. When her hike was over, Laurie returned to the ATC and found her passion–twice. She not only started a career there, she also found her husband! Laurie's quiet intelligence shines through in this conversation, with her extensive knowledge of the trail and its protocols informing her answers. While bear canisters are often required out west, Laurie is eager to see them...


Episode #75 - Anna Huthmaker (Mud Butt)

Anna Huthmaker was one of my more surprising guests. Her story is inspirational on many levels, not least that she took to hiking when substantially overweight or, as she preferred to term it, "curvy." Her self-discovery on this journey enabled her to see herself in a different light and she felt compelled to share her experiences with others who may have been similarly reticent. Forming Trail Dames was a wonderful by-product of her own journey, and she has seen her organization for...


Episode #74 - Jack Jones (Quadzilla)

Jack Jones flip-flopped the Appalachian Trail in 2016, sharing part of his time with two previous guests, Kelly Anderson and Edwin Thullen. He found the physicality of the trail to be relatively easy and, with his military training, he carried a very heavy pack. Here he is in Virginia, with the spectacular view from Dragon's Tooth behind him. His journey to the trail came via adoption from China at age eight, and Jack speaks of the dislocation that caused him, yet the trail brought home...


Episode #73 - Ryan Linn (Guthook)

Ryan Linn has hiked both the Appalachian Trail (in 2007) and the Pacific Crest Trail (in 2010). He gained a true appreciation of the outdoors after college, combining his love of hiking with various jobs in and around the hiking business. It was while he was on the Pacific Crest Trail that he met his eventual business partner, Paul. They were both unsatisfied with the dearth of good, accessible maps for the long trails, and both saw the potential for smartphones within the hiking...


Episode #72 - Paul Magnanti (Paul Mags)

Paul Mags is a man who simply loves being outdoors. He has hiked many trails, completing the Triple Crown of the AT, the PCT, and the CDT, in 2006. He is often alone on these trips, loving the solitude. He manages his life to fit in with his hiking, referring to hiking as his passion. He is a keenly aware of the history of both the various trails and the environment through which they pass. Paul's life isn't for everybody. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that many people would prioritize...


Episode #71 - Matt Philippi (Jersey)

Matt Philippi is not currently looking to do a thru-hike of the AT. For Matt, biting off sections is a satisfying way to de-stress from his job. He contacted me to talk about the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath. It is quite some towpath, running from Washington DC to Cumberland MD and measuring over 184 miles. I had previously intended speaking with Matt but I dropped the ball on that, so it was good to hear from him again. This time, we combined his C&O hike with his experiences...