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

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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 the...


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 women...


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...


Episode #70 - Jack Masters (Vagabond Jack)

Jack Masters is a member of the Class of 2018. While he's been interested in the possibility of hiking the appalachian Trail, a year ago it didn't seem likely. But life changes, and Jack has had a tumultuous year. Despite this, he has taken control of and redirected his life and, in a couple of short weeks, Vagabond Jack will be testing himself once more. He even decided to travel and hitched his wagon to hit the road. I met Jack as a listener to my show. We emailed back and forth and...


Episode #69 - JD and Amanda Antonen (Yak and Walks With Fire)

I met JD Antonen on the Appalachian Trail in 2014 and, as one often did, we shared the odd meal in a shelter and ran into one another from time to time. He was out of the military and had just suffered a traumatic life event, so his journey up the east coast of America was not without internal strife. Yet, as he made his way north, he succumbed to the beauty of the trail, the kindness of people, and the realization that he didn't have to do it all alone. Yet, when he returned home, he...


Episode #68 - Damien and Renee Tougas (The Von Trapp Family)

Damien and Renee Tougas have always made sure that their children were able to experience the outdoors. So it seemed a fairly natural fit to take the entire family on the Appalachian Trail in 2014. To help fund their adventure they produced a high-quality video series that followed their journey. For each member of the family, it was harder than they had expected. Despite their hardships–compounded when Renee had to leave the trail for much of the last 500 miles–they eventually...


Episode #67 - Nate and Sharon Harrington (The Hiking Vikings)

We first met Nate and Sharon at Trail Days in Damascus earlier in 2017. I was initially fascinated by the signs of Katahdin that Nate was selling, but he had such a compelling story to tell so I went back to him and Sharon to do a full interview. Life (or young Hank) got in the way between then and now, so it wasn't until recently that we were able to complete the interview. Neither of the children was awake as we talked, though Asher Thomas (AT) decided that he had something to say after...


Episode #66 - Zach Davis (Badger)

Zach Davis didn't hike a long-distance trail until 2011, yet he was intuitively aware of the need to prepare himself mentally for the hike. Establishing his "why" allowed him to be ready for the problems that he would inevitably encounter on the trail. The fact that he contracted West Nile Disease and carried it until the end of the trail is further testimony to his desire to fulfill his goal. When Zach returned from the AT, he wrote his best-selling book, Appalachian Trials to assist...


Episode #65 - Julie Gayheart (Jester)

Julie Gayheart is a very active section hiker, having completed a 12-year thru-hike in 2017, while within 800 miles of a second thru-hike spread over a number of years. Steve and Julie find plenty to discuss and laugh about in their conversation, She has a passion for the AT that shines through, feeling that it is on the AT that she is the best version of herself. Julie had plenty of problems at Mt Moosilauke in consecutive years, so much so that she regards that glorious mountain as...


Episode #64 - Jim Kern

Meet Jim Kern, a veteran of the hiking world, yet on a mission to CLOSE THE GAPS on America's trails. He has hiked all over the world, yet his passion is here at home in Florida, with the Florida Trail. Jim started the Florida Trail in 1966, when a lot of us were in short pants back at school, while many of us weren't even born yet. Watch this short YouTube video to get a feel of what the trail is about. The picture above is of Jim overlooking the Appalachian Trail in 1967. In our...


Episode #63 - Kyle Rohrig (The Mayor)

Kyle Rohrig was one of the first people I wanted to interview on my podcast, so it is somehow fitting that it has taken me more than 60 episodes to finally get the chance to speak with him. For me, it was worth the wait. He comes across as a modest, quiet guy with hiking now firmly in his blood. He made an attempt on the Continental Divide Trail this summer to complete his Triple Crown. The weather played a part in aborting that hike, yet he has now set himself up the opportunity to...


Episode #62 - Jessica Mills (Dixie)

Jessica Mills has become something of a YouTube sensation, with her Appalachian Trail videos securing a base of support during her 2015 thru-hike. However, that support has grown exponentially this year, as she took on, and beat, the Pacific Crest Trail, battling the snow in the Sierras, then smoke from fires the rest of the way. Her breezy delivery, thoughtful commentary, great pictures (including some taken from a drone, and sheer bravado in the face of difficult conditions, have made...


Episode #61 - Judy Mikesell

A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail isn’t everybody’s idea of the best way to spend time in the woods. Judy Mikesell became interested in the trail through her son’s thru-hike several years ago. She knew that she didn’t want to thru-hike but she certainly wanted to visit the various parts of the trail. Her novel approach has enabled her to build her own version of hiking the AT without ever needing to go without a shower or needing to use a privy. To try to get as full an AT experience...


Episode #60 - Stacey Bucklin (Stylez)

I'm back with my class of 2014 again. This week, we have another of those powerful, independent women, Stacey Bucklin, or Stylez. Stacey had wanted to do the trail for quite some time and, when the time was right, she walked away from a job and went on her adventure. She rightly notes in our interview that interrupting your career path isn't necessarily a bad thing. Stacey is truly passionate about the trail and hiking and the outdoors in general. She even shares her current home with...


Episode #59 - Silas Schroeder (Pepper)

The Appalachian Trail is a test for hikers at any stage in life and many people hike their own hikes vicariously through their family members. One of our listeners, Rick Schroeder, sent me an email to thank me for our podcast. While doing so, he mentioned that his son, Silas, had just completed a thru-hike if the trail in September. I was immediately interested in talking with Silas, as his Dad shared some of the changes in Silas that had taken place during his recent adventure. I was not...


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