A few days ago I posted a message explaining I was selling off all of my hiking gear to prepare for a “new adventure” in life.
Since than I have received countless messages from hikers around the world sharing their thanks and stories with me – it has been touching, so thank you to all of you as well.
The messages that I have received from folks I have emailed once, to the folks that I email on a weekly basis, have all been truly heartfelt.
There have also been the handful of typical ‘haters’ out there that I expected and like always they stayed true to form. Not really all that much to say to them (you?) other than if you are so filled with turmoil in your life that you have to trash talk other hikers, than I hope you stay in front of your computer and not out on the trail because the trail does not need people like you out there.
The New Adventure:
So what is this “new adventure” I have planned for my life – and I should have explained it better to begin with – that has me selling off all of my gear?
It is two-fold actually.
First, I am missing my family.
Second, I am missing the desert.
Now neither of these are “sad” they just are fact. It is a longing of the soul, not a sad longing, rather an exciting longing because I know I am going to be going back to what and where I love.
For 17 years I have lived in the heart of the magnificent Redwood trees of Northern California. I have traveled around the USA multiple times, and been overseas twice, and no matter where I go the Redwood forest has continued to be the place that is the most beautiful location in the country. I will always be convinced of that. I moved here 17 years ago because half of my family relocated to the Redwoods. Over the last 10 years they have all moved away to find work and less expensive places to live at. I have been on my own here for over five years, and while I have friends, friends are not family. Half of my family lives 750 miles North of me, and the other half of my family lives 750 miles South of me. One would think being in the middle would make things easier, but all it really means is very little time spent with any of them. I, and they, are all getting older by the year. Those of you who have gotten to a point in your life that you realize what that means, know what it means.
I grew up in the deserts of Southern California – I knew every mountain, every valley, and every water hole from Big Bear to Barstow to Tehachapi to Johnson Valley. Growing up in the desert, I helped restore the Kelso Depot, I did tracking of the endangered wildlife (including being the first to track the Bighorn Sheep into that region), I called hole-in-the-wall (now called the ‘Mojave National Preserve’) a second home. The deserts where my play ground. I miss them. I do not miss the heat though. I remember fishing on Big Bear Lake since I was old enough to be in a boat. I remember getting home from school and driving up there to go bass fishing. In other words, I have a lot of memories of SoCal and the older I get the more I tend to remember them.
But more than the memories of places are the people. My father still lives there, my step brothers live there, and while I know the area is a rat hole, there are a few places that a person can move to that are still safe and fun and not over the top expensive to live at. I am 38 years old at this point and the years are just moving by faster and faster it seems.
So the new adventure is a new start ‘back home’. It might not happen until next year or it might happen in a few months. I own a business that I have to relocate 750+ miles away, try to find a place to live while making quick (and expensive) trips down there, plus trying to pick up and move nearly 20 years of your life is never easy.
Am I getting out of hiking?
No, I am not giving up hiking.
I am not going to stop writing gear reviews.
I am not going to stop answering the dozen+ emails I get a week from hikers around the world.
None of that is the plan – and I sincerely apologize to all of my faithful readers if you thought my previous message was indicating that.
Concepts of hiking:
Hiking. The plan the last few years has been simple: as a hiker we have to build the best set of gear that we can for the conditions in which we hike the most in. So many hikers just do not understand this concept because they are weekend only hikers – and that is fine. For anybody who does long distance hiking you know that gear is just the tool to allow you to enjoy your time out there on the trail – but at the same time being out there with gear that meets the needs of the trail you are hiking on is key. I have spent 99% of my time hiking in the middle of a rain forest and all of my gear setups have revolved around dealing with wet conditions. Now I realize (again) that many of you are just going to say “but a gear setup is a gear setup” and I suppose in the end that is true – and it use to be for me. But the more I pushed the UL world, than the SUL world, and eventually the insane XUL world of hiking, the more I realized a “single backpack setup” is a dangerous way to approaching hike. Yes, people walk into a REI (or name your big box store of choice) and pick up a complete setup and than go and hike the PCT or AT or other trails. Those hikers learn an insane amount about their gear along the way, often times replacing much of their gear in different towns, but not always. So I am not saying that a single backpack setup is not doable. It is simply not the way that I have approached hiking. It has been about the concepts of hiking.
This is a term that many of the people I have come to call friends over the last few years have probably heard me use a lot. Simply put, I have not been content with hiking. I mean, I love to hike, I love being out there on the trail, and all of that – but I have also loved getting into the concepts of how to improve hiking. Techniques to help improve your life, changes to gear to make things easier or better or lighter. Some folks enjoy taking a book with them when they hike, others like taking their music with them, me, I spend most of my time pondering up new ideas, new concepts, of how to improve gear and new concepts of how to approach the many issues of long distance hiking, and taking other peoples concepts and expanding on them. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I love spending my brain time working on ways to make things better for me as a hiker – maybe not you, but me.
So for me, not having a single backpack setup has been all about the concept of hiking that says I can go lighter with gear that is designed for a specific purpose for a specific hike for a specific hiker. Over the last few years I have had a number of products custom designed just for me, just for a specific hike. Three of them have now made it into full production and are being used by hikers around the world. All because along the way a concept, and idea, was formed that there are better ways to approach gear I was carrying – better ways to design the gear – for specific purposes.
I suppose it could be said that I took the “multiple use gear” concept and threw it right out the door. Regardless of how illogical that was. Sometimes they allowed me to be able to combine multiple items for less weight and less bulk than the multi-purpose item I had been carrying and using. And, sometimes the ideas just never worked out. My house if filled with prototype gear that were nothing more than a concept proven invalid.
Articles such as this one have caused me to spend countless hours pondering on issues such as how different backpack designs, different ways to load your backpack, the use of LBV’s and pack weight, all can be changed in the effort to provide a long distance ultralight hiker the ability to perform better.
As any long distance hiker knows, beyond the physical challenges of trying to keep your body from breaking down, the ability to keep your mind occupied is the biggest cause of getting off the trail. While the body has not always performed, and sometimes the weather has not played nice, all but one of my long distance hikes have been completed because I was able to keep my mind focused – and I did that by contemplating gear related issues. Yes, it got old, but it always helped me keep going.
So what does all of this have to do with selling all of my gear and having a new adventure in life?
I suppose it all comes down to the fact that every single piece of gear that I have bought has been purchased in the quest to have it perform as perfectly as possible in the types of environments in which I hike (rain forests, alpines). When I eventually get relocated to the deserts of Southern California, I want to be able to have a clean slate. A totally fresh approach to how to go out into the harsh extremes of the desert as light as possible and as safe as possible. Much of the gear I have now could be used in the deserts, of that I will agree. But it is just not how I work. It just does not fall into line with my concepts and approach to hiking. I like to tackle a new challenge in life from a perspective of doing it from the ground up. Plus, on a more realistic side of things, I have so much gear that I just really do not look forward to moving all of it 750+ miles. I doubt I am going to be able to make a single trip when the time comes to move, but I am going to try! That means getting rid of as much stuff as possible. I truly do have boxes and boxes of hiking gear sitting around my house.
So, until the time comes that I end up moving, yes, I will still be writing reviews. (I have four of them ready to be published, just waiting on the companies to have the product in stock)
I will still be out there on trail (but not as much) hiking.
I will still be answering emails and getting to know hikers and learning and teaching.
What I am going to stop doing is videos – they are just such a massive investment in time. Many, many, outdoorsmen on youtube are beginning to realize this. The “Bushman of Yukon” said it so well in his video.
A new adventure awaits me – but really it is just a return to what once was. Time spent with my family and time spent in the desert learning to approach it from whole new perspective, just as I have done within the Redwoods for the last few years! I hope everybody out there will continue to follow me and continue to share your life with me as I do for you, and will be patient with me over the course of time as I transition from the majestic Redwoods to the subtle beauty of the deserts. My time to write truly detailed articles is going to go down a bit, but rest assured I have no plans on stopping and giving up on hiking! Just the opposite, I very very much look forward to applying the skill sets I have learned over the last few years to the harshness that is the Mojave desert and the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains. I suspect for the vast majority of my readers this will actually be an advantageous change, as I realize that the vast majority of you do not spend your times in a rainforest, as I have done for nearly the last two decades, and as a result will be dealing with gear and trail life much more along the lines of what most of you realistically use when you head out onto the trail. I look forward to the challenges of this new adventure and I really look forward to meeting a lot of new hikers – there are not a whole lot of us up here in the Redwoods.