Where do you call home?
Home for me is Augusta, Maine. Lived there for the first 18 years of my life, and I still love going back.
What do you currently do for a living and how did you get into this field?
After graduating in May with a degree in psychology, I got a job as a children’s targeted case manager in the central Maine area. When I first applied to college, I thought engineering would be my path. After quickly declaring “Undecided,” my first two years of school were mostly spent thinking I would eventually go to law school. However, at the end of my sophomore year, I had realized that psychology was where my true interests were…and that my previous career aspirations were mainly status/financially driven.
So, you have started hiking the Florida Trail, how has that been for you so far?
The Florida Trail has been amazing! Starting in the Keys was a good way to get the feet broken in, and I can't complain about the weather. The hardest part is waking up almost every morning with a tent that's soaked from dew. Being from Maine, the wilderness that I'm seeing in Florida has been unlike anything I've ever seen before in my life. Cypress domes, palm prairies, expansive farmland, and endless dikes… I'm enjoying every bit of it. The network of volunteers and trail angels down here is amazing, as well. They're always posting updates on Facebook, and they really love getting to know all the hikers (with only about 50 per season, it isn't hard to do!). I must say, though…I'm glad I'm doing this BEFORE the AT. Listening to a few hikers that have already done other long trails, much of what I hear is disappointment with the anticlimactic Florida Trail. If you saw in one of my previous posts, I have decided to call this The Trail of Hidden Reward. You don't get the summit views, the rolling hills, the beautiful forest lakes… but what you do get is much more of a mental reward. The reward is knowing you've walked across a state that most Americans would never dream of hiking thru. The reward is meeting locals and telling them about the national scenic trail that happens to pass right thru their sleepy old town. The reward is seeing and enjoying these towns, to which I will likely never return.
What is your ultimate hiking goal for this year?
KATAHDIN OR DIE.
Also, I want to meet new people… and complete the half gallon challenge.
Why did you choose this trail?
I've always known about the Appalachian Trail. When I got interested in hiking about 3 years ago, it seemed like this giant pinnacle that I would never have the opportunity to reach. As graduation got nearer, I suddenly realized how possible it would actually be. After doing a little bit of research, of course, I came across the Eastern Continental Trail. Here's the thing: before college, I was always an over-achiever. I guess this hike is my way of proving to myself that I can still impress even myself. For some reason, the AT wasn't enough. I wanted to be able to tell myself that I did something that far fewer people actually accomplish. So, I'm stopping at Katahdin. No need to continue into Quebec. It will be special for me to end this journey so close to home.
What was your starting base weight at the beginning of your trip (all carried weight in your pack, minus consumables like water, food and fuel)? What will your Max weight be with everything?
My starting weight, calculated using my very accurate 10-years-old body weight scale in my parents’ bathroom, was 12.8 lbs. After sending a few things home a couple weeks ago, I believe I dropped that to about 11 lbs. With 2 liters of water and 4 days of food, I'm probably sitting right around 20-25 lbs total.
What are the Top 3 pieces of gear you can’t live without?
Hmmm well my favorite would have to be this pretty sweet pack that I got from a relatively new company out of Utah. It's called Waymark…you may have heard of it ;) Aside from that, I love my EE 30 degree Revelation quilt, and I definitely couldn’t live without my Melly.
What Luxury items will you be carrying that aren’t critical to your survival or safety?
Can I say Nutella here? That stuff is basically a constant factor in my pack. I also have a pair of pink Walmart socks that I got so I could wear dry socks at night when I needed them. I'm thinking of sending those home. I guess you could say my NeoAir isn't critical to my survival. Same with the pee bottle that I've had since south Florida.
Name 1 thing you will miss most about leaving civilization for your hike.
Easiest question on here… My dog. Kevin is my best friend. He was going to be joining me, but logistics would've been a nightmare and he would probably try to be friends with every rattlesnake he saw.
What skill would you like to learn that would help you on the trail?
I mean…it would be cool to know how to make a fire with my bare hands. But that wouldn't help much in general. Lighters and matches are pretty reliable. I took a first aid course years ago, but I suppose Wilderness First Aid would be a useful tool to add to my bag of tricks.
What is 1 personal strength you feel will help you most on the trail?
I’m a very outgoing person. While there weren't many hikers on the Florida Trail, there were plenty of times that we had to interact with locals who had no clue about the national scenic trail that went right thru their town. Some people think those moments are awkward. I saw it as part of the whole experience. I'm also certain that this trait will help on the AT, as it's frequently referred to as “the most social” of the big three trails.
What is 1 personal weakness that will conflict with this strength?
Sometimes, I have a low tolerance for stupid people. Because of how outgoing I am, it can be difficult to hide my opinions when someone around me is doing something, well, stupid. That being said, I'll try my best to keep my mouth shut on the AT.
Name 1 person, a trail celebrity or other, who has inspired you most to get on the trail.
Just 1 person? Hmmm… I guess my biggest inspiration in planning this trip had to have been Jupiter. The Beast from the East. Beast Coast. I watched his videos religiously, and even sent him a couple questions, to which he responded with paragraph after paragraph of helpful information about the Keys, the mainland route to get to Big Cypress, the Alabama roadwalk, and a lot more.
Name 1 person you’d like to meet on the trail.
I would love to meet Jabba (the Hiking Viking). He seems like a hilarious person to be around, and I've heard great stories from a couple people that have actually met him on trail. He seems like a sweet person to party with.
Name 1 animal you have seen or would most like to see on the trail.
There were a lot of snakes in Florida. Water Moccasins, Banded Water Snakes, Black Racers, coral snakes, and some kind of rattlesnake…but I never saw a python, which I was pretty disappointed about. I also saw a few black bears down there. One mother perusing someone’s front yard with her cub, and a couple more strolling down a dirt road.
Are you looking more for solitude or for a social experience on this hike?
While I'm a very social creature, I enjoy the time that I get to myself. Literally hiking with someone throughout the day is next to impossible, but there have been a few people that made the first half of this journey much less lonely than it would've been otherwise. That being said, I've been super excited to get to the highly social world of the AT. I think this is where I'll slow down and enjoy the company.
What lessons can we take from the wilderness, and how can we apply them to Urban life?
I'm a fan of the motto “Keep calm and…” Fill in your own blank. Out here in the woods, life is gonna throw you a lot of curveballs. With 15 lbs on your back, the resources you have to deal with those curveballs are limited. Rain isn't gonna hurt you. It might dampen your day a little, but you're still in good health and you're still doing this thing. I think off-trail inconveniences are gonna be laughable when I'm done with this hike. Wilderness teaches you to appreciate the little things, and it also teaches you not to sweat the other little things.
Tell us how we can connect with you and your organizations on all of your social networks:
Facebook is for my family to know I'm still alive, and will probably be deleted again when I'm done. Instagram is the best place to find me @samwell_hop. I've managed to make it 1900 miles without getting a trail name, so I still go by Sam