For those who may be new to this site…
My name is Zach Davis (aka the Good Badger). I am a 25 year old dude who recently finished thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Why the Good Badger is Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The following were my reasons for my hiking the AT.
1) Mini-retirement. I was inspired by Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week, in which he argues, instead of working your whole life toward a retirement that can only be mildly enjoyed due to physical decay from old age and mental deterioration from four to five decades of unfulfilling work, to break up your life into “mini-retirements” in which you give yourself a mental refresher. Unquestionably a great concept.
2) A challenge. I am the last person who should be accomplishing such a task as hiking 2,179 consecutive miles. Physically I’m up for the task. Experience wise, however, no one is more unprepared. I’ve slept in a tent twice in my life. I possess zero outdoor skills. If I can pull this off, I’ve successfully turned a glaring weakness into a major strength.
3) Re-evaluation. Undeniably I am bummed out about what technology is doing to the world around us. For all of the unlimited potential of technological advances (e.g. education, health care, renewable energy), the way in which the average person uses technology is highly addictive, isolating, and mostly depressing. Try talking to someone in my generation for 20 minutes without them checking their phone. I dare you. I’m not pointing fingers. I am very guilty of this. I want to get away from it. I could close my accounts and vow to change my lifestyle- but I’m opting for time in the trees to formulate my thesis on how I fear society is heading to shit. I want to help fix this. (Warning: It will be more than 140 characters.)
If you want to learn more about the why, read: Technology Overdose: There’s An App for That
How the Good Badger is Preparing for the Appalachian Trail
A wise man once said, “the best remedy for anxiety is to have your roommate throw hardcover books at your face.” ~ Socrates (probably)
In an attempt to gain attention to my thru-hike in hopes of obtaining gear sponsorship (which actually worked), I created a series of satirical videos poking fun at my utter camping incompetence.
Badger’s AT Thru-Hike in a Nutshell
Here’s my best attempt of summarizing the craziest half year of my life…
To document my journey, I first made a conscious effort to turn my website into an Appalachian Trail Blog.
Upon arriving on the trail, it took only three days for my inexperience (see: lack of intelligence) to surface (I burnt a gaping hole in my socks). The beginning of my adventure was pure insanity to the power of heightened awareness. I quickly learned that my experience was going to be chock full of extreme highs and lows (such as [not] sleeping through 14 degree temperatures). Eventually the insanity of my new lifestyle (including wild ponies, snakes, and morning strolls to giant waterfalls) turned into my new routine, rendering a whole host of new habits.
The biggest glaring aspect of trail life that immediately stood out to me was the random acts of kindness from strangers. Although living in the woods can be a challenging lifestyle at times, in this regard, it is clearly superior to actual reality.
After taking a quick detour from the trail to interview with Google, I began hiking by myself for the first time. I learned that finding peace in times of solidarity is one of the greatest benefits of hiking the AT (though it is great fun to watch those that you’re hiking with eat shit while trying to cross a river). It isn’t until you spend long periods alone that you start to learn of life’s profound truths.
While crossing through Virginia, I had anticipated myself to fall victim to “The Virginia Blues“. I didn’t. It became clear that what people have labeled as the blues merely their confusing the end of the honeymoon stage. I also anticipated getting into the best cardio-vascular shape of my life. This did happen.
After crashing at our favorite trail angel‘s house for a couple of days, he offered to take us on a brief detour of the trail up a river alongside the Shenandoah National Park. Lots of gear was ruined. Lots of fun was had.
It is ritual that once a hiker passes the halfway mark, they stop at the nearest convenience store to participate in the half gallon challenge (eating a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting). The only reason I was able to complete the challenge, was due to the lack of time constraint. I am 95% sure I hold the record for longest time (and am damn proud of it).
Once into the northern half of the trail, I learned first hand of what people had been warning me about: “Pennsylvania is rocky as fuck”. It’s true (parts of it, not all). I was dealt a series of challenges (including what was thought as severe and chronic dehydration) in a relatively short time span, testing my will to stay on the trail. I passed with flying colors (if I do say so myself).
The latter portion of my trip was spent reflecting on the life I had left behind, and exactly what I wanted to go back to (more importantly, what I didn’t want to go back to). And before I knew it, I had successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.
The Awesome People Who’ve Helped to Make This Possible
The number of people who have helped in this process is truly humbling. Here’s one quick story on how awesome fate has been to the Good Badger & John so far:
Event #1: While at a networking event, I tell a friend about my plans to hike the Appalachian Trail- in the process I complain about the cost of supplies. He suggests checking out Jen Friel’s site Talk Nerdy to Me, Lover, an extremely successful “lifecaster” who has utilized social media to get companies to, in essence, sponsor her life.
Event #2: I e-mail Jen directly for advice. I’ve never been shy about reaching out to people smarter than myself (99% of the population) for help. Her response exceeded my expectations. She posted my e-mail on her site, and offered a very heartfelt response and asked her community to help me out.
Event #3: Approximately three minutes later, the guys at Camping Gear TV, reached out and offered to help me obtain sponsorship.
Event #4: Since then, I’ve been working with the awesome people over Hi-Tec USA, and they’ve been benevolent enough to help John and I with some extremely high quality boots and jackets. The people who work at Hi-Tec are every bit as high quality as their products and because of this, they’ve definitely earned two new customers for life.
This is only one example of many in where good fortune has been dealt to both the Good Badger and John.
And It started with a conversation over cocktails.
Dreams manifest if you are willing to invest the energy.
I am indefinitely grateful to the many people and companies who have helped make this very anxiety ridden process much easier. I am excited and fortunate to have them as part of this process.
A very special thank you to: Hi Tec, Innate, The Dusty Camel, Camping Gear TV, Jen Friel, Eureka!, Tech4o, Silva Compass, Jill Bandur, …. and the list grows every day.
Update: Now that I have completed my thru-hike, I have a whole host of other people to thank. So, thank you.