the Good Badger archives

About the Good Badger

Zach Davis is a dude who writes blog posts and occasionally a book. One time he ran a marathon without any training. Another time he walked from Georgia to Maine without any training. Get special discounts on nothing by liking the Good Badger Facebook Page. Also find Zach on Google.

How to Be Happy in 2015

happy in 2015

Pre-AT Good Badger would be lecturing on some sort of New Year’s Resolution path toward mastery right about now.  My feelings toward goals haven’t changed. They’re the single most important factor for creating success.  Instead, my preoccupation with success has taken a backseat to happiness.  Success without happiness is hollow.  It’s a car without an engine.  A basketball hoop without a ball.  A chimi without a changa.

The key to happiness is appreciation.  So I will instead take this opportunity to reflect back and share what most contributed to my happiness in 2014, which can be quite simply be summarized that…

I love what I do.

Back in March I jumped off a career cliff and quit my (very good) job.  I was lost.  Thankfully prior experience has taught me that uncertainty can be as beneficial as it is terrifying.  Instead of focusing on what I didn’t know (namely how I was going to make ends meet), I turned my attention to what I did know.

1) I had zero passion for my career.

2) I again felt a calling toward the AT.

This time not on foot, but online.  Interacting with those who were hellbent on hiking the AT served as a time capsule back to this emotionally dense chapter in my own life.  The incredible opportunities I’ve been given as a result of my hike and this website is something I wanted to give to others.  Without knowing how, I set out to make this happen.

Fast forward nine months, and my life is perfect.  I’m super rich.  I work at most thirty minutes per week.  And I travel more than Ronnie Brewer.

Okay that’s not totally true.  I still struggle to make ends meet.  I work six (or seven) days most weeks.  And I regularly go more than 24 hours without leaving my apartment.

That unsavory picture aside, the past year has been superb. has grown into an award winning outdoor website, and this is supported by quite possibly the world’s greatest community.  I’m also well underway with another project that I’m still keeping locked in my secret² dungeon (a dungeon of secrets whose location is also a secret).

But for the purpose of this post, awards / dungeons are irrelevant.

What matters is that: (a) I sincerely enjoy what I do and (to a way lesser extent, but still necessary) (b) I’m confident I won’t be dangerously poor come this time next year.  The interesting part is that (b) will happen because of (a), not the other way around.  Even with working too much (admittedly, it’s too much), the days don’t drag, I don’t live for the weekend, and most importantly, I’m not dreaming of my next big opportunity.  I’m living it.

Are you willing to live yours?  

Your happiness for the following year may very well be wrapped in that answer.

How Morning Chili Could Be Ruining Your Life

morning chili

(This post is an adapted version of one I recently posted to Appalachian Trials.  If you prefer the PG version I encourage you to head there.  If not, you’ve come to the right fucking place.)

Yesterday, I woke up to a crockpot full of steamy-hot, delicious grass-fed beef and bison chili.  The night before, I dedicated an hour to chopping and dicing onions, garlic, peppers, and jalapenos- then browning these veggies plus meat, mixing it with my soaked and sprouted black beans, tomatoes, and homemade bone broth.  I then set this factory of olfactory orgasmic matter to cook for 10-hours overnight.

Here’s a question- so the fuck what?

Good question.  Stay with me here.

My normal morning routine of late has me drinking a half liter of water followed by a tall cup of coffee blended with butter and coconut oil (a concoction called Bulletproof Coffee– it’s delicious, trust me).  This routine has served me well for two reasons: 1) it’s a good alternative to breakfast since I almost never wake up hungry and 2) Bulletproof Coffee = (crack + adderall) – meth jitters.  This creamy morning goodness gives me laser-sharp focus for the better part of 6 hours without the crash.  My productivity of late has been astronomical, allowing me to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Can you guess what happened when I walked into the kitchen and was immediately punched in the face with the sight and smell of a week’s supply of chili?  You guessed it.  I gave it a taste test.  The taste test turned into manufactured hunger followed by an extra large serving of tortilla-less huevos rancheros.

Again- So. The. Fuck. What?

Finally: the point.

My day’s productivity suffered as a result.  Not only was I not even hungry for breakfast, but I inhaled a pregnant panda’s portion of this meal resulting in all of my brain blood flowing to my fat, stupid stomach.  I could blame my lack of willpower, but willpower requires a thinking brain, something I do not have prior to ingesting caffeine.  The real fault lies with pragmatic Zach- the Zach that is all too aware of the importance of stimulus presentation.  My fate was sealed the minute I made the decision to let a bathtub full of chili be the first thing to greet me in the morning.  I set the stage for a less than productive day.

This error in a single serving (so to speak) is not a huge deal.  After all, my day started with a facegasm and I was able to put in a couple extra hours that night to compensate.  Leaving a delicious, ready-to-eat meal on the counter first thing in the morning every day, however, is how bad habits happen.  I have made a conscious decision to prioritize productivity, I need to create an environment that supports this, and with morning chili I failed myself.

Morning Chili and Kicking Life’s Ass

What is it that you’re prioritizing?

Are you trying to lose weight?  

If so are you staying up late to binge watch House of Cards or are you sending yourself reminders to power down by 9pm so you can get to the gym before work in the morning?  Is a jar of cookie butter staring at you every time you open the cupboard or have you donated all your temptations to friends?  Have you constructed a set of rules for yourself (e.g. The 4-Hour Body) or are you going wrestle your willpower every time hunger strikes.

Are you trying to increase your productivity?

Are you working 8-5, juggling the barrage of incoming requests (emails, texts, Facebook notifications), or are you consciously constructing a series of tasks ordered from most important to least, closing out all distractions, and working until completion?  Upon waking, are you reaching for your phone or setting aside 10 minutes to meditate?  Are you making a plan (like this) to improve your efficacy or are you just going to throw more hours of your day to an inefficient system?

Are you trying to kick life’s ass or are you leaving delicious morning chili on the counter?

lead image: via

Q&A: How Do I Get Over Writer’s Block?

how to get over writers block

We’re introducing a new series to the Good Badger called: “Q&A”, which is short for question and answer.  After a thorough investigation (conducted by me), the conclusion has been reached that I am the unquestioned coiner of this phrase.  You know this claim is valid because you’re reading it on the Internet.   If you have a question you’d like answered, send it here.

Today’s question comes from Zach D in Denver, CO who writes the following:

Hi the Good Badger,

I know you’re probably busy saving baby animals from being abducted by evil corporations, teaching Elon Musk how to build electric cars, and super-modeling, but I was hoping you’d be able to help me with something.

You see, I get great satisfaction from writing.  I enjoy the therapeutic effect of transferring my thoughts to paper, sharing my ideas with others, and doing so in my own unique-as-a-snowflake style.  My problem is that I suffer from tremendous writer’s block.  There are many days where I’d like to write, but I’m either at a loss of ideas or motivation.  What advice can you offer to overcome this?

Thanks.  I bet you smell really good.

– Zach

First and foremost, thanks for the note, Zach.  And you’re absolutely right.  I smell great.

Funny you should ask how to get over writer’s block, because I too currently have fallen into a writing-abyss.  Luckily for you, this is not my first journey to dumb-town (I actually own a timeshare there), and through much first-hand experience, I have found the roadmap back out.

But first, let us address a fun fact about writer’s block

There is no such thing.

That’s right, if we’re defining writer’s block as the mysterious disappearance of the ability or inspiration to write, then the term is total bullshit.  More accurately, it’s Loch Ness shit.  And until you can deliver me a heaping steam of Nessie’s naughty sauce, I will continue to call you a liar.

With this said, writing blocks happen, however it’s not some plague, virus, or curse that robs a writer of their creative energy.

Said voids of production happen as a result ONLY of bad habits.  By and large, these bad habits fall into one of three categories:

1) A Lack of Regimen

If writing is a priority in your life, it must be handled accordingly.  Having access to quite literally limitless amounts of entertainment, information, and communication (AKA #selfies) by way of our iDevices has lead to the extinction of boredom.  This formerly known phenomenon was the ideal condition to get writers writing.

Today, time must be carved out.  If you operate off a calendar, schedule an appointment.  If to-do lists drive your day, put “writing” at the top, followed by “seriously, fucking do it”, “bitch, I ain’t messing around here”, “it’s okay, you can skip it today if you’re not in the mood”, and “just kidding asshole, write.”

Naysayer: “But what if I don’t know what to write?”

Yaysayer: “Excuses, is that you? It’s cute that you’re trying to disguise yourself as a reason, but I’ve been duped by you before. Fool me once…”

In other words, you probably do know something worth writing, but you’re not confident enough to explore this idea in its entirety.  Of course what ultimately happens once you sit down is that your idea takes several unpredictable turns and magically arrives in the town center of Awesomeville.  As they say, the hardest part of working out is putting on your shoes (also, deadlifting). Once you get moving, the endorphins inspire 45-60 minutes of kinetic bliss. Same philosophy applies to writing.

In the off-chance you’re legitimately completely void of ideas (and even if you’re not), one practice I’ve found incredibly helpful is something called Morning Pages, created by Julia Cameron.  “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.” When I’ve been consistent with this practice (which admittedly is far less than always), all other writing is far more lucid and creativity abounds.

Credit should also be given to Brian Koppleman, as I was first introduced to this practice when he discussed it on a recent Tim Ferris Show.

2) A Lack of Exposure

Creativity is just connecting things.  When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty beacuse they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.  It seemed obvious to them after a while.  That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. – Steve Jobs

Steve’s right.

To play off our previous point, there are times whereby you’re suddenly overcome with an idea so potent you can’t not put it to writing.  Obsessively, you scribble away on your notepad or pound on your keyboard until you’ve got a couple thousand words of passionate chaos.  After a bit of chiseling this chaos turns into beautiful, convincing prose.  Not only was it easy to get started, but the real challenge was trying to pull yourself away.

Why can’t it be that easy all the time?

Well, it can.  If you’re having trouble finding this stroke of inspiration, chances are, you’re not exposing yourself to the necessary stimuli to catalyze this reaction.  Specifically, this will come from:

1) Personal experiences and/or
2) Reading (or audiobooks)

I wrote a book. Some of the credit goes to the teachers who challenged me growing up. Some of the credit goes to Appalachian Trials’s wonderful editors. But as long as we’re divvying credit, let’s go ahead and give a large slice of that pie to doing something as stupid / interesting / bizarre / challenging as walking from Georgia to Maine.  Without this incredible life experience, there is no book.

Now am I suggesting that you give up everything and take a half year hike through the mountains?  YES I AM.  But in the off-chance that’s not feasible right now, I encourage you to go do something, anything that exposes you to a new environment.

And if you want to take the inspirational super-shortcut, pick up a new book.  Learning begets growth, which begets inspiration.  Ask a friend for a recommendation and go read your balls off.  In fact, here are a few books I often recommend to get you started:

If reading a thought-provoking book still doesn’t get the inspirational juices flowing, chances are, you’re suffering from…

3) A Lack of Whiskey

“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run in a different plane like whisky?” – Ernest Hemmingway, professional alcoholic

It is said that human beings only use 10% of their brains.  Now let us overlook the fact that people who say this are wrong, because there is real merit to this fake fact, which is- human beings are creatures of habit.

For the purpose of completing tasks (brushing your teeth, deciding what to eat for lunch, driving a car, etc.), habits are wonderful. They conserve energy by simplifying the complex.

For the purpose of stirring creativity (unless the habit is designed specifically for this purpose), they are less wonderful.  Picture those toy car race tracks from when you were a kid.  Habit will allow your car to zip around the track faster, but creativity necessitates us launching that fucker off the rails.

Enter whiskey.

Studies show that alcohol can spur creativity, and I have plenty of empirical evidence to confirm these findings.  Sure there are plenty of reasons not to drink alcohol (or so health-professionals claim), but if you’re stuck in a writing rut, a little bit of whiskey will lift you right up.

Of course there are other creativity-boosting options if booze is not your drug of choice including actual drugs, meditation, exercise, and adrenaline-inducing activities (i.e. extreme sports).

And if regimen, exposure, and whiskey aren’t cutting it, you could take the extra pathetic route and just ask yourself a question and pose it as a Q&A.

3 Reasons Why I Love Backpacking (And You Should Too)

why i love backpacking

Warning: the following post uses the f-word (fuck, not filibuster) 15 times.  If you’re looking for some wholesome reading, you’re fuck out of luck.  Make that 16.

Most people in this country don’t backpack, and quite frankly, that’s a good thing.  Backpacking is rewarding in large part because of this fact- it’s where you go to get away from the masses.  Add to this some beautiful scenery and a dash of exercise, and you’ve listed all the reasons why someone might enjoy this combination sport / hobby / lifestyle.  Right?


The reasons to love backpacking are nearly limitless.  The below offers just a few of my favorite.

1) Better habits

When you wake up in the morning, what’s your first motion?

If you’re anywhere near as big a piece of shit as me, it’s toward your phone.

Instagram.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Email.  Maybe twice, because when it comes to mindlessly consuming media, you can’t be too diligent.

It’s a bad habit. I’m aware of it, but since these neurons fire so consistently in this pattern, it’s nearly-impossible to break.

A healthy routine would consist of a couple minutes of silence to slowly and consciously enter into the day.  Perhaps a couple of yoga exercises.  Maybe some meditation.

But no, before the lights flicker on in my brain, I’m balls deep in email and Tweets.  This sets the tone for the ADHD circus of self-inflicted distractions that can (and regularly do) dominate my day.

Backpacking doesn’t present me the option to be this piece of shit.  Getting lost in the mountains has a way of grabbing me by the shoulders, bitch slapping me and saying, “here and now, asshole.  Here.  And.  Now.”  After only a couple of days, the circus in my brain dies and peace fills its void.

If you’re currently battling a cerebral circus, go backpacking.

2) Better humans

This really could be broken down into two separate reasons: 1) your cool-as-fuck friends and 2) the cool-as-fuck strangers.

Your cool-as-fuck friends

The first hurdle when it comes to backpacking also happens to be the biggest, and that is trying to convince someone why the fuck they would want to go backpacking.  On paper- beer, music, pizza, movies, parties, etc. seems like a much more enticing way to allocate free time.

Saying, “yeah, but, we can go into the mountains, and just be,” is a surefire way to lose friends.  Unless of course, your friends are cool-as-fuck.  Then they already know that backpacking is like a party without all the unsavory byproducts.

After a weekend of partying, you battle a three day hangover that leaves you capable of little more than consuming the latest American Idol ripoff in the fetal position on the couch.

After a weekend in the mountains, you’re refreshed, inexplicably chipper, and inspired to start engaging in more activities that don’t actively hemorrhage your soul.

Backpacking is bliss and those who will join you on this endeavor are by definition cool-as-fuck.  Do not take these friends for granted.

The cool-as-fuck strangers

And when you’re backpacking through a more popular area, like the Appalachian Trail, it’s all but guaranteed that you’re going to run into cool-as-fuck-new-people.  This is a self-selected group of humans who understand that stripping your life down to 25 lbs + 6 oz of whisky is really stellar way to pass time.  Chances are, these people have stories to tell.  They’ve been places.  They’ve seen shit.  You are privileged to share a campfire, shelter, or flask with these folks.

These strangers could be 20-something nomads who work odd jobs and don’t yet know their next destination.  They could be a family of four who lives in the ‘burbs in a two story house with a white picket fence and a yellow lab named Bella.  You will run into the full spectrum of people when backpacking and they have almost nothing in common EXCEPT that they’re all cool-as-fuck.  Backpackers come in all shapes and sizes, but only one flavor: cool-as…okay you get it.

And to clarify: they’re not cool-as-fuck because they’re backpacking.  They’re backpacking because they’re cool-as-fuck.  

In other words, if you want to visit a place where the only cream of the crop play, go backpacking.

3) Better perspective

The rat race has a way of imposing a false sense of importance to events that really aren’t important. We let our thoughts meander from one obligation to the next, bouncing around like a pinball on the board of stress.  We get so caught up in our own theater, that we forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe. – Joe Rogan

The bigger picture is that perception is reality.

Sure, you could be weighed down by your seemingly endless student loan payments or credit card debt.  Yeah, your boss is an idiot and the forecast for your job is a dead end.  That’s one way to perceive your situation.

Another is to appreciate that you have access to clean drinking water.  You live in a world with iPhones and Chipotle.  For fuck’s sake you’re probably reading this on a device that’s worth more than the gross annual income of an entire family in Liberia.

Backpacking has a way of bringing this bigger picture back into focus.  A few days stripped of the clutter and all you’re left with is a pristine landscape, a cocktail of endorphins, and an innate understanding that life is good.

Go backpacking.

Lead image:

Redefining Pain

redefining pain

A hundred billion neurons.  Ten trillion cells.  One hundred trillion bacteria.  All of this influenced by an immeasurable number of environmental and biological factors.

Human beings are complex creatures, aren’t they?

If you look through a microscope, perhaps.  If you take a step back, however, human behavior can be summarized in one sentence.

We move toward pleasure and away from pain. 

In most situations, pain plays a greater role in our motivation.  Burning your hand on a hot coal, walking across broken glass, or getting punched in the face with a baseball bat are all painful situations, however this is typically not the kind of pain that influences our behavior.  What pain does move us?

It depends on how you define pain.  More accurately, it depends on what you choose to believe is painful.

For most, uncertainty is the greatest source of pain.  Even if our current situation isn’t ideal- or far from it- we are more likely to continue with the status quo because we can predict the outcome.  What lies behind door #2 could be your wildest dreams realized.  It could also be humiliation, failure, ridicule.  The potential pleasure is overshadowed by this potential pain, so we choose the familiar route, the certain route, the easy route.

What’s the problem with doing what’s easy?


We settle.  We fail to grow.  We lower our own bar.  We become a victim of our own limitations.

Worst of all, we lose our edge.  When everything is easy, nothing is exciting.

Redefining Pain

The first step for changing this course is to redefine what we interpret as pain.

Which is worse?

[Short term] The rejection that comes from a failed attempt of hitting on the girl at the bar or [Long term] a lifetime of loneliness?

[Short term] The humiliation of not being able to follow through on a publicly stated goal or [Long term] the complete absence of self-confidence?

[Short term] The failure that comes from “unsuccessfully” pursuing an entrepreneurial venture or [Long term] marinating in regret on your deathbed?

When we take a bigger picture look at what’s painful, pain and pleasure change camps.  What’s easy becomes hard.

What’s hard becomes easy.

How to Vacation to Europe on the Cheap

how to vacation to europe on the cheap

A Western-European vacation is bacon for the soul.

Few places on earth provide such a magical combination of history, beauty (in landscapes, architecture, people, and accents), FOOD, and culture without sacrificing any of the first-world luxuries that Americans tend to get itchy without.  The lone downside also happens to be a devastating one: the tornado-like effect it has on bank accounts.  The cost of airfare and lodging alone is the equivalent of 2,000 pounds of avocado, a shark boat, or this ocean garbage super important key.  Think of the possibilities.

Many, reasonably albeit unfortunately, forego a cultural expedition across the pond for this very reason.

Well I’m here to let you in on a secret.  A secret so game changing- that after reading this post- you will see life in a new light.  A brighter light.  You will see life through the lens of a Lite-Brite.


The secret is…

Traveling to Europe can be done on the cheap.

Poppycock!” you protest.  “If vacay’ing in Europe were in fact affordable, everyone would do it all the time.  I’d be first in line.  Good Badger, until proven otherwise, I have no choice but to assume you are serving up a Gotta Have It portion of horseshit.”

Prove you otherwise, I will.  With a…

Complete Guide to Vacationing to (and in) Europe on the Cheap

Step 1) Pile those Miles

In economics, the time value of money says that a dollar today is worth more than that same dollar in the future (assuming your currency is experiencing inflation.  It is.).  With all of the safe investment options to earn interest on your money (savings accounts, bonds, index funds, etc.), if your money isn’t earning money, you are losing money.

The same can be said for credit card swipes that don’t result in some reward.

In order to play in a highly competitive space, credit cards lure consumers in with high-value rewards simply for using their plastic.  The bank’s hope is that you spend more than you can pay, thus foreclosing on your soul in the form of unconscionable interest rates.  It should go without saying: don’t spend more than you can pay.  Treat your credit card like a debit card.  </Personal Finance 101 lecture.>

But just because banks are greed factories doesn’t mean you can’t win at their game.  In this instance, you’ll “win” a “free” international flight by signing up for the right rewards credit card*.

* = We’re working with the assumption that your credit score isn’t a dumpster zone.  If this is the case, step 1) is to read this book

I use the United MileagePlus® Select Visa Signature Card which awards 3 miles for every $1 purchase through United, 2 miles for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, dining, home improvement and Star Alliance purchases, and 1 mile for every $1 spent everywhere else.  Best of all, the card comes with 30,000 bonus miles plus a $50 discount travel certificate after the first $250 spend.  Unfortunately, Chase doesn’t offer this card anymore, but there are a slew of other credit cards at this caliber or better.

One example is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus (min credit score: 691; named “Best for Travel Rewards” by Money Magazine in October 2013), which awards 2 miles for every dollar and a 40,000 mile bonus after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days.  Another is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (min credit score: 689), which offers virtually the same benefits as the Arrival Plus.

WTF does any of that mean?

Well, my recent roundtrip flight to Paris cost 65,000 miles plus ~$150 in tax. These miles were accrued in just about a year (including the bonus and my frequent flier miles) under my normal spending habits. Whether this takes you a year or a decade to achieve, an extremely cheap flight to Europe is well within your means, but not if you’re wasting swipes.  Pile those miles today.

Step 2) Your Labor: The Universal Currency

“Yeah but even with a cheap-as-shit flight, the cost of lodging alone is enough to break the bank,” says the hypothetical voice.

While our invisible friend here is accurately describing the scenario for most travelers, this fate need not be ours.

Enter Workaway.

In a nutshell, Workaway is a marketplace of volunteer workers and hosts around the world.  In exchange for 20-25 hours of work per week, hosts offer volunteers accommodations plus meals.  The type of work is all over the map (pun bonus): gardening, painting, building, etc.  Some jobs are mundane.  Some are straight awesomesauce- i.e. working on a lavender farm in Toulouse.  My girlfriend and I recently returned from a two-week workaway which required about 20 hours per week of gardening, painting, and landscaping on a beautiful villa in the south of France.  During our work days (7 altogether), we spent a total of $0.  And even with an unfavorable exchange rate, this equates €0.  I took college-level math.


When not Workaway’ing, hostels are your best bet.  Like most things in life, more expensive doesn’t always mean more better (I did not take English in college). You can find great hostels at a steal with some savvy Internetting.  Be sure to scour ratings and reviews on or and book as far in advance as possible to lock down the best deals.

Step 3)  Transportation: He who waits, wastes (money)

The final step is a cautionary tale.  Learn from my mistake.

It was our last weekend in France.  We had already purchased our train tickets from our hosts location to Biarritz (an amazing Atlantic-side coast town in the Basque region of the country.  Just look at this picture.  Holy shit.).  We hadn’t yet purchased our tickets from Biarritz to Paris (the location of our return flight) thinking we would pick them up at the Biarritz train station upon our arrival. Because of ADHD, we didn’t.  By the time we had realized this blunder, tickets had already sold out.  For the entire day.  

The next cheapest option (after surveying them all), was to rent a car and drive eight hours across the length of France.  Not only did this tack on three hours of travel, 1,000% more stress, but it was double the cost of what the train would have been.  We let vacation brain take over and our lax decision making resulted in our biggest expense of the entire trip.

Even without the train selling out, it would have been shrewd to book our tickets as far in advance as possible, as the cost of train tickets only increase (unlike flights).  Let this be a lesson to you.

Other suggestions for frugal traveling:

  • If you’re doing extensive traveling (i.e. traveling for more than a month and to several countries) get a Eurail Pass.  Short distance trains are cheap (especially when purchased in advance), but long distance trains (emphasis on plural) will add up quickly.  This option makes more sense if you’re abroad for a long time and don’t have a strict itinerary.  If you’re only gone for a few weeks, there are better options (explained below). This article does a nice job of explaining when and when not to buy a Eurail pass.

  • If your stay is shorter- (i.e. two to three weeks), your cheapest option to get around will be either via train or bus.  Don’t overlook Europe’s discount air carriers, especially easyJet and Ryanair.  However, be forewarned- they will absolutely gouge you on baggage fees if you’re carrying anything more than a small bag.  Travel light.

There you have it.  International vacationing on the cheap.  With all of the money you just saved, think of all the copies of Appalachian Trials you could should must reading this was pretty much a legally binding contract could buy.

Why You Need to Be Eating Bone Broth Right Now

why you need to be eating bone broth now

Why You Need to Be Eating Bone Broth Right Now

Primer: if you’d prefer a much more intellectual take on why bone broth needs to be in you, check out this Weston A Price article.  This article is a perfect representation of why I (instantly) bowed out from the health blogging game: it’s a crowded space, I don’t do original research, and quite frankly, I consume far too much whiskey to preach an ideal diet (old fashions are my life fuel).

That said, 18 months of obsessive research has equipped me with knowledge that has undoubtedly improved the quality of my life.  I’d like to share some of these insights which I feel are underserved in the mainstream.  


If someone told you that there was a supplement that builds stronger cartilage, healthier skin, promotes muscle production (and spares muscle breakdown when catabolic), detoxifies the liver, prevents or even reverses autoimmune disorders, rebuilds the digestive tract, improves bone health, and relieves/reverses arthritis, I’m guessing you’d probably sell your first born to acquire said wonder-drug (I’ll make a great father someday).

This product exists, only it’s not a pill.  It’s not an ointment.  It’s not a nasal spray, suppository, or snake oil tincture.

It’s called bone broth, it smells like fermented death, and tastes sorta alright. 

Pound for pound, bone broth is one of the most nutritionally dense and restorative foods one can consume, and unfortunately, almost everyone indulging a SAD (standard American diet) is not.

The history of bone broth dates back to the 17th Century when a French health researcher by the name of Denis Papin discovered: “‘A jellye made of bones of beef’ was mentioned in the diary of Englishman John Evelyn (1620-1706) in 1682 when describing the results of a demonstration of the first pressure cooker.” (source)

It’s a staple in Chinese and Jewish Medicine, and is regularly consumed in several cultures around the world (Vietnamese eat the bajesus out of a bone broth based stew called Pho – pronounced “fa” because it gives pretentious people something to add to their arsenal of important facts).

It’s at the foundation of the GAPS diet, which Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride developed to successfully reverse her son’s autism.

But if you’re like me, you give almost no shits about the history.  You don’t care if everyone on earth but you is eating it.  The question that matters: “Can it make me healthier?

Answer: Yes.

And you should be eating it now.  Like right now.

Bone broth is rich in several nutrients, minerals (including electrolytes), and amino acids- most notably glycine and proline- which both play a major role in a host of essential health functions.

At the height of my illness, I was accidentally exposed to bone broth in the form of my mother’s home cooked chicken soup (she uses the whole bird in the cooking process).  At the time, it didn’t matter what I ate, nothing satiated.  I could eat, and eat, and eat, and never achieve that Thanksgiving feeling.  One small bowl of this soup scratched an itch that I couldn’t find for the better part of nine months; my body was sending an unmistakable signal of “we need to do this more often.”  I have been making my own bone broth regularly ever since.

Let’s dig a bit deeper.  Below are 6 reasons you should be consuming bone broth right now.

This is a batch I made. It tastes better than it looks and smells, which isn’t saying a lot.

1) Improved digestion

“The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut. ” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth helps to regulate stomach acid production.  If you have trouble digesting protein, you have low stomach acid.  If you get heartburn, you have low stomach acid.  If you are extra burpy, farty, or bloaty after eating, you have low stomach acid.  In other words, low stomach acid is more common than most of us know.  Incorporating bone broth into your diet can help.

2) Reduces Inflammation

Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).  Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth is rich in amino acids that are lacking in the SAD, many of which have shown to reduce inflammation.  You’re probably already aware that inflammation leads to joint stiffness and pain, but the impact is far deeper than just shitty knees.  Inflammation makes people depressed, and depressed people are inflamed.  Bone broth can help.

3) Heals a damaged gut

“Homemade bone broth soups are effective in restoring a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin, which have been shown to benefit people with ulcers. It’s also high in proline, a non-essential amino acid that is an important precursor for the formation of collagen.” (source)

What this means to you:  This goes beyond just pooping correctly (see #1).  “Gut health” will be a buzz word you’ll continue to hear over the coming years.  Science is just now beginning to understanding the impact our guts play on our overall well being.  An impaired gut has been linked to autoimmune disorders, skin disorders, a slew of psychological disorders, and more.  In other words, a healthy gut is really fucking important.  Bone broth can help.

4) Hair, skin, and nails

“Collagen is a major component in hair growth, because it fights off free radicals that can affect your hair’s texture, growth and thickness. Restoring collagen in the hair shaft can improve hair growth. Collagen capsules strengthen hair and increase the diameter of individual hairs, giving your hair an overall fuller appearance.” (source)

What this means to you: Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin which support hair, skin and nail health.  Bone broth is good for vanity too.

5) Improved Adrenal and Thyroid Health

“Bone broths provide the adrenal glands with the much needed nutritional support to help make the shift from survive to thrive. Dr. Shanahan even suggests that the nutritional matrix in bone broths may actually help patch the holes in the kidney tissue that cause the kidneys to function less optimally.” (source)

“Fish stock, according to traditional lore, helps boys grow up into strong men, makes childbirth easy and cures fatigue. ‘Fish broth will cure anything,’ is another South American proverb. Broth and soup made with fishheads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances.” (source)

What this means to you:  Odds are, if your energy is lacking, there is more than likely an issue with your adrenal system, thyroid, or both.  Bone broth can help

6) Strong Bones

“A Japanese study reported on protein undernutrition, lowered bone mass and osteoporotic fracture. Mice were fed for ten weeks with a low-protein diet containing either 10 percent casein or a combination of 6 percent casein and 4 percent gelatin. The bone mineral content and bone mineral density of the femur were significantly higher in the group given 6 percent casein plus 4 percent gelatin. The researchers concluded, “these results suggest that gelatin has differential effects on bone mineral density and body weight in protein undernutrition.” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth is rich in gelatin, along with calcium and magnesium, all of which play an important role in bone health.  Additionally, you should probably be supplementing with magnesium, as 57% of the population does not receive the RDA.

The positive health claims for bone broth go on and on, but if you’re not convinced at this point, there’s no convincing.

The skeptic might think some of the claims are hyperbolic- if not flat out lies. For the sake of argument, let’s say the skeptic is right.  Even if this is the case, there nutrient profile of eating head-to-toe is superior to what’s found in the muscle protein.  Tell me the last time you ate a fish eye, calf liver, or lamb tongue.  If you did, it was probably on a bet or a one-off thing (unless you’re a dad, because dads love liver. Basic dad science).

The less sexy way of looking at it: bone broth is highly nutrient dense (including those commonly lacking from the SAD), easy to make, and improves the taste of many basic recipes (cardboard chicken stock can suck it).

But the sexy view of the world is a much more exciting place to live.  And if it’s proven to heal people to the point of reversing autism, sign me the fuck up.

Want to learn how to make bone broth?  Check out this article.

I quit…

i quit

Blogging rule #1A: never acknowledge how long it’s been since you’ve last posted.

Man has it been a long time since I’ve last posted!  So many things have happened.  Barack Obama was elected as our first black president, dick pics become easier than ever, and the government took a two week siesta.

What’s that?  Literally none of that is new? 

So, what did we miss?

I guess there were some pretty epic boops.  And as it turns out, the NSA is listening to and reading everything we say.  Let’s go with the boops.

But, believe it or not, this PSA is not about boops.

This is a hybrid apology / life update / boop PSA.


As a blog-father (blogdaddy?), I have failed you.  I said I would give you the road map to perfect healthI didn’t.  I said I would give you the second half of a story that involves getting chased by bulls through the narrow streets of quaint Spanish cities.  I didn’t.

Not that the reason is important, but I have taken away some lessons from my previous woods-life, with the primary one being that after 40-60 hours per week spent on my computer, the last thing I want to do is spend one single fucking minute more on my computer.  For those keeping score at home, the first thing was drop kick my computer into the throat-hole of a dragon.  Dracarys.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been spending a lot of time on my computer again, and when given the opportunity to not do that, I take it.

But, this is about to change because…

Life Update

…I quit.

My job.  At Tech Cocktail.

It has been a sincere pleasure serving as Tech Cocktail’s director of marketing for the past two years. I’ve met incredible people (that I otherwise wouldn’t have), been granted incredible opportunities (serving on media panels, being the subject of interviews and presentations, emceeing events, and interviewing people I greatly admireall separate links), and been to amazing events (SXSW, CES, and a slew of Tech Cocktail branded events around the country).

On paper, I’m fucking up in a very real way.  Tech Cocktail is a rocket ship racing toward success. I’m walking away from an amazing opportunity to be a central component of said rocket ship (funded by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh).

But beyond this self-inflicted career calamity, I’m walking away from a company lead by two incredible people.  Frank Gruber and Jen Consalvo are not only two of the hardest working, smartest, most passionate people I have ever met, but they’re also unreasonably nice (especially in an industry where success and friendliness tend to inversely correlate).  To double up on the Game of Thrones references, I’m walking away the Stark family (if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, stop reading this now- and go watch Game of Thrones).  I will be cheerleading Tech Cocktail’s success for the remainder of time.

But, what exists on paper isn’t what matters.  It’s what’s in your heart.  And my heart is telling me that the tech startup world is a round hole, and I’m an octagon peg (squares are boring; also I’m red and easily confused for a stop sign).

My last day at Tech Cocktail is this Friday.

What’s next

This is where one would expect me to outline my next plan.  That plan isn’t 100% ready to go public as of yet.

I will say that part of it involves the Appalachian Trail.  If you’ve been following the action over at Appalachian Trials, you’ve probably already noticed the increased activity (and flashy new website – thanks to Tim Speciale for the incredible work).  My goal is simply to give more aspiring (and former) thru-hikers a platform to showcase their extraordinary stories.  The community that has been forming is special, and I feel that familiar yet inexplicable magnetic tug to continue fostering this growth.  If you’re into the Appalachian Trail (and/or backpacking and/or adventure) in any capacity, I strongly encourage you to check out the fun at

If you want to support the cause, please consider getting a signed book for a loved one.  Or even a liked one.  I’ll even sign books for “meh” ones.  But no Lannisters!  

I will also be heading to the AT this year for some spontaneous trail magic and other super saucy surprises.  If we’re being real, this should be classified under vacation more so than “life plan”.  I do hope to reconnect with familiar faces and meet new friends along the way.  If you want to stay abreast, the best place to do so is through the Appalachian Trials newsletter.

But the above is merely a slice of the plan pie.  If you want more, track me down and feed me beer.

The point of this post was really to say one thing – and in typical fashion it took me 800 words to say what could have been summed up in five:

the Good Badger is back.

Running with the Bulls: With Concussions, Without Repercussions

I recently returned from a three week backpacking trip of Spain with a pair of good friends.  In a nutshell, it was bananas (bananas come in nut shells, everyone knows that).  Below is part one of a two part story from the trip.  

Wednesday, July 9th, 2013

9:30pm: We arrive to Pamplona, the location of San Fermin (the Running with the Bulls festival). The sky is still fully lit, which adds to our already jet-lagged induced body-clock disarray.  Alex- a close friend and the trip’s organizer- and I had been traveling for the previous 48 hours, because missing our connecting flight put (read: imprisoned) us in Newark, NJ for 24 hours.  Newark is kind of like the Ford Taurus of cities, (hopefully that’s a metaphor that needs no explanation) although I will say it is far superior to its neighboring suburb 30 minutes to the (insert appropriate direction), Edison, NJ, which is where United bunked us up for the evening.  I digress…

Because our brains are no better than cold oatmeal as we walk out of the Pamplona train station we (Me, Alex, and our third party member who met us in Barcelona, Ian) unanimously decide without the use of words to spend the next 45 minutes being vegetables in the lawn across the street. It wasn’t until darkness began to approach that the realization that we were in a foreign country and unsure of where we were going – time to hail a cab.  Alex, the only Spanish speaking member of the group, appropriately says some Spanish words to our Spanish cab driver and we hit the road toward our Spanish hostel.

People informed us that everyone in town would be wearing the traditional San Fermin uniform: white shirt, white bottoms, and a red sash + handkerchief. Driving through town we quickly learn that people were right. There were only three idiots in town dressed like REI manikins.

Traditional San Fermin uniform, complete with blood and sorrow

Despite not getting to our hostel until close to 11pm, we are determined to find appropriate garb, even at this hour. Not surprisingly, every storefront is closed and has been for hours. Like moths, we continue to head toward the most brightly lit buildings, which would eventually lead us toward town center – the arena where the bulls conclude their stampede. A stand is set up on the corner of the square, and they’re selling our uniform. The quality is somewhere between recycled trash bags and burlap sacs- exactly what we’re looking for. Finally, we feel like members of this bizarre-although-endearing Spanish fraternity. Elated, we grab a few drinks, head to dinner, and drink a couple more. Conversation finally shifts focus to why we’re here: to Run with Giant Angry Horned Beasts.

Although we had gotten a lot of mixed information about how to Run with Bulls, there was one piece of advice that was consistent: The first morning, you watch. The second morning, you run (in case you’re not familiar – Running with The Bulls is a week long event and most people stay for at least a couple days). This is done for obvious reasons, to plan your strategy, properly set expectations, and ensure it’s something you actually want to go along with. That was exactly our plan.

But alcohol has a horrible way of disrupting plans.

“What if we just run tomorrow?”, I propose to the group, anticipating dissent.

Alex promptly responds with a “Yeah, okay,”. Ian slowly-yet-confidently nods his head in agreement while gulping down another Estella.

Dinner wraps up at 1am, we head back to our hostel since we’d have to wake up in five hours.

For anyone who hasn’t been to Spain in the heat of the summer, let me tell you, it’s hot.  Air conditioning is the exception, our hostel was the rule.  We arrive to our room.  Sweet shit it’s hot. We lie down and attempt to clear our heads of what awaits us on the other side of slumber.  That wouldn’t happen.  The next five hours was a rotation of not sleeping and pretending to sleep.  It felt like the room was somehow getting hotter.  As it turns out, because our other hostel-mate closed the window upon returning back from his night of partying, it was.

Thursday, July 10th

Finally, 6:00am comes. Rested we are not, but the adrenaline would fill any and all energy voids.  Without exchanging words, the three of us reluctantly zombie-strut out the door and head toward the course.

As we near the town center, the buzz had gone from palpable to intoxicating (this time in the figurative sense). The city was busy the night before; what was happening now dwarfed that.  People standing on balconies, hanging out of windows, and climbing barricades to get the best view of a bull’s horn penetrating some poor fool’s leg, torso, and/or jaw (click at your own risk).  We followed the biggest stream of people under the assumption they were heading toward the starting line.  They were.


The next 30 minutes would be the most intense experience of my life.  To call the pile of people we were amongst a clusterfuck is a grave injustice.  Only those who’ve stood in the first few rows of a rock concert can empathize with this situation. The ground was coated in an even layer of piss, vomit, and beer from the party that had ended only minutes before. People are chanting, singing, and clapping.  It feels to be a combination of celebration and an explicit attempt to psych the crowd up for battle.

The dude standing in front of us, Mike, told us that “they” torment the bulls before releasing them in an effort to spur additional rage.  Clearly necessary.  I was nervous up until hearing that; now I was planning my exit strategy.  Unfortunately I was trapped by a mass of people, and even more confining, my ego.  It was at this point I decided the only person I was going to talk to was myself.  My insides mirrored the environment: a chaotic, unsettling cacophony.  Ian and Alex’s solemn facial expressions revealed the same.  Looking around, this was very clearly the consensus state of emotions.


The front barrier is opened, allowing people to spread along the course.  We were told to head as close to the final stretch of the race as they would allow, as this would bypass the most dangerous portion (dead mans corner), and allow us to make it into the arena with the bulls. We weren’t drunk enough to ignore this advice.  We speed-walk in that direction.

We arrive at what appears to be a safer part of the course (relatively speaking), along the wall, within sight of the arena.  Our cue would be to wait for the masses of people to come storming in our direction, followed closely by the bouncing of bulls’ horns.

8am comes.  No storm. 

8:01 comes. No storm.

8:02. The storm.

We see the first wave of terrified idiots running for their lives. We want to wait as long as possible- to be bad ass- but not so long that a bull fucks our existence. I’m ready to dead-sprint to freedom (i.e. the arena).  Alex yells, “WAIT FOR IT!”  I look back- the first wave has suddenly become a tsunami of idiots.  I didn’t see any bulls, but what I saw looked exactly like what you think people running from bulls should look like.  Alex yells, “WAIT!”  At this point I am involuntarily walking toward the arena.  Once I get past Alex and Ian, Alex finally gives the sign. “GO!!!”  I go.  I go faster than I’ve ever gone.

We sprint into the arena’s entry gate, and make a 90 degree turn to right, out of the path of the bulls, who are undoubtedly on our heals. We get to the wall of the circular arena, and turn around to see….people.  More people running in.  No bulls.  Another 5 seconds.  More people, no bulls.  Another 5 seconds.  Finally, bulls.  All eight come galloping through one end of the arena, and straight through to the other where the door is shut behind them.  It’s over.  We ran with the bulls.  Sort of.  It didn’t matter that we beat them in there by 10 seconds.  We ran on the same street as fucking bulls.  We high five, hug, jump, poop, etc.

All of a sudden, people start sprinting toward us with that all-too-familiar, “a bull is chasing me” look on their faces.  A bull was chasing them.  What we didn’t know was that they release the bulls back into the arena, one at a time, to continue inducing human feces.

We try to jump the four-foot arena wall, but it’s blocked by all those who had already jumped and the remaining people trying to jump. This is where we were going to die.  Without looking back, Ian, Alex and I America our way through the hoard, slip through a crack, and over the wall.  We turn back, and what we see is exactly what we thought we would see.  A bull chasing an arena full of idiots, one at a time. While a bull tries to hornfuck one idiot, the other idiots run by and slap the bull’s ass.  The bull then redirects his focus toward that idiot, and the process repeats.  Because I didn’t want my three week vacation to end on the second morning, my courage would only get as far as standing along the edge of the arena wall, ready to jump back over if need be.

It was at this point I had my “Sandlot” moment.

In the movie, a bunch of kids share legend about a neighbors freak dog- which is larger and angrier than any other dog on earth. With every story, the dog gets bigger and meaner.  It’s not until Benny the Jet Rodriguez comes face to face with this beast that the truth is revealed: the beast is a slightly larger than normal dog who loves to lick faces, just like every other dog.

Although the bulls were huge, seeing them gallop around the stadium, I couldn’t help but see cows with horns.  They’re not behaving any differently than any human put into the same circumstance.  If a group of people are needlessly caging me, chasing me, slapping me, and teasing me, I would gore you too, asshole.  Sorry.  It’s not because I’m a crazy beast.  It’s because you’re stupid, and evolution gave me “stop doing that right now” head spears.  In my heart of hearts, I felt like, in a calm environment, me and this bull could chill out over a beer while talking soccer.  Maybe that was the sleep deprivation talking.

Anyway, yatta yatta yatta. Eight bulls come in one at a time, a thousand people fuck with them, a few pay the price.  The bulls go away.  We leave the stadium.

We were jet lagged, coming off 48 hours of sleepless-travel, and now coming off an all-time adrenaline high.  There was only one thing to do.

Continue drinking.

And that’s where things would get interesting…

Part 2 coming soon

If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it as to indicate that pt. 2 is worth writing.  

Ian Mangiardi of The Dusty Camel on His PCT Documentary, As It Happens

Next to cat farts, Ian Mangiardi is the most commonly used phrase on this website.  That is because Ian was the Good Badger’s Appalachian Trail Mr. Miyagi.  He outlined my gear list, calmed my nerves, and set my expectations.  Although it’s too speculative to say that I would or wouldn’t have finished without his guidance, it’s a scientific fact to discern that without him, the initial struggle would have been far greater.  My goal with writing Appalachian Trials was to offer aspiring hikers this same competitive advantage, so to speak.  The actual original title for the book was: “Ian’s Thoughts, Zach’s Words, Offensively Yellow Cover”.

Last year, Ian, along with his partner-in-crime Andy Laub (the other half of The Dusty Camel), thru-hiked the PCT – a mere two years after tackling the Appalachian Trail.  Along the way, the duo hauled filming equipment in order to document their 2,663 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.  The result is their recently premiered Pacific Crest Trail documentary, As It Happens.  If I had to summarize in three words, the film is a Naturegasm Dramastorm through Adventureville.  Peep the trailer below (the movie isn’t available to the public yet, but I will be the first to shout-out the good news when it is).

I caught up with the man, the myth, the Miyagi to learn more about the documentary, his beard, and how the AT and PCT compare.

Who is the star of As it Happens: You and Andy Laub, or the PCT?  What was the inspiration for as it happens?

It really isn’t about the PCT. I don’t think we even mention the trail (a mix of political mumbo jumbo, and not giving support to an organization that didn’t support us) so it really is about us traveling through America, seeing its beauty and friendly faces.

How do the PCT and AT compare to one another?

The PCT and AT are like comparing apples and organs. The community around the AT is what makes it spectacular. The terrain is mundane and can get monotonous, and is way more difficult on a whole as the AT brings you up and over every peak; you end up traveling more vertical miles a day on the AT. The PCT is less known, so people rarely know what you are doing. People think you are bums or vagrants, but the beauty of the trail is much more profound. The trail winds itself through some of the tallest mountains in the country which makes the grade much less difficult. Instead of going up and over every peak, you’re wrapping around them. Even at 10,000 feet, the trail seems much more enjoyable — physically. The remote nature of the PCT is what gives its appeal, where the thousands of people surrounding the AT gives its own appeal. It’s hard to compare the two as they both equally are important in my life. They are not competing trails, but instead, contrasting trails. Where one falls short, the other excels and vice-versa.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you and Andy thru hike the PCT on the snowiest year on record?  Tell us about that experience. Did that translate to more snow hiking, zeros, or both?

Yes. Yes we did. The Sierras had over 700 inches of snow that year, and most of it was still there in June. We were five feet higher in any given point than we should have been. The snow made it difficult to navigate, and much more tiring. In wooded areas where there were trees, the areas where sun got through the trees would melt the snow, but there were still areas where the snow was kept in the shade, creating never-ending mounds of snow which we had to ascend and descend every 10 steps. Even though the mounds were only 3 or 4 feet high, going up and down them would take it out of you. Even more dangerous than the snow, however, was the snow melt. The Sierras saw 14 people die that year due to snow melt — twice as much as the usual. We just had to keep pushing ourselves through the snow. Most people skipped the Sierras that year, or went around it to go back once the snow was melted. Not us; we persevered.

If ever there was a theme to, I hope it to be a never ending barrage of kicks to the poop-maker to encourage dream chasing, adventure, and passion pursuit whenever possible (spoiler alert: it’s almost always possible).  In lieu of your most recent thru-hike and now documentary release, what words of wisdom would you like to espouse to the good readers of this site (not the bad ones, they’re on timeout)?

There is one simple motto which sums it all up: just do it. Excuses will be made, reasons will get in the way, life will inevitably put up a fight. When it comes to doing the things you dream about, it won’t come easily. You have to push, perceive and put your life on the line (both physically, mentally, and emotionally). The only way to achieve greatness is to fail ten times before. The only way to fail is to do. My one piece of advice is this; if you have a dream, reach for it, push yourself, and never let it go.

In total, which is harder? AT vs. PCT. “They’re different” will not be counted as an answer. (Clearly you were dealt a crazy difficult hand for each. The hiking Gods like watching you and Andy suffer.)

Yes, the gods like dumping snow on us and watching us shiver and quiver. The AT was the highest snow year for the south in the midst of the hike, and the PCT was the highest snow year EVER for the Sierras. The AT is actually more difficult physically and mentally but the PCT is more difficult logistically. Since the AT goes over every single little peak in its way, its physically more strenuous, and since the terrain is similar throughout the trail — its mentally challenging due to the monotony. The PCT varies in terrain DRASTICALLY throughout it’s miles. From the desert to high mountains, and everything in between. However, the difficulties on the PCT are logistically. It is in the middle of nowhere, and difficult to find rides into towns so far away. The community around the AT make it much more enjoyable at times, and the PCT has a very small community which doesn’t help with rides getting into town (people think your bums, and know nothing of the trail!). So while the trails are DIFFERENT (ha!) they both have their hardships and beauty.

Will the PCT ever match the AT in terms of popularity?

No. The PCT is in some of the most remote lands of the country and the towns which are closest to the trail can reach up to 30 miles away. The AT swivels through tons of towns which rely on the hikers for their economy. This means people all around the trail know who hikers are, what their doing, and offer help. This brings more people to the trail since it can get to be a party at times. Community drives popularity, and vice versa. The PCT lacks both in the grand scheme of things — which makes it sought after by experienced hikers looking for a less populated trail and experience.

When traversing an ice covered, steeply sloped mountain, where one slip translated to impeding death, did the thought, “what the fuck am I doing?” ever cross through your mind?

What the FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCK went through my mind often. Why am I doing this also crossed my mind many times. Through all the blisters, broken gear, broken spirits — it was hard to find reasons at all times to be out on the trail. One night after our Mt. Whitney climb, I realized why I do these journeys: to experience a moment most will never know.

Scenario: Go back in time and allow the negative thoughts and excuses to persuade you out of doing the AT + PCT. How is your life different? How are you different?

Myself and my life are no where near what it is today. The AT inspired me to better myself and turn me into the person I am today, and the PCT gave me the drive to excel my career and ambitions forward. Essentially the AT straightened the arrow, and the PCT shot it that arrow far. It’s impossible to think where I would be without these trails, but I can say with confidence I would not be who I am today.

The cinematography is bananas good (on the motion-picture-fruit scale, that’s the highest score). Did you have any film training prior to embarking on the trail?

While the doc was partially shot by myself, it is primarily shot by Andy. He is a videographer and has worked at major channels from Discovery to TLC. Andy is really the brains behind the doc, where I am the brains behind the expedition. This pairing allows us to capture some spectacular shots in some spectacular lands.

How heavy was the camera + electronic gear? How heavy was your pack in total? How much did it slow you down – not only in terms of weight, but capturing footage?

It didn’t slow us down at all! Part of my responsibility was to create our gear lists. Depending on areas, our base pack weight (excluding water and food) was anywhere from 13-30 pounds. The camera equipment and electronics combined only weighed about 10 pounds, so between the two of us was nothing. I did my research to ensure all of our equipment was as light as possible to make up for the additional weight of our electronics, and it worked beautifully. The way we carried the camera was with a holster style pack that was clipped on to our hip straps. The Camera was only a quick zip away to capture a shot in the moment and while on the move. This ensure we could move quickly and shoot quickly.

Did you name your beard? If not, please do so now.

Our beards weren’t named, but we had trail names for our trail names in part from our long beards, and in part for the screws in our head coming loose. I was Sheriff Dusty, and Andy was Camel the Viking. I always had the King Tut style beard (long under the chin but short on the sides), so if it had a name it — Kind Tut would be his name!

You hit an emotional low while hiking through Oregon. Do you think you would’ve finished without knowing that a documentary was on the line? If not, what got you through the most challenging days?

As we often said on the AT — we are locked in a prison with the key in our hands. If the doc wasn’t on the line, we would have persevered regardless. The lows we felt were drastically outweighed by the highs, especially once completed. No matter how bad we felt, or how much we wanted to go home, the thought of quitting was never an option or even crossed the mind. The thought of going home, and the thought of getting off trail were frequent fliers through our minds, but we always knew we would be on it until Canada.

The scene where you catch a trout flyfishing is really badass. That’s not a question, yet still very important.

Badass, and delicious. Those trout were not only beautiful — but tasty! It was a much needed mental pickup. Sometimes you can get lost in the grind of hiking and forget to take your time and smell the flowers, and catch a fish. Taking those moments really allows you to appreciate where you are and what you’re doing.

andy laub's hair

Sorry to everyone that just got impregnated

Andy’s hair is magical. Also not a question, but still needs to be said. Please comment.

Its a beast. An unruly, untamable beast. He washed it maybe a dozen times in six months… maybe.

What’s next?

As mentioned before, the PCT gave me the drive to excel my career forward. I am starting two companies in LA which are and will be outdoor related. I will continue to manage expeditions and work to get people outdoors, and I look forward to the future. There is a saying in the long distance backpacking work when talking about the AT; “you either do one trail, or three…” we’ve done two. The third, the Continental Divide Trail, will not be far away.

Want even more? Zach and Steve interview Andy on their latest podcast.  Listen here.  Also, I have a new podcast.  We’ll talk about it more later.  I’m going to sleep now.  Dibs on little spoon.