Thank You

So, just a couple of days ago, August 22nd, 2011, exactly 5 months and 1 day from my start date, I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Good stuff.

There will be more reflection and insights on my merging back into your crazy indoor universe in posts to come, but as for right now, I need to get to something very important off my chest.

It’s nearly impossible to recall all of the acts of kindness I have been the recipient of over the last 5 months.  Friends, family, and strangers have been absurdly generous throughout this entire journey.   To a weary hiker, receiving a mail drop means much more than the cookies, whiskey, or baby wipes that lie inside.  It serves as a reminder of the people who care and are pulling for you to persevere.  I have been running on a fuel source compromised mostly of your love (and high fructose corn syrup).

And because of this, I want to say  THANK YOU.

The following list of thank you’s attempts to cover all of the individuals who have been instrumental in offering a hand along the way.

I apologize in advance to anyone I have left off the following list of gratitude.  There has been a lot of love given my way- and it’s very likely I’m over looking a few people.  Please be sure to leave a comment below to remind me that I’m a bad person.

Thank you Josh B. for making an amazing treasure map leading me to a buried beer along with my trusty shaman and trail mascot, Rufio. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.  You truly are a 1 in 90,000 sort of dude and an awesome friend (#WINNING).  Sorry for never getting your post up.  I’ll make it up to you in Spotted Cows.

Thank you Jill + Serial for going way above and beyond in too many ways to mention, but most notably taking in two desperate hikers and rejuvenating our spirits early on.  Your ability to know exactly what a hiker craves most (especially a night of board games + beer!!!) made leaving Damascus that much more difficult. Your hospitality and genuine generosity will never be forgotten. Also- please let me know what I can send you guys on your upcoming thru-hike!

Thank you Jeff N. for being the spontaneous trail angel of the century. Your story is quite possibly my favorite to tell.  You might be wondering “which one?”.  Yes- all of them.  Don’t ever lose that unfiltered sense of adventure. You are one of a kind.  A big thank you to Amanda too for being so awesome with four of the smelliest, untamed human beings running through her house.

Thank you Chris, Jeff W., and Lisa for being our homebase and highly responsive with so many mail drop requests.  You know in Apollo 13 when Tom Hanks keeps feeding bad news to Houston and Houston does whatever they can to make Tom Hanks feel better.  You are Houston (I am currently the castaway version of Tom Hanks).  You guys have gone way above and beyond.  Also, thank you for letting me be the homeless guy on your couch for a week prior to leaving.  And thank you in advance because I’ll be back on your couch again soon.  Just kidding.  Not really.

Thank you mom + dad for way too many things to mention- but most notably the unconditional support you’ve given me with not only during this journey, but throughout my entire life.  I know the beginning of this trek was torturous on your sanity- but never once did you let it spill over onto  me.  I love you intensely.

Thank you WHOOP!!!’s parents for keeping my parents relatively sane in knowing that they weren’t alone in the daily struggle of thinking their child was being consumed by a bear.  Also thank you so much for your generosity in picking me up, feeding, and putting us up in a hotel for a night. A very pleasant surprise.

Thank you Mehaps parents for an epic trail magic buffet.  In the face of strong winds and cold rain- you fed a group of impossibly hungry hikers to the point of capacity, with leftovers- no small feat.

Thank you to Road Dog’s parents for the housing, the immense meals, and the hospitality.  We were a tad rambunctious during our stay and you were nothing but friendly the entire time.

Thank you Orange Blaze’s parents for the killer trail magic visit directly to the hostel.  Hostel magic is has now entered into the thru-hiker lexicon thanks to you.  Additionally, thank you for including Spark and I in your very generous 21st birthday present to your son.  My first Maine lobster experience is one I will not forget.

Thank you to Big Cat for the long ride back to Damascus for trail days.  You are way too nice to your brother.

Thank you Chuck L for the great care package and beer money. Everything you sent got great use.

Thank you Dalton family for being ultra-flexible and coordinating the best on-site trail magic of the entire trail. Our large group was sincerely impressed with how cool the whole family was- especially with Chris and Mary’s supernatural patience.  Mom and Dad must be doing a stellar job.  It was a ton of fun to get to know you a little bit and hope that we can keep in touch!

Thank you Tim and Katie for being consistent with who you are- awesome people.  The care package was amazing- the kids drawings were even better. I am going to Just For Men my beard when I get back in Tim’s honor.  Your couch is also in danger of a smelly red beard.

Thank you Tim R. and Jacob W. for the very creative liquor store magic.  I can say with a strong sense of certainty that I don’t think I will ever encounter a situation similar to that again.  Simply awesome.

Thank you to my Padres crew for the hilarious assortment of odd items.  You accomplished the impossible in making me miss an office setting in the midst of hanging out in the woods.  You did forget one thing though- a frame for my Nick Golden autographed baseball.

Thank you Ashley C. for the cookies from Mars.  I’m pretty sure getting an Oreo INSIDE of a chocolate chip cookie defies physics.  The milk money was a great touch.  You rock way too hard.

Thank you Ian P. for the taste of California.  You are my hero.  Next Umphrey’s concert is on this guy.  (See: last sentence of Tim and Katie’s thank you)

Thank you Ian M. for being my pre-trail prep guru.  Because of you I was 10,000 times more prepared, both mentally and in terms of equipment, than I would have been otherwise.  Good luck to you on the remainder of your journey up the PCT (you crazy bastard).

Thank you Amy J. for housing me along the way.  Your apt. was far too nice to let the rotting smell that is my pack inside.  Keep rocking NYC.

Thank you Haley V (D?) for the things mentioned above and being on my page with all the crazy spiritual rants I dealt at you over our two day rendezvous.

Thank you to all of the strangers who provided hitches, advice, food, and well wishes along the trail.  Your spirit is what makes the AT such a truly special experience.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a thoughtful comment or e-mail along the way.  Due to a lack of Internet connection over the last few months (there is very little wi-fi in the mountains) I haven’t had the chance to respond to each one, but I do read and appreciate every single word.  You guys really are amazing.

There is a 99% chance I’m forgetting at least a lot of people on this list.  I apologize.  I appreciate you too.

  • Love it! I have better than a couch. I have a guest bedroom in Sarasota, FL you can stink up any time in exchange for me be being able to pick your brain, and hopefully get myself more mentally prepared for my trip coming up. Did I mention I am 5 miles from the #1 rated beach in the nation??
    Congrats on your finish! PS- that pic looks like your legs have been amputated. Nice

  • Greg R.

    Congrats man I’m happy you made it I hope to be doing it this coming up year…do you have any pointers for a potential thru-hiker?

  • Joni

    Congrats! That is so AWESOME!!! 

  • super thrilled and proud of you Z. 

  • Pja_explorer

    ahh man, well done, only 5 months, wow did u run some of it????

  • Chuck L

    You are most welcome Badger. Let me know if you hen you might tackle the PCT. If I cannot make it I’ll surely set up some care package drops. This time I’ll make sure ALL the goodies make it.

  • Mountainmassage

    Hi Badger – I learned of you long before I met you, but sincerely enjoyed meeting you and following your adventures.  You’ve come a long way from the floor of Neel’s at Mountain Crossing.  Later you bravely set up your tent beside the water in Lowgap as 60+ tents crowded in for the night.
    Your blog has been shared by many here in Asheville as we have followed your trek.  Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment.
    (Rainbow’s AT Sherpa)

  • Chuck L

    I also wanted to mention your exploits rekindled something for me. I have a bucket list and for years it’s hung on the wall of my office. # 1 on the list is to hike the AT in its entirety from beginning to end in one shot. No more little pieces of it for me.

    When first written it reminded me every day what I wanted to live for. As time passed however the demands of daily life running in the rat race steered my thoughts towards attaining more and losing myself in the process. 

    The ink on my bucket list was starting to fade slowly away, largely forgotten and yellowing with age.

    A couple of months ago I had the privilege to help lead a Boy Scout troop on a hike of the AT. I jumped at the chance to get back on the Trail if even for a short while..

    25 difficult miles later I felt exhausted and exhilarated. The old spark had been rekindled. I felt spiritually renewed. Those hours in the woods were like salve for my soul.

    Upon reaching home back here in Florida I started researching the AT in earnest. I’m even contemplating moving to NE Georgia just to be nearer to it. 

    I starting reading blogs from other hikers past. present and future. Only one kept me coming back time and time again… You guessed it. The Good Badger. His writing style sucked me right into his adventure. I even mentioned I was vicariously feeling twenty-something through his efforts.

    (Note to the Badger. I was not trying to weird you out with all my queries and comments. I am truly excited about giving it a go and you made it come alive for me.) 

    My point here? It’s great to see a young person take on something few can even wrap their minds around, much less get off their asses, and FINISH IT. Amazing accomplishment Badger. My hats off to you. For the rest of your days you will be able to look back on this and know you did something less than 1/10th of 1percent of the population has ever tried, much less completed.

  • Truancy!

    Thanks for writing in.  That night/morning at Low Gap was chaos.  I’m curious as to how many of those people actually finished.  Crazy, because it feels only like a couple weeks ago!

    How far along is Rainbow?

    Thanks for the kind words.


  • One day there was very flat terrain and a thunderstorm was coming in.  I ran for about 3 minutes before tripping over a root and doing a 5 foot headslide into rocks.  Otherwise no- just fast walking 🙂

  • Thanks Joni!

  • Greg-

    e-mail me at theGoodBadger[at] with any questions you may have and I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions. 

  • Sounds like a damn good deal to me.  You will be hearing from me the next time I’m in the area 🙂

  • busybee2

    I stumbled upon your blog today thru a link from somebody, I don’t remember who tho.  I sat and read thru your entire AT trip before anyone could budge me to get up and make dinner.  Thank you for sharing such an amazing experience.  I enjoyed your writing style, humerous, but not over the top and a great attention to detail.  I’d be curious to know what happened with the google interview and where you go from here.  And, oh yeah, how does it feel to sleep in a bed?  Safe travels!

  • Mark Dalton

    You’re welcome. We were really glad to help you guys out. Way to go on the accomplishment of a life time!

  • Congratulations!!!!!  I’ve been reading your AT blog since I found the link on the Dusty Camel’s website.  Ian has been super helpful emailing me with gear talk, but busy hiking the PCT (I couldn’t believe he answered me at all!!).  I’d love to chat with you about gear and any other suggestions for the AT, since I’m planning my 2012 thru-hike.  I am buying more gear at REI tomorrow actually, to begin my tests.  I have to drive 300 miles to get there, though, so getting to REI is a road trip (luckily I have family near the REI in SLC, so I will commute there and combine with family visits).

    So, I just now realized I may have met you at Katahdin Stream Campground in the afternoon on August 22nd, the day you summited.  I was scouting for my hike to Baxter Peak the next day and my friend had a truck with a kayak in the back.  I would have given you all rides to Millinocket, but she was not willing (sorry!!!!! her friend’s brother died after being flung from the back of a truck), and truthfully, with the kayak in the back and the tailgate open it probably wasn’t the safest ride. 

    Wish I could have given you some end-of-trail magic and I hope you and all the thru-hikers walking down the road got a ride eventually.

    I did hike the Hunt trail on August 23rd and I did successfully summit Baxter Peak (barely!) even though I’m not in shape and need to lose 30 lbs before I start my thru-hike in March/April 2012.  Being on the top of Katahdin and following those white blazes just intensified my obsession with thru-hiking the AT.  By the way, starting dates and alternative routes are some things I’m very interested in getting your thoughts on.

    Anyway, I hope you aren’t mad at me about the friend not giving a ride thing, I wonder, did I meet you?  I do remember a ginger beard….. I’ll email you soon, and I’ll be keeping my online thru-hiking journal on The Dusty Camel’s website.

    Congrats again!  I’m so inspired by your amazing journey!
    Carey Belcher (no trail name yet)

  • Hey Carey!

    First off, thank you much for the kind words.  I do appreciate it.

    Secondly- I’m stoked that you’ve decided to hike the AT.  Great life decision.  It sounds like you’re taking preparation very seriously.  You will have a seamless transition. 

    Also- yes, that was me in the group of people looking for a ride (yes- the one with the ginger beard).  What are the odds that we were there the same day!  I was not the one actively seek transit, but instead the one 3/4ths dead on the picnic table.  Don’t apologize for your friend not being able to give any of us a ride.  1) I got a shuttle to Bangor (where I was meeting family) shortly thereafter, 2) you’re right, that truck bed was bad news waiting to happen.

    Ian is awesome and quite possibly the most helpful person in the history of time.  I’m glad his website led you over here. 

    And feel free to send me any and all of your AT related questions.  I’m always happy to help.


  • For the last 2 weeks, I didn’t sleep more than 5-6 hours in a night.  I think I’ve been averaging around 9 since getting back into a bed. 

    In other words- the bed thing is great.

    Thanks for reading!  

  •  Thanks Mark!  The Dalton family was my top Pennsylvania highlight.

  • Tardy

    Hey Zach just finished reading AT trials awesome book, planning a 013 hike next march. Question (and I may be at the wrong forum for this) you spent roughly between $4 to $5,000 through the trail, how did you have access to your money? did you carry some with you and use a debit/ credit card for the rest? I certainly dont want to carry all the money on me nor rely on a plastic card incase I dont have the option to use the card in towns and stores. Thanks man