We’ve known Qball since our first long distance hike, while he was also on his first. He was at the Lake of The Cloud’s hut on the AT (about 300ish miles in for us all, since we were going southbound) when we headed down from Mt. Washington. We hiked with him for a few hundred miles on the AT, and Beardoh hiked the PCT with him in 2012. His triple crown accomplishment was a milestone to us as we started hiking the big trails (The Triple Crown Trails) at the same time and he was one of the first people that we know quite well (during all the hikes and after) that became a Triple Crowner. Qball did the AT in 2011, PCT in 2012 and CDT in 2013.
Did you know about all three of the Triple Crown Trails before you hiked the AT? Did you have it in your mind to complete all three?
I had never heard of the triple crown until a good couple hundred miles into my AT thru…or maybe I heard it mentioned but don’t remember or maybe felt foolish asking what it was. I wasn’t thinking of finishing the triple crown until about halfway through the PCT thru.
What backpacking experiences did you have before your first thru hike?
Probably like most peoples, long weekend adventures in the mountains and deserts of California with the occasional week or even the extended 10 day to two week trip here and there. Growing up in upstate NY it was time mostly in the Adirondacks and occasionally the Catskills.
Most folks who hike a long distance trail are typically just taking a break from work life, why did you sell most of your possessions, quit your job permanently and uproot yourself?
I was escaping the burned-out, oppressed life of a corporate existence. I was feeling suffocated and uncomfortable with the material possessions around me. I also was dealing with seeing the gluttony of how people lived their lives through my work, and that really turned me off to excessive living. I wasn’t satisfied, fulfilled or content with my career.
Any regrets (referring to the above)?
The answer is mostly no…I do occasionally think ‘hey it would be really nice to be making the money I was before’ but then I think about how that didn’t make me happy then, so why would that matter now?
Describe how your thoughts have changed about money from the time before you started hiking the Triple Crown trails to after.
I’ve always been a minimalist anyway but after thru hiking it’s really amazing how little you need to be fulfilled. I didn’t know it at the time but thru hiking was preparing me for how I am living today and it will in the future too. You have lots of time to think on the trail and during the CDT thru I was scheming a way to configure a small vehicle so that I could live out of it. I did not want to pay rent (get around by bicycle) AND have a vehicle, it was one or the other. It worked, and since May 2014 I’ve been living out of my vehicle. (This is an entirely separate piece/topic for your website and I could go on and on about urban living in a vehicle.) Living this way allows me the freedom and flexibility so I can focus on things that matter to me most and improve my quality of life.
Any big gear changes over the course of the three hikes?
Any changes I made in gear were almost all on the AT, which makes sense looking back on it..it is the learning period for that first couple months on the trail. From using a water filter to switching to Aquamira to ultimately using bleach drops. From using a Jetboil to now hiking stoveless. From thick lug sole boots to wearing trail runners. I probably would’ve switched out more but my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 made it all three trails and so did my NeoAir. So I was choosy, because of economics really.
Were you hoping to arrive at any epiphanies before you began the AT? If yes, what were the hoped for epiphanies, and did you have these epiphanies?
I didn’t go into the AT with any expectations. I had moments on all the trails where I knew life was better now because I had made this decision to be out in the wilderness.
After completing the AT (your first Triple Crown trail), did you feel driven to complete the PCT and CDT to have the Triple Crown achievement?
I felt driven, but not by the triple crown. It wasn’t until after the PCT thru that I started to think about the Triple Crown. I honestly just had nothing else to do after the AT and I knew I loved everything about thru hiking and I had the time, so that’s why I did the PCT the following year. And really, after the PCT it was the same feeling for doing the CDT the following year, but knowing the Triple Crown was just a thru hike away was added motivation for sure.
Do you see any similarities or differences that you see between Ultra-marathon running and long distance hiking?
All the time…they are both small, obscure on-the-fringes kind of communities. They are somewhat marginalized and at the same time held as achieving something completely unobtainable by most others. Oh, and both communities like to eat…A LOT! You can be wealthy, poor or in between but the trail equalizes everyone.
Do you feel that running ultras have helped you as a hiker?
Absolutely, it prepped me physically and for the mental side of things. Everything in life is relative and when you have an experience to draw on when the trail is difficult it helps tremendously. I had the confidence going into every thru knowing the only thing that would stop me from completing it would be an injury or a family emergency.
What other large hiking goals do you have for yourself, if any? Other adventures?
The AZT with you two fine friends in the very near future. I’m pretty burnt out on super long distance (2k+) thru hiking for a while. I haven’t thought beyond the AZT about another long hike. The next big trip on my agenda is canoeing the length of the Mississippi River from the head waters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The logistic of planning that trip are in the works.
Short and Sweet Questions:
Do you hike much outside of long distance trails?
No, almost never, except for car camping. Just run a lot on trails.
What is the best book that you have read lately (or current favorite podcast)?
I enjoy listening to Live Wire podcast
What is your favorite way to relax?
Sleeping, eating, films, running (yes it relaxes me, it’s therapeutic), music, the gym
Favorite trail town?
Any trail town in Colorado! If I have to choose: Salida, CO, Leadville, CO and Silverton, CO…I think I was really drunk in all of those.
Favorite restaurant or bar on a trail?
I was going to say Chipotle but that just isn’t fair (there is one in Silverthorne, CO). Ming Chinese restaurant in Waynesboro, VA and Riff Raff Brewery in Pagosa Springs had a phenomenal happy hour. There are too many great bars…especially along the CDT, especially in CO!