Jeff Garmire of Vancouver hiked America’s three iconic long-distance routes — the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails — this year. He’s now a member of the elite cadre who have walked the three paths in a calendar year.
Garmire, 26, gets asked many questions, and this is one of the frequent ones: How many pairs of shoes did he go through?
“Thirteen,’’ he answers. “Four on the Appalachian Trail, four on the Pacific Crest and five on the Continental Divide.’’
Here are a few other numbers:
• He weighed 185 pounds in early February in Georgia and 160 pounds by the time he finished in New Mexico in mid-October.
• He tried to eat 6,000 calories a day.
GARMIRE’S GEAR LIST
• PACK: For the Appalachian Trail, he used a Granite Gear VC 46. It weighs about 2 pounds, 9 ounces. For the PCT and CDT, he used a Red Fox Racer 40 Wire. It weight 2 pounds, 10 ounces. The Granite Gear pack is slightly larger and was needed for carrying more (winter) gear and a larger sleeping bag.
• TENT: Ninety percent of the time he used a Big Agnes Fly Creek tent. It weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce.
• SLEEPING: For the first 1,000 miles, he used a Red Fox sleeping bag with a zero-degree comfort rating. For the rest of the trip, he used a Katabatic quilt with a 22-degree comfort rating. The quilt is like a sleeping bag, except a portion of the bottom is missing. Quilts are lighter and take less pack room.
• His base pack weighed 10 to 16 pounds depending on the season, weather and conditions. With food and water, it still weighed fewer than 30 pounds most of the time.
• The cost of his adventure was about $10,000.
But enough with the numbers.
Here are questions and Garmire’s answers a couple of weeks after completing the Calendar Year Triple Crown of long-distance hiking:
Q. How did hiking the three trails differ?
Garmire: “The Appalachian Trail was (hiked) so off-season it was the most difficult weatherwise and it’s a pretty steep trail anyway. It was constantly walking up and over ice and through snow. Overall, it had a lot of unique challenges most people don’t face on that trail. On the PCT, I hit that in a pretty ideal season. So other than the Sierra Nevadas — which were about 250 miles of constant snow — I had really ideal weather for that trail. The CDT was just rugged overall. I was pretty tired and skinny at that point, so it was more pushing through some of the areas that weren’t quite as scenic. I would describe that trail as some of the most amazing things, but the connector pieces between those amazing areas were pretty monotonous.’’
Q. Compare the physical challenge with the mental challenge of the trip?
Garmire: “It’s a physical challenge, but that’s where the mental challenge comes in — to overcome the physical challenge. There’s definitely some nagging injuries that I had…The urge to quit can come up, so you try to suppress that mentally. Physically, everything hurts pretty often at some point. The will to do it day after day — you’ve just to find something in each day that pushes you forward. Some days — especially in the desert or where you have to walk 10 or 12 miles after you’re out of water — that’s where you’ve really got to push through the physical pain. Then you get to some areas that are incredibly beautiful that few people have seen and it makes it all worth it.’’
Q. Did you ever come close to quitting?
Garmire: “I was really frustrated and not happy with my situation a number of times, but the idea of actually quitting and calling the whole thing off never was even a real thought.’’
Q. Did you ever run out of food?
Garmire: “Yes, but never more than maybe a few hours. It would just make you push a little quicker into town.’’
Q. Did you get lonely?
Garmire: “I wasn’t lonely very often. I was hiking roughly 250 days. I probably hiked with people 25 total days. I camped with people a lot more than I actually hiked with people….The longest stretch without seeing anyone was probably for five days. That was in the Sierra Nevadas on the Pacific Crest Trail. I went through in May and it’s really just a lot earlier than anyone tries to go up into those mountains so I saw two people near the end of a 190-mile section.’’
Q. Did you feel that you put your life at risk at times, like when swimming a frigid river in Maine?
Garmire: “There were times where I had pretty unique experiences, so swimming a frozen river was one of them. I was walking in a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevadas about half way across a frozen lake when I realized I was walking across a frozen lake. My blood pressure went up and I slowly scooted across the rest of the lake. On the Continental Divide Trail, there were thunderstorms that were so loud and so close to me I could feel the ground shaking…I also had a good interaction with a moose on that trail where it started charging after me.’’
Q. How much cell phone coverage did you have?
Garmire: “Most of the time through all three trails I’d have at least some coverage every couple of days. That’s how I kept a daily blog that I could upload and schedule.’’
Q. How did you keep resupplied with food and other needs?
Garmire: “Eighty percent of the time I would send (to a post office or business) myself a package with food and stuff. That was especially helpful in towns and places where there wasn’t much you could buy. About 20 percent of the time, in bigger towns, I could buy stuff or supplement the food I had by buying stuff.’’
Q. How long did you walk each day?
Garmire: “I would try to hike from about 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days. On the Appalachian Trail, I would hike at least a couple of hours after dark because it was only light from 8 to 5:30 or 6 for most of the trail. In New Mexico, I’d hike about an hour after dark.’’
Q. What injuries did you sustain?
Garmire: “I had Achilles tendinitis. I had hip and knee problems. I just kept pushing through them.’’
Q. When you reached the southern terminus of the CDT, what were your thoughts?
Garmire: “You feel elated that you made it through and relief that you made it through. But it doesn’t really set in that what you’ve been doing for 8½ months isn’t going to be what you’re going to continue to do.’’
Q. What advice do you have for someone planning to try the Triple Crown?
Garmire: “It’s 95 percent mental. If you can handle the mental part, then you need a little bit of luck as far as physical injury goes. The key to the whole thing is to just think about it in a lot of smaller segments. I could not have done if I thought about it as an 8½-month or nearly 8,000-mile hike. I would definitely break it up into one-week-at-a-time segments.’’
Q. You’ve got two college degrees, so now do you go back to the real world?
Garmire: “I have a few things that would be cool to do. In the meantime, I’ll have to be a weekend warrior and go back into the working world and build up some finances to do some other stuff again.’’