When I was a kid I was interested in two things: being outside in nature and wanting to serve my country. Whether it was playing ball or hiking on a trail I was more interested in the open air than I was droning out on a video game in my room. The military had an appeal to me because I inherently knew as a smart-ass teenager that I needed my butt kicked a little and in the right direction. So in 1996, I got both the outdoors and the military when I raised my right hand and swore into the U.S. Army as an Infantryman. For the next 10 years I went outside, A LOT.
Leadership, discipline, motivation, dedication, attention to detail, priorities of work, selflessness, a sense of duty, honor, commitment, respect, being mission focused, being driven, giving 100% and then some. These are just some of the skills the Army gave to me and that I continue to strive towards.
This motto is mostly overstated in the Army more than it is understated. But being able to overcome the elements, the stress, the hunger, the fatigue to stay the course and set out to accomplish what you set out to do, that is what makes you learn quickly. Land navigation and map reading, managing and accessing risks, planning missions, survival and medical training, maintaining equipment, and field craft. Tools of the trade and tools that have helped me in the outdoors.
One of the perks of military service is travelling to different places and working with multi-cultural and multi-ethnic people, both in the United States and abroad. Learning languages, customs and courtesies, and cultures has been instrumental in being able to connect quickly with most folks. Travelling to different states and countries has also given me first hand experience in places that I might not otherwise have visited. I have been to a few very interesting places.
Military experience has proven to be a solid foundation for my life. Through my service I was able to gain skills and experiences that have shaped not only who I am, but how I function. Transitioning certain perspectives and habits into more positive, healthier ones has been challenging, but rewarding. I feel that I am a better version of myself than I would have been otherwise. I feel more confident in myself and my abilities to help myself and others move past obstacles, fears, and apprehensions and achieve goals. A higher sense of purpose has showed me how to be a better person, teacher, mentor, and friend.
In many ways 2014 was a transitional year for me. Several years after leaving the Army I had reached a fork in my path; stay the course and succumb to stress and poor life choices or take the high route and rise above my old self. As fortune favors the bold, I would choose wisely and seek a new commanding view of my life and the path that I wanted to be on. I needed to create time and space and go on a long walk. I looked into walking from Oceanside, California to Virginia Beach, Virginia when the thought occurred to me that the idea of road walking 2,700 miles sounded like a miserable flashback to one of my least favorite activities in the army. So after a little more research I became reacquainted with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, or PCT for short. This was an equally as long journey, but one that maintained more of a wild feel and that follows the spine of the west coast from Mexico to Canada.
I started saving money, researching gear, studying maps, reading blogs and watching videos to get me onto the trail and into the next leg of my life. The announcement of my plans came with mainly encouragement from family and friends. One of my old army buddies reached out to me and expressed his desire to hike the trail as well. We decided on a launch date and met up in San Diego in early March 2015 to prepare our food resupplies and gear. On March 17, 2015, St. Patrick's Day, we left the southern terminus of the PCT headed north towards Mexico. In some ways I've never quite returned from that first trip.
Humbled. That's how I would describe my first experience hiking a long distance trail. Less the bullets and bombs and someone yelling at me, it was Basic Training, Infantry School, and Ranger School all over again (even the trip being voluntary). I was broken down and built back up into a new person; a better version of me. Walking a long trail taught me so much about life, the direction I want to head, and where I want to be. Unfortunately, 2015 was not the year of a successful completion of a long trail in one season, also known as a thru hike. Plagued with injuries, botched resupplies, and dwindling funds, I called off my pursuit of Canada three months earlier than expected. Heart wrenching as it was at the time, the lighter side illuminated my future path: to continue to work and recreate in the outdoors, to be a better steward, and to enrich the lives of others through sharing experiences in nature. Failure has brought me success.
The three things you can control are the easiest to focus on. They are my guide to being a good person. With these in mind I have been driven towards learning new skills, maintaining old ones, and being open to the experience. For me the best way to achieve goals is to do and set the example (hopefully well). I am currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder with additional certifications in CPR, AED, and EpiPen administration as well as a Leave No Trace Trainer and PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (SCUBA). My hope is to utilize these skills to help others and to promote awareness in the outdoors. Additionally, most of my free time, when not wandering the woods, is spent reading educational books about the outdoors, everything from learning how to be a naturalist to ice climbing. The culminating factor for me is implementing what I have learned in a field environment and mastering the skills required for the activity.
Over the past few years I have helped aspiring, as well as veteran, long distance hikers, mountaineers, rock climbers, and other outdoor adventurers plan, prepare, and accomplish their outdoor goals. While I enjoy helping the military and veteran community the most, I have actually spent more time working with other demographics. Being a part of someone else's formidable experience carries a rewarding spark that motivates me to help bring others into the outdoors. From preparing folks to summit Mt. Whitney to taking veterans on weekend backpacking trips, I have truly found a happy and successful place in the outdoor community.
Collecting experiences, not material things. 4 States and 15 Countries. Skiing in Japan, scuba diving in Cuba, kayaking in Arizona, surfing in California, skydiving in North Carolina, hiking in Washington, rock climbing in Georgia, horse packing in the Sierra Nevada....
But my mainstay has always been walking.
-1700 miles of the PCT
-2016 thru hike of the Theodore Solomons Trail
-2016 thru hike of the Lost Coast Trail
-2016 and 2018 thru hikes of the San Diego Trans-County Trail
-150 miles through Redwood National & State Park
-90 miles of the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico
-45 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia & North Carolina
-Summits of Mt. Whitney(x2), San Gorgonio, San Jacinto(x3), Mt. Baden-Powell, San Antonio (Baldy)
-Hundreds of miles on trails in Southern California and the Sierra Nevada
-Over 10,000 miles of off trail travel while serving in the Army
The only directions for me at this point are up and forward. Either up on a horse or up on a peak, I see myself hitting more high points by moving towards shorter term goals while contributing to my longer term goals. Some of these goals include working for an established, reputable guiding company, packing horses and mules for mountain travel, learning new skills in the forth season, and continuing to lead a fruitful and rewarding life in the outdoors.
"When the will is strong, everything is easy."
- CSM(Ret.) Herb Brav, US Army Special Forces
Korea and Vietnam War Veteran, Former POW 2 times.
Big dreams require proper planning. In between adventures I have been putting bucket list plans together. Some of them are shorter trips, others will be multi-month expeditions. My main focuses have been on 3 specifically:
1. Completing the collection of data for a +1100 mile looped trail through the Sierra Nevada.
2. Complete a hiking guidebook for the Theodore Solomons Trail.
3. Complete certification training in Avalanche Awareness Levels I. .
Please feel free to send any inquiries via email. It would be my pleasure to help you get ready for your adventure.