Friends and fellow hikers have started referring to me as Hiker Trash. I think of it as a badge of honor. After all, I do spend a lot of my time out hiking in the woods. Yes, most of my wardrobe is made up of nylon and quick-drying fibers. Dressing up has become wearing my best zip-off leg pants and a roll-up sleeve Columbia Omni-Dry® shirt. And most days I choose from one of my three pairs of hiking boots for daily wear.
Yes, my beard has gotten a bit bushy, and my hair a little long, too. It suits me.
I didn’t start out thinking “one day I’ll be Hiker Trash.” Over forty years ago, in my youth, I strapped on my canvas backpack and hiked off into the woods. I never stopped hiking. Sure, there were long periods of time when neither my pack nor I got to visit the trail much. Work got in the way, but even while working 50 to 80 hours a week, I found myself in the outdoors in a tent, tipi, or a VW camper as often as possible.
When traveling for work, I would spend almost every free minute doing something outdoors. In the winter I would ski, often five or six nights a week. The rest of the year, I would hop into my rental car and see what was out there, visiting National Parks, state parks, mountains, deserts, and islands. My day hikes were on the PCT, all while living in Florida. I learned to hang glide in the mountains of Northern California, and rode ATVs in the Mojave Desert.
If being Hiker Trash means not having a job or responsibilities, I guess I couldn’t be one back then. I worked at a cool job for over thirty years. I bought houses, cars, boats, bicycles, and motorcycles. I was part of the system, and it fit my needs and served me well.
At a young age I began my plan to leave the working world while I was still young enough to go out and visit the world. Hike the trails, cycle the globe, and sail the oceans. That plan didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. But it was never forgotten.
So when my career ended, so did my desire to continue working at a full time job. I scaled back, way back, selling or giving away many of the things that I spent decades obtaining. The goal? To simplify my life and wander through the woods for a few months or more. What possessions of mine remained were left with family or tucked in storage, as I was going to live out of a backpack. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.
Hiking is something I love, I hope to do it until I’m really old and gray(er). But there’s so much to do outdoors! That’s why I can’t stay fixated on a single trail, or just on hiking. There are wonderful trails and places to walk around the world. I don’t have a list, there’s just too many places to write them all down.
I visited Whiteblaze for the first time, as I wanted to see what their idea of Hiker Trash is. It was funny to discover so many people actively aspiring to the title. I believe that you don’t set out to become Hiker Trash. If it’s meant to be, it finds you. If being penniless, never clean, and homeless are requirements, I guess I’m overqualified. I’m not broke, I only go showerless while on the trail, and I have a tiny little home to return to at the end of my adventures.
I’ll live simply, watch my pennies, and go hiking any time the mood strikes me. A big advantage of living in Florida is that when it’s too hot to hike here you go elsewhere, and when it’s snowing everywhere else, you hike at home!
I’m not sure how it will affect my Hiker Trash title, but I’m still going to cycle, both on and off the road, ride my motorcycle, and go sailing when the opportunity arises.
My friends call me Hiker Trash and I think it’s wonderful. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. It’s more important to be given this title by friends than a bunch of people online whom I’ve never met. Still, it’s funny that you’ll see my picture if you Google “Hiker Trash.”