Trail angels Andrea and Jerry Dinsmore have been hosting hikers for years at their Washington home, which is known as Hiker Haven. Ratatouille visits Hiker Haven and talks to the Dinsmores about the challenges of being full-time trail angels and how the forest fires in Washington have affected the PCT this year. He also chats with thru-hiker David “El Flaco” Lowe, who, at the age of 58, has already hiked the Appalachian Trail three times.
PCT hiker “Properly Chill” talks about how she got involved with Hike the Pipe, a protest against a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross southern Oregon. Ratatouille discusses PCT Days with event organizer Jason “Neighbor Jay” Waicunas. Interviews with other PCT hikers in northern Oregon.
On September 24, 2015, Heather “Anish” Anderson set the new speed record for a self-supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, becoming the first person ever to simultaneously hold the record for both the AT and PCT. Less than 3 days later, she sat down with Trailside Radio to talk about her records and the obstacles she has overcome to achieve them.
Interviews with people hiking southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail. While hiking north to Cascade Locks, Ratatouille bumps into Par 3 of the podcast Sounds of the Trail, and they simultaneously interview each other at PCT Days. An on-trail musical performance by hiker Gabriella “Ukulele” Smith.
Ratatouille attempts the Oregon Challenge– hiking 456 miles in 14 days– but exhaustion and dehydration have other plans. Forest fires cause a trail closure near Crater Lake, but a familiar face comes to the rescue. Interviews with artistic and musical hikers at Shelter Cove.
I’m getting ready for the home stretch of my PCT adventure. I’ll be attending PCT Days this weekend and then hiking north through Washington. I’ll be interviewing many hikers during the next month. Are there any questions you’d like to hear me ask my fellow PCT hikers? Let me know in the comments below.
From a rave in Belden to a church in Chester, Ratatouille hikes and hitches his way through northern California to the Oregon border– and defends his camp from a bear. Really, it was a bear this time! Bluegrass in Belden. A mysterious shoe appears. Poop talk in Sierra City. A conversation with another hiker about being behind schedule on a thru-hike.
Next week Trailside Radio will take the week off as Ratatouille attempts to hike the entirety of Oregon in 14 days– 32.5 miles a day! Trailside Radio will return the following week to share that journey.
Hello everyone! I thought I’d give you all an update about my hike as I skip a few hundred miles of trail to catch up to The Herd and hopefully position myself to reach Cascade Locks, OR in time for PCT Days. I am currently hitching from Old Station, CA to a place on the trail near the Oregon border. This will give me two weeks to hike Oregon– also known as the 14-Day Oregon Challenge! That means I’ll have to hike an average of 32.5 miles per day with no time off. It will push me to my limits, as the longest day I’ve ever hiked was 32 miles.
I’m currently working on Episode 16, which should come out next Tuesday like usual. I’m taking the following week off as I won’t have time for editing while I’m hiking Oregon. Trailside Radio will return the following week. The next two episodes will be a little different than the previous ones, as I’m going to focus more on my own hike and record my day-to-day experiences pushing myself to make big miles. After that, I’ll be returning to the usual focus on interviews with hikers, trail angels, and others in the PCT community. Hopefully PCT Days will provide a wealth of stories, just as Kick Off did back in April. I will also be attending the ALDHA-West Gathering at the end of September.
Everything is going great. My ankle hasn’t given me any troubles in the last couple weeks, and hopefully it’s ready for the 32-mile days I’ll be hiking in Oregon. I’m somewhat disappointed that I haven’t succeeded at hiking every mile of the trail, but I have no regrets and my morale remains high. Money has gotten very tight for me, but my expenses should be minimal for the duration of my hike, and I do have resources I can turn to in case of an emergency. The occasional contributions I’ve gotten from listeners have been a big help, putting some of the money I’ve spent to produce this podcast back into my hiking budget.
To answer one of the questions I get asked the most: yes, I’ll be continuing to produce new episodes of Trailside Radio after this hiking season is done. It won’t be weekly– probably monthly– but I plan to spend the off-season interviewing other hikers about the adventures they’ve had this year on other trails, including the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Will I be doing another thru-hike (or nearly-thru-hike) next year? It’s too early to say. I won’t make that decision until after I finish this journey. But if– or when– I attempt another long-distance hike, I’ll be sure to bring you all along with me for the ride!
Thanks for listening. I still have 1000 more miles to hike this year, and I look forward to sharing the stories with you.
A return to the Sierra Mountains. Far behind schedule, still overcoming a sprained ankle, Ratatouille skips two beautiful sections of trail to catch up with other hikers. A rendezvous in Mammoth Lakes. Interviews with a group of trail maintenance workers and the owner of Sonora Pass Resupply.
Welcome to The Hostel California in Bishop, where dozens of hikers rendezvous, congregate, linger, and have their willpower tested as they attempt to return to the trail. 20 hikers take a U-Haul to San Francisco to attend the Pride Celebration and get stopped by police along the way. Thunderstorms. Fireworks. How not to make a jello pool. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
(U-Haul photos courtesy of eedahahm)
An extended, hour-long version of the interview with Shawn “Highwalker” Snyder featured in Episode 13: Higher Ground.
Ratatouille and Mr. Universe brave snakes, bears, cows, and giardia to reach Kennedy Meadows. A lingering injury forces Ratatouille to make a difficult decision. Featuring an interview with Shawn “Highwalker” Snyder, who has spent much of his life on the Pacific Crest Trail. Also, a glimpse behind the scenes: How to podcast from the trail.
After celebrating at the 500 mile mark, Ratatouille loses his phone while hitching to town, is bitten by red ants, gets sick, encounters a Mojave Green rattlesnake, hurts his foot, and falls on a cactus. Two brothers from overseas and a traveling trail angel come to his rescue.
The song “Hearns” was written and performed by ate21. Used with permission.
For 18 years, Donna and Jeff Saufley hosted PCT hikers at their home in Agua Dulce, California. They take the time to share their story on Trailside Radio, talking about how 50 hikers per season grew to 50 hikers per night, and why they made the decision to close Hiker Heaven.
Ratatouille encounters a rattlesnake and watches other hikers hitchhike past him. Interviews include a part-time trail angel, a group of tired hikers, and a young military veteran hiking as a way to cope with PTSD. A hiker entertains others at bedtime with his flute playing, and Ratatouille performs an original song about the PCT with his newfound ukulele skills.
Ratatouille heads north and interviews other hikers. Some are hiking for charitable causes. Others are hiking with family. One is making art… naked. One is airlifted out, but returns to tell the tale. An episode full of dehydration, fatigue, nosebleeds, and determination.
The song “Sunrise, Sun Arise” was written and performed by Lojo Russo. Used with permission.
They told me it would be difficult to produce a podcast from the trail, and they were right. It’s been a huge challenge to balance hiking, recording, editing, resting, and enjoying myself. Episode 5 was delayed for over a week when I lost my voice. Episode 6 was a couple days late as I was still trying to catch up. Episode 7 was on time, but I was working on it up until the last minute. Episode 8 is now two days late, but for an entirely unexpected reason– my Android smartphone (which I use for editing and other post-production) automatically updated its operating system, and now some of my software no longer functions properly.
I am confident that I will find solutions to this challenge, but so far it’s been a major headache. Please bear with me while I figure it out. Although Trailside Radio is 100% free, and I’m not beholden to any sponsors, it’s still important to me that I manage to release weekly episodes consistently. Unfortunately, I have to play it by ear this week, even though I have lots of great content that I’m excited to share. One way or another, I aim to have Episode 8 out by the end of the week. Hopefully once I get this wrinkle ironed out, I’ll be able to get back– and stay– on schedule.
Thank you to everybody who is listening, especially those who have reached out to me with comments and emails. My hike is going very well– if a bit slowly– and I’m having the time of my life. An extra-special thank you to the few folks who noticed the new PayPal link on the website and sent a few dollars my way. I already have enough money saved up to keep the podcast going while I hike to Canada, but I’m doing so on a shoestring budget– so these contributions are definitely appreciated.
I promise I’ll have the next episode up as soon as I can get my phone to behave itself!
Third and final episode of interviews from the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off 2015. Paul “Nohawk” Hacker and Bob Riess talk about the history of the PCT Kick Off and the legacy of Greg “Strider” Hummel. Teddi Boston talks about hiking the PCT southbound in 1976 and the work she does now to protect it. Ravensong (Carolyn Burkhart) talks about hiking the PCT northbound in 1976 and being a trail angel today. Also: Matt “Double Tap” Parker, 30-Pack of Backcountry Ninjas, and Spartan of Zero Day Resupply. Next week: Ratatouille heads north!
More interviews from the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off 2015, including POD and Disco (The Trail Show), Meadow Ed, Marmot, Lon “Halfmile” Cooper, Barney “Scout” Mann, and the people behind Guthook Trail Guides, Gossamer Gear, and Trail Logistics. Next week: interviews with PCT thru-hikers from the classes of 1976 and 1977!
Now coming to you from the Pacific Crest Trail! Ratatouille arrives in Campo, California and hikes to Lake Morena for the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off. Featuring interviews with PCT winter thru-hiker Shawn “Pepper” Forry, filmmaker Scott “Squatch” Herriott, and retired trail angel Georgi “Firefly” Heitman, as well as a Trail Food trail tip from Teresa “Dicentra” Black, author of the backpacking cooking guide One Pan Wonders.
Shawn “Pepper” Forry’s website
Justin “Trauma” Lichter’s website
Kickstarter page for Squatch’s Icelandic film
One Pan Wonders by Teresa “Dicentra” Black is available from Yogi’s Books and Amazon.
Gear decisions are very personal. Many people would be very unhappy if they hit the trail with the same gear I use. My pack is heavier than average and some veteran hikers have rolled their eyes at my choices, such as hammock camping with four pounds of insulation (underquilt, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag liner). I do not suggest that anyone blindly use this as a guide. I am sharing this list for those who are curious, and because some specific information may be helpful to some people, particularly my podcasting gear which many people have asked about.
I am posting this list without pictures for now, but I intend to add those along the way. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to use the comments section.
Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder (7 oz)
A key piece of gear for Trailside Radio. This thing is amazing. It records high-quality, low-noise audio in wav or mp3 format. It has 4 GB of internal memory, as well as a slot for microSD cards. I can fit over 20 hours of CD-quality audio on one 16 GB card. The internal microphones are great, although I’ll often be using its plugin power to operate my external microphones, providing me with more flexibility in my recording technique. The PCM-M10 runs for about 24 hours on 2 AA batteries. It was recommended to me by two different people who both have professional experience recording audio in the wilderness, and so far I’ve been very impressed with it. I’ve used it to record every interview since episode 2. If there are flaws in the recordings, blame it on my inexperience, not this recorder.
First, the bad news. Episode 5 is going to be late. I thought I had considered most of the obstacles that might get in the way of podcasting from the trail, but somehow laryngitis didn’t make the list. I’ve lost my voice. I can hardly speak, and it hurts to try. Worst of all, it happened because I haven’t done a good job of taking care of myself. Much too much coffee, a little too much beer, not enough water, too much campfire smoke, and lots and lots of talking were more than my vocal chords could handle.
Now, the good news. I’m on the PCT. I’m having the time of my life. My voice will return. I got to the monument at the start of the PCT last Tuesday night and arrived at Lake Morena (mile 20) early the next day. The next five days were a whirlwind of workshops, interviews, new friends, and a little bit of partying. I interviewed a lot of people– enough for several episodes of Trailside Radio. While I hadn’t planned on it, I stayed for both sessions of the PCT Kick Off because I kept finding more amazing people to interview. Unfortunately I wore myself out and now I’m unable to finish any episodes with the necessary introductions and segues, at least for a few days. I promise, the wait will be worth it!
I intend to release episodes every Tuesday, so most likely I’ll delay Episode 5 by one week. If my voice comes back in the next couple days, I may consider releasing it sooner, but I’m not going to promise anything before May 5. By then I should have three episodes locked and loaded, ready for weekly release. Staying a few episodes ahead is the only way I’ll have any hope of consistently releasing episodes every Tuesday while I’m on the trail. I won’t always have internet access out here, not to mention all the other things that can go wrong. Hopefully this week will be the last without a new episode until I finish this adventure. Consistency is important to me, however it still takes third place on my list of priorities.
Ratatouille’s List of Priorities
1. Stay safe and healthy.
2. Have a positive and fun experience.
3. Get an episode out every week.
4. Make it to Canada.
I’m now back on the trail heading north towards Canada. Last night I cowboy camped (meaning without a tent) under a half moon and a clear sky. We got a lot of rain in the last couple days, but of course the drought is still a harsh reality here in southern California. I’ve already met people from all over the world, and we’re all brought together by a singular purpose: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
I promise you’ll be able to join me vicariously next week!
Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa talks about ALDHA-West, PCT Days, and the annual ALDHA-West Gathering. Renee “She-ra” Patrick of Hikertrash Gear talks about the Continental Divide Trail, which she’s thru-hiking this summer. Ratatouille has less than a week to finish getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. He is NOT freaking out.
Starting April 28, Trailside Radio finally goes trailside! New episodes will be released every Tuesday, direct from the Pacific Crest Trail. If you haven’t already subscribed, now is the time!
Ratatouille travels to Bend, Oregon to find out why many hikers choose to call themselves hikertrash. He talks with Erin and Carl Miller (a.k.a. “Hummingbird” and “Bearclaw”) about Erin’s book, Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail. Renee “She-ra” Patrick discusses her company, Hikertrash Gear. Kolby “Condor” Kirk talks about sharing his wilderness adventures through art, and how the journey is more important than the destination. Does Ratatouille learn to embrace the term hikertrash? Listen to find out!
Three weeks left until Trailside Radio goes mobile on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Interviews with two Triple Crowners: Erin “Wired” Saver and Sage Clegg. Wired discusses her popular hiking blog, Walking With Wired, hiking the major long-distance trails, and her plans for 2015. Sage Clegg talks about earning her Triple Crown in only 18 months, hiking lesser-known routes, and blazing her own trail. Featuring the debut of a new segment, Trail Food.
Five weeks left until Trailside Radio goes mobile on the Pacific Crest Trail!
“The thing about food is it’s all good, but there’s no food as good as trail food.” – Ratatouille
I love cooking. I enjoy the process of combining a variety of ingredients and mixing flavors to create a unique result. When I first started backpacking 17 years ago, I bought an Excalibur food dehydrator and started making my own instant meals. I quickly tired of eating the same dishes day after day. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I prepared all the ingredients separately, I could mix and match them on the trail and never eat the same meal twice.
I’ll be using this technique for most of my meals on my upcoming thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I tend to skip breakfast when I’m hiking. If I want a hot meal before midday, it’s usually oatmeal. Unlike a lot of people, I actually eat oatmeal when I’m not hiking, so I’m not too worried about getting sick of it on a thru-hike. Otherwise I just snack on cold foods: trail mix, dried fruit, bars, and so on. I usually cook two hot meals later in the day using my arsenal of ingredients.
The first episode of Trailside Radio! Two months before his big adventure, Ratatouille interviews PCT thru-hikers Paul “Blurr” Burdick (2013) and John “Cupcake” Brennan (2002) about trail culture, going the distance, and readjusting to life after a thru-hike. He also talks with his mother, Mary Hepokoski, about her wilderness experiences and the camping trips she took him on as a child.
Recording assistance provided by Ariana Rosales. Theme song by Nicholas Austin Skinner.
Production of Trailside Radio has begun. In the last week I’ve conducted three interviews, with more to come. By early April there should be at least two episodes available for your listening pleasure.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have very little experience interviewing people. Over the years, I’ve probably conducted more job interviews than journalistic interviews. I listen to a lot of interview-based podcasts (WTF, Nerdist, etc.) but the hosts of these shows have the advantage of decades of experience in radio and television. Luckily for me, Trailside Radio will not focus on long form interviews like these other podcasts do. There is no pressure for me to seamlessly fill an hour with one unedited conversation. Still, I need to develop a similar set of skills if I want to create the best result possible.
Fortunately, my first three subjects have all been great storytellers who made the process easy for me. I interviewed two people who have completed thru-hikes of the PCT. Both interviews were conducted at a friend’s home studio here in Portland, which allowed me to forget about the recording process and focus on the conversation. Both sessions exceeded my expectations, and the credit belongs to the hikers I was interviewing. I think the secret for me will be to stay out of the way as much as possible. Follow-up questions are great when someone isn’t sure what to say next, but when a story has momentum, it’s usually best to stand back. My goal is to give people space to tell their own stories. In these segments the spotlight should be on the person telling the story.
Step One: Put on your backpack and walk to the grocery store.
Step Two: Walk right past the grocery store and continue to the next one.
Step Three: Repeat Step Two until you are at a grocery store at least 10 miles from your home.
Step Four: Buy 30 pounds of food and place it in your backpack.
Step Five: Walk home along the hilliest route possible.
Step Six: Cook the food and place it in a dehydrator.
Step Seven: Sleep.
Step Eight: Return to Step One.
It’s official. I have my permit. In only ten weeks I’ll be at the Mexican border to start my 2,660-mile journey northward. Right now, that day feels like it’s a lifetime away, but if I’m not careful, it will be here before I’m ready.
Even though I have a fair amount of backpacking experience, I’ve been spending absurd amounts of time researching the trail. There are plenty of books to read, documentaries to watch, and online forums to browse. I’ve talked with people who have done the hike before, some of them multiple times. I attended a class at a local outdoor gear store. (Shout out to Gary at the Mountain Shop!) I’ve connected with other people who will also be doing their first thru-hike this year. I’m starting to develop a severe case of information overload.
Fortunately, I already have most of my gear. I recently bought a new backpack and I’m about to upgrade my hammock, but most of what I’m carrying will be the same equipment I’ve used in the past. While this will be my first long-distance thru-hike, I’ve done solo hikes as long as 300 miles, which has given me plenty of time to find my hiking style and dial in my gear. This definitely gives me a leg up in the preparation department.
My earliest camping experiences go back to my childhood in Minnesota. My mother took my brother and me on trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area from a very young age, usually with other friends or family in tow. We’d paddle and portage from lake to lake for days at a time. My mother was (and is) an experienced wilderness adventurer who enjoyed occasional solo trips as well. She taught us how to appreciate the natural world while having fun and staying safe. These memories stand out more clearly than any others from my youth. Jumping out of a canoe to swim in the middle of a lake. Eating freshly caught fish roasted on the campfire. The magical sound of loons singing at night.
Even though I grew up in the suburbs, my childhood was filled with opportunities to appreciate nature. Cross-country skiing. Ice fishing. Visiting my grandparents’ farm. Hikes through local wilderness preserves. Family road trips. Camping with friends as a teenager.
I moved to Oregon on my own at the age of 19. It wasn’t long before I heard the wilderness calling my name. I figured I had enough experience that I could just head out onto the trail without advice or guidance. Fortunately I did know enough to keep myself safe. What I didn’t know was how to pack for a trip when you have to carry everything on your back. I was used to packing more than one bag per person, and carrying it all in a canoe. It didn’t take long for me to learn from my mistake.