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Going for a long walk takes on a new meaning…

Photo of Samuel H Gardner

Samuel H Gardner will trek four thru hikes, that's over 12,500 miles! Photo by Greg Maino.

Walking a long distance hike is undoubtedly something that many of us hikers wish they had the time and stamina to take on. In the United Kingdom trails like the Pennine Way, the West Highland Way and Pembrokeshire Coast Path typically take between one and three weeks, depending upon how many miles you want to walk each day. To walk from Land’s End to John o’Groats you are talking the best part of two months hiking, which is a pretty big commitment.

Over in the United States they like to do things bigger, thru hikes like the famous Appalachian Trail take on average six months to complete. At 2178 miles that’s a lot of walking. For one man, though, that is not far enough. Samuel H Gardner intends to walk over 12,500 miles in a single trek along the four longest thru hiking trails in the USA.

Interview with Samuel H Gardner

To find out more about this hiking project called “The All-In Trek”, we asked Samuel Gardner to tell us about himself, his plans and reasons for taking on this long distance walking challenge…

CheapTents.com: What inspired you to get into outdoor pursuits and long distance walking?

Samuel Gardner: My obsession for being outside was started by my parents. They introduced me to the outdoors from day one by raising us kids in the North woods on the shore of Lake Superior. Here we started backpacking as soon as we learned to walk. I simply just got hooked on being outside. I cannot thank them enough for that.

I have been exposed to several great mentors both in my family and by authors who have lived their dreams. They have shown me by example that you have to go after dreams to make them happen. So thats what I am doing.

CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest achievement in outdoor pursuits?

Samuel Gardner: I don’t have a “biggest” but a collection of learning experiences that have shaped and stretched my comfort zones. Some of which include living in a snow-cave, becoming an Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts of America, being a member of the U.S. National Junior Champion Pistol Team, being an wildlife tracker on a wolf predation research project, learning carpentry, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry and years of backpacking.

Running up a steep hill

Samuel training on Ripley ski hill. Photo by Greg Maino.

CheapTents.com: What is your biggest weakness?

Samuel Gardner: I am an unknown person in the public eye and I am about to attempt to do something “big”. The nay-sayer criticism is difficult to not take personally. It is something I am learning to deal with. I aim to use it as a backup source of inspiration during the hard times of the trek.

CheapTents.com: What do you find most difficult about training?

Samuel Gardner: The pulled IT band injury in my right leg earlier this year. It is under control now. But it took a while to work through. I had to learn some new stretches, deep massages and use pressure point rollers for months to get it to feel good again.

CheapTents.com: On January 1st of 2011, you will set out on a 12,500+ mile “All-In Trek”. What will this involve?

Samuel Gardner: The All-In Trek includes hiking end-to-end and back-to-back the four longest trails in the U.S. This involves starting the trek on snowshoes on January 1st on the North Country Trail Westbound, then the Pacific Crest Trail Northbound, then the Continental Divide Trail Southbound and finally hiking the Appalachian Trail Southbound. It is my intention to hike the 12,500+ miles continuously in one trip. It is my goal is to finish in one calendar year. However, the four trails have never been hiked back-to-back before so the “journey” is more important to me then the speed record. Simply, I intend on walking quickly to avoid most of the deep snow in the mountains.

Map showing North Country Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail

The All-In Trek of the four longest thru hikes in the USA: 12,500+ miles!

CheapTents.com: Why are you setting yourself this challenge?

Samuel Gardner: First, I believe the All-In Trek is the next step in long distance backpacking so I’m going to do my best to prove it by doing it myself.

Second, I want to experience first hand the adventure of it, the difficulties and the satisfaction, the personal growth and the people interactions, the freedom and the beauty of all the places that I have yet to see.

Third, I want to prove by example how it is possible to pursue our greatest dreams no matter how seemingly impossible they may appear. I hope to motivate others to do the same, whatever their dreams may be. Whether it is to become an artist, doctor, athlete, parent, teacher, carpenter, adventurer or any other healthy life style of living with intent.

CheapTents.com: How many pairs of walking boots do you think you will go through on the All-In trek?

Samuel Gardner: I am counting on using approximately 22 pairs of shoes throughout the trek.

CheapTents.com: You spent six months spent living outdoors in a snow cave. What made you choose to do this?

Samuel Gardner: It was a personal test I created to see if I had some of the basic skills to do “bigger” adventures in the future. It was part of building a personal check-list of outdoor skills that I wanted to complete before I attempted treks such as the “All-In Trek”. Turned out, it worked. I’m really glad I did it.

CheapTents.com: What were the main challenges involved and how did you overcome them?

Samuel Gardner: The location was a beaver pond located 5 miles out of town from the University where I went to school. I started camping in November in a tent on the banks of the pond. Once the snow got deep and the pond froze, I moved camp out to the island in the middle. I built a snow-cave next to a large boulder and moved in. It was much more comfortable than the tent.

The snow cave where Samuel lived.

Samuel spent six months living in this snow cave.

Some of the hardest parts were thin ice, getting the flu and my truck motor blowing up. I fell through the ice in the fall months. I learned to be good at climbing out of the holes in the ice. I remedied the situation by spreading logs out on the ice to walk on to spread out my weight. It worked well.

I became sick with the stomach flu in the middle of the endeavour. I lost 36 pounds in 6 days. It took a over a month and a half to get well again. This part wasn’t fun but I got through it. I am glad I experienced the hardship. I learned from it and won’t forget it.

In February, my truck broke so I had to use cross country skis to to get to class. It was about an hour ski each way. People talking when I started showing up in ski boots. It made for good exercise and conversation. Overall, it was a great experience.

CheapTents.com: Where would you like to be in 5 years time? Main Ambitions?

Samuel Gardner: I want to continue pursuing my goals of adventure, personal growth and inspiration. I want to take my experiences to schools and tell the stories to the kids. Show them that it is possible to follow our dreams no matter how seemingly impossible they appear to be or what the nay-sayers think. I believe that kids and most adults don’t hear enough positive stories and I aim to help fix that.

CheapTents.com: What are your favorite bits of gear, and why?

Samuel Gardner: My favorite piece of gear is my Circuit backpack from Ultra Light Adventure Equipment in Logan, Utah. It is a 36oz pack that can carry 35lbs of gear comfortably. Its simple and gets the job done well. It was designed with excellent craftsmanship.

CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you would like thank?

Samuel Gardner: I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me 100 percent. I wouldn’t be who am I today without them in my life. Thank you. I’d also like to thank my sponsors; U.L.A. Equipment and Bucky Beach for helping me pursue this dream.

CheapTents.com: Anything else you would like to say?

Samuel Gardner: I want to invite everyone to check out my website: www.theinitiativesite.com and introduce yourself by emailing me at samuel@theinitiativesite.com with any questions, comments or advice. Please feel free to follow my progress and get involved! See you out there!

CheapTents.com:

Thanks Samuel for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with the All-In Trek!

If you enjoyed reading this interview then you will definitely enjoy reading our interview with Abe Clark who has completed a solo run across run America or Mikael Strandberg, the legendary explorer who has trekked across East Africa and Siberia.

If you’re thinking of taking on a long distance hike, Trailspace has a useful four part guide to planning a thru hike, which is worth a read. Don’t forget your spare walking boots!

Share Your Adventures!

You don’t have to trek 12,500 miles to have a great adventure! We’d enjoy hearing from anyone who has taken on a walking challenge or hiked a long distance trail. Where did you go? What were the highlights? How did you overcome difficult parts of your journey? Can you give Samuel any advice to prepare him for his epic journey? Simply leave a comment!

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