The day I left Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows, I met a hiker who managed to change my entire attitude towards the trail. His name was Appa The Sky Bison.
This Michigan-bred champion of life showed me that my hiking game was still amateur. As I sucked wind to keep pace with him, he did little to encourage the now scripted conversation you courteously have with every hiker met on the trail.
However, once we outgrew the small talk and Appa realized that I was not going to be so easily abandoned in his wake, he allowed me to gently inseminate him with my needle-less syringe of friendship (what does that even mean?).
Now, some two years later, Appa has committed to doing what I (think I) wish I was also doing at this very moment in time: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail – again.
Being the gentlemanly man that he is, Appa has graciously volunteered some of his valuable time to answer some questions about his upcoming hike of the PCT. May his wisdom rain down with the fury of a thousand million horny rabbits and impregnate our bountiful fields of knowledge.
I would answer that with a quote of your own, read the second to last sentence of your article Coping With Readjustment And Thoughts Of Suicide where you talk about how you can't go back to it, but you can create something new.
The trail still echoes in my every thought and action, but as time marches forward the call of the trail slowly fades into memory; it is instead replaced by a call from the future. A call not to return to, but to go to the trail, not as it was, but how it is now.
Okay so there's that, and then the other part is: I never wanted to get off. The trail is going to be a completely new experience this time, both mentally and how I approach it physically as well. Technique, diet, gear is not that different, but yeah, you're going to have to edit how I talk. I don't feel like I'm going back, I really don't. The more experiences I have, I just know it's going to be different because it's all about the people you're with, and I am going to be with a whole new group of people.
HOW IS YOU TODAY DIFFERENT FROM YOU WHO STARTED THE TRAIL TWO YEARS AGO?
At this point Appa hung up on me to think about his answer.
I rock a man bun now – and all the implications that go with it.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WOULD GO BACK AND TELL YOURSELF ON DAY ONE THE FIRST TIME AROUND?
I don't think I would have listened to a word I had to say to myself, so it doesn't matter.
HAVE ANYTHING NEW IN YOUR PACK THIS TIME AROUND?
I have an inflatable mattress which is a huge removal from my hiking philosophy of simplicity. But after thinking about those restless nights on my side and waking up with a numb arm, I got a NeoAir Xlite. Blowing it up is going to be the worst.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU ALREADY KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO DO OUT THERE?
Part of me wants to go to every town I didn't go to before, but one thing I definitely know I'm going to do is say “yes”. I'm going to say “yes” – a lot. Which was a lesson that you and I learned together.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU ARE FOR SURE AVOIDING?
Ramen noodles and irrational pressure to make miles.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
Having everything I need on my back.
HIKING SOLO OR WITH PEOPLE?
It's the ying-yang of the trail, man. It's about finding that balance. I need both. The trail doesn't make sense without the people.
FAVORITE TRAIL MEAL?
Leftover pizza, but if that doesn't count, then oatmeal and coffee.
FAVORITE PIECE OF GEAR?
My wool hoodie, for sure. Easy.
FAVORITE SECTION OF TRAIL?
If we're talking pure hiking then I would say Whitney to Rae Lakes, but I'm probably most looking forward to the last 100 or 150 miles of the trail because of what happened to us.
FAVORITE THING TO DO DURING BREAKS?
Swimming, for sure.
FAVORITE THING TO DO IN TOWN?
Probably burger, beer, ice cream. Pretty standard.
WHAT TOWN ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
I was just thinking about that. I think as far as a town I'm looking forward to that I went to last time, it would have to be Ashland. Ashland is full of wild memories.
WHAT'S YOUR UNDERWEAR SITUATION LOOKING LIKE?
I'm wearing the same pair I wore last time. Yup. They're ExOfficio and I have no idea what they're called, but they're like six years old now and they're still exactly the same. I only carry one pair. If my underwear is dirty, I go commando.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST AFRAID OF ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL?
I'm most afraid of losing sight of the joy of the freedom. So I guess I am afraid of my own mind. Yeah.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ASS CHAFE?
Ass chafe is a fickle mistress. Ass chafe sucks. I've seen ass chafe take down some of the strongest of hikers. It is a killer of thru-hikers.
And to those of you hiking the trail this year and hoping to meet the man himself, know that he will (for his own reasons) not be going by Appa on the PCT this year (find him a suitable replacement, please). However, he will always be an Appa in my eyes (and heart).
He starts today, April 6, best of luck out there, Appa (or whatever the hell your name is)/
Have any questions for Appa? Leave a comment below and I will pester him into answering!.