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David: interview about hiking trails, caves and friends
This interview was taken with a community member David on Reddit.
When and why did you start hiking?
I've been hiking since before I could walk. My parents had me in backpacks and on the back of mountain bikes in pretty much every Forrest in the southeast and as soon as my legs could carry me I was climbing rocks and crawling caves. I've caved and hiked in the US, Mexico, and China. Have done multiple trips over 50 miles and working towards being able to do the Appalachian Trail.
You mentioned caves. It's a very interesting topic. What attracts you to them, where would you advise to start to get acquainted with caves? What atlases do you keep on hand?
If you're interested in getting into caving I'd say the first stop would be your country's Speleological Society. Here in the US we have the NSS but I noticed your blog uses the Euro symbol so I suspect you're not one of my countrymen. The Speleological Society will generally have some local chapters with members eager to rope new recruits into the hobby and volunteer to take you out.
Looking for a more tame first time I'd recommend checking out a showcave near you. Most countries have a cave that's well lit with a path and a tour. It's a good way to get underground without the feeling of being very much out of your comfort zone.
What is your approach to hiking? How do you choose places to travel?
My approach to hiking is basically "What's out there?". I love to just walk in the woods and explore but if you tell me there's something neat down a trail, I'm on my way. I love waterfalls, cliffs, bluffs, and box canyons.
Back in the day I used to chase caves up and down the hills but I've settled a bit since I got fat. But my biggest hiking principle is I'm here to enjoy the scenery not just rush past it, I'm gonna take my time, check out the cool rocks and the crooked trees and the mushrooms growing on the trailside. Y'all rush to the finish line, I'll get there in my own time.
The Forrest is more of a church to me than any building. If there's a god out there it's in the green not stone and steel.
What are your favorite apps you use for hiking? What features do you use most often?
Honestly I don't use a ton of apps beyond Google Maps to find trailheads or parks, and AllTrails to do a little trail research. I'm old enough I actually have some old road atlases with my favorite caves and campsites marked on them in pen. Routes I've taken a dozen or more times traced out and even annotated to include directions once you leave the road. I had an old Garmin Rino I tried for a bit but it just wasn't for me. My buddy has some trail running app he uses to track our distance when we hike together, not sure what it's called though.
Name 5 items you can't imagine hiking without.
5 items I can't hike without would probably be
I'll usually also have some snacks on me like granola bars or candy bars. But my main concern is always 1. Do I have the ability to react if something goes wrong and 2. Do I have the ability to make my way out at night or stay the night out if something changes.
What websites do you look at for information about the places you plan to explore?
So usually if I'm looking at a place I'll check my local Facebook groups and see if anyone's posted trail reviews or taken a trip recently. If I'm interested in something like trail conditions I'll even ask the question like "hey has anyone been through Xyz trail recently? How's it looking after the winter? Is it overgrown, is it well marked, are the streams or springs flowing for water or do I need to plan water drops?"
Outside of that I'll look at the government website who's managing the trails for things like trail closures or footbridge closures. Emergency info for things like bears, flooding, storm debris, or even trial maintenance.
Lastly I do follow some trail forums and blogs including Homemade Wanderlust, The Appalachian Trail Coalition, and The Sheltowee Trace society for their updates and info on long trails I'm working up to hiking.
Do many friends support your interest? Do you enjoy traveling alone or with a team of like-minded people with whom you have the same interests?
So my father sort of forced me into caving at a young age but the older I get the more I appreciate it. There's an entire alien world under our feet most people will at most see just a taste of. Landscapes and formations and wonders most people have no clue even exist. Not to mention, unless you're a millionaire exploring space or a specialized scientist surveying the deep Amazon it's extremely unlikely that your average person will ever be the first human to ever walk over a trail, or see a sight no one else's eyes have seen. There aren't many frontiers left. But anyone with a helmet and a headlamp and the balls can dive into unknown passages and leave their mark on history by discovering new cave passages.
I have a couple friends who enjoy hiking and backpacking with me. My girlfriend enjoys smaller hikes and is getting into camping. She's not in the best shape for hiking at the moment (not that I'm one to talk, I got fat and COVID shot my lungs to shit.) But she's working to get there and so am I.
My biggest adventure partner for the longest time was my dad. He's an old school outdoorsman who ran into the woods when he was a boy and hasn't really stopped. Everything from mountain biking to sailing, horseback riding to caving, rappelling and kayaking and hunting. Hell he enjoys snow shoeing when the weather is right though I've never partaken of that with him. He didn't really give me a choice when I was young but to come with him. As I grew up I saw the wide beautiful wonderful world we live in and started to go willingly because I realized just how boring the narrow world of our day to day lives is by comparison.
What adventures are you planning for the coming year?
For the coming year it's really gonna come down to scheduling and cash. I'd love to say that this is the year I do the Sheltowee or AT through hike but barring a lottery windfall those are probably out of the question with my work schedule. I have a couple of 60+ mile trails I'm looking at doing with a friend as well as a dozen or so short scenic hikes chasing waterfalls, box canyons, and caves.
Biggest goal is a trip to New River Gorge. Talking to some friends about renting a cabin so we can really take a few days and explore without having to leave our families without us for a week.
Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in GPS and cartography with 15 years of experience. Additionally, Ilia has extensive experience in data recovery on PC and mobile. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions on MGT and answer them.