Imagine walking miles in remote areas of wilderness, crossing state lines and living off of the items you carry in your pack. It’s called thru-hiking, and that’s exactly what endurance athlete and thru-hiker Greg Mauger does.
by Tiona Eversole
It started in 2016, taking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. He did it again in 2017 on the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail. This spring, it’s the last walk for the Triple Crown—the 2,179-mile Appalachian Trail through eastern states of the Appalachian Mountains.
We caught up with Mauger to talk about thru-hiking.
“It’s different for every person,” Mauger said. “There’s the super purist – where if they can’t hike the exact trail that they’re supposed to be on, then they will be totally thrown off by that. My whole thing is going that whole distance.”
While Mauger has skipped sections of previous trails closed due to fires, he plans to go back to finish them.
“October of 2015 I was working for Open Sky Wilderness Therapy at the time,” Mauger said. “And seeing all of the great benefits and excellent outcomes that that program was having really got me thinking about the things I needed to work on and the best way for me to grow.”
Mauger consulted another reliable source: his mom.
“She suggested he ‘do something crazy; maybe go travel or do the Appalachian Trail or something,’” Mauger said. “A week later I had decided: I was going to go on the Pacific Crest Trail.”
“I’ll go through different resources. Whether it’s a guidebook or an app—there’s one called Guthook that has all of the resources you need on it,” Mauger said. “I’ll kind of work from there and pencil it all in and just get my brain wrapped around what the area is like and how many miles are going to be between my resupply stops.”
Mauger will use spreadsheets to plan out his resupply boxes and other logistics. However, on the CDT Mauger took a more simplistic approach.
“I wanted a more raw experience, and sure as shit that’s what I got,” Mauger said. “I didn’t realize that sometimes I would be resupplying out of a gas station. I’d be eating pop tarts and white bread for 100 miles.”
“I do a lot of weight training four to six months out, and then recently I’ve been doing a lot of running, treadmill work and then a lot of snowboarding.”
Mauger would also raise intensity of his snowboarding, hikes steep terrain at altitude and adds more practical training to his routine.
“I would just put my pack on, put a bunch of weight in and hike around town,” Mauger said. “I’m just really trying to put as many miles under my feet as possible. This year, I’m going to do more running.”
RE-EVALUATING THE THRU-HIKING DIET, AND GOING “KETO”
“So this year I’m going to do it differently. I’ve had stomach issues and I think it is actually due to the way hikers eat.”
Mauger is talking about Reese’s, tortillas, peanut butter, ramen noodles, oatmeal and instant mashed potatoes.
“My favorite thing to do was EZ mac. I would put extra cheese and crushed jalapeno chips on top, maybe some chunks of salami in there.”
It’s not a balanced diet, but it’s important to consume high calories to replenish those used as fuel. Mauger is now leaning towards a ketogenic diet.
“I’m going to try and stick to a low-sugar, low- carbohydrate diet on the AT if possible. It’s going to be a lot of meat products, a lot of high fat. It’s going to be pretty tough.”
The diet includes healthy fats: nut butters and avocados. “The thing that’s great about the AT is that there are more towns along the way, closer together, so I’ll be able to get more fresh foods, more nutrient- dense foods than I would have been able to get on the other trails.”
“On the PCT, I made a spreadsheet where I had all of my resupplies planned out and I had pre-packed 22 boxes that my mother was sending to me, all with calories counted out, all bagged up into days and weeks. On the CDT, I did whatever the town had.”
Mauger says he learned what is most important on the trail, and recommends having shoes sent to destinations so they’re ready for you. He likes Altra.
“Socks. I think socks and a sleeping bag (are most important),” Mauger said. “Shoes are really important—having the right shoes and keeping your feet nice is maybe the number one. I went through about five pairs (of shoes) on each trail.”
Mauger said it’s best to do research and talk to others to understand what you’ll need, where you can sacrifice weight and what will make you comfortable. Then, of course, there’s experience.
“This year I’m not carrying any cooking equipment,” Mauger said. “I got rid of my knife. Anything I need to cut I can usually do with my teeth or random shit that I find, like the side of a can or something.”
The cost is about $6,500 on each hike, or $1000 a month, which includes beer and new gear, as well as staying in hotels every once in a while.
“Be practical about your mileage. Understand what you’re capable of, but don’t limit yourself” Mauger said.
“I don’t do this because it’s easy,” Mauger said. “I do this, and I continue to plan these sort of things, because I like to put myself into those situations where I’m suffering, where I’m cold and miserable, where I’m wet, because those are the times that I grow.”
Once he completes the Triple Crown, Mauger chuckled and said he planned to do it all over again.