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What’s Next? Checking in with Triple Crowner Ben Vaughan

In 2018, I set out on my first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. With very limited hiking experience, but plenty of confidence and mental fortitude instilled in me from 22 years in the U.S. Navy, I learned more than I ever thought I would about myself and the incredible world of thru-hiking. The thru-hiking community is very small and niche, and while thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike every year, only about 15-20 percent complete their hike. Reasons for not completing a thru-hike vary...from family issues, injuries, or financial burdens, to coming to the realization that thru-hiking is more challenging and not as romantic as books and movies make it seem. It can be a real challenge for those of us that are accustomed to our creature comforts and the conveniences built into everyday life. Thru-hiking requires incredible stamina and the ability to make decisions that determine your comfort and safety on a day-to-day basis. Maybe that is the allure for me. It's not for everyone...but those of us who embrace it have a familiar bond that is truly special.

“Reasons for not completing a thru-hike vary...from family issues, injuries, or financial burdens, to coming to the realization that thru-hiking is more challenging and not as romantic as books and movies make it seem.”

My journey as a thru-hiker has brought me a long way since 2018. I am proud to announce that this year I was selected to be an Ambassador for The Trek. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, The Trek is an online resource dedicated to all things related to long-distance hiking, including gear reviews, trail reports, podcasts, and blogs/vlogs. Part of my role as a Trek Ambassador will include sharing my 2021 hiking adventures with their audience, and this is definitely shaping up to be an exciting and fun year on trail.

Now that I have completed the Triple CrownAppalachian Trail (AT) in 2018, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2019, and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2020I am looking for continued adventure and new challenges. That is why I have decided to hike the Hayduke Trail and the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) in 2021. Two completely different trails with their own unique souls. While I am an experienced thru-hiker, I know that these two trails will further challenge me and provide the adventure that I love. 

The Hayduke Trail is a little-known and extremely challenging trail whose name comes from the book “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Abbey. The trail covers over 800 miles in Utah and Northern Arizona, starting in Arches National Park and ending in Zion National Park. The trail has few markers and requires land navigation skills that aren’t normally required on the usual thru-hiking trail. 

The Pacific Northwest Trail covers 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park in Montana, following the U.S./Canadian border to Olympia National Park on the Pacific Coast. These two trails could not be more different, and that is part of the allure for me to hike them. They are also two of the least recognizable trails, and I expect to be solo and remote for most of my hikes this year.

On the flip side, I'm also looking forward to PCT Days in Cascade Locks, OR, later this summer. This is where the hiking industry, along with current and past PCT hikers, congregate to reconnect, share stories, and have a great time hanging out with fellow hiker trash. I encourage anyone that has a real interest in the community to come out for a couple days of camping, laughter, and learning from experienced hikers.

You can follow along on my adventures on Instagram @hiking_ginger_b and through The Trek @thetrek.co.

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