This week we had the pleasure of getting to know Andrew, a.k.a. Reptar, an Appalachian Trail ("AT") veteran who is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail ("PCT"). Not only does he have amazing advice for thruhikers, but he also is so inspirational for those looking to hike these difficult trails.
From finding love on the AT, or as he put it "love at first hike" (the cutest thing I've ever heard), to going for the Triple Crown (AT, PCT and CDT), his story is truly amazing in every way. We reached out to Reptar after following his hiking journey for quite some time on Instagram and watching as he came across snakes and spiders the size of his hand! We couldn't wait to get to know more about this dedicated individual, and we're so inspired by his answers.
"The idea of going on an adventure of epic proportions was all the inspiration I needed"
How did you mentally and physically prepare for your thruhikes?
Living in Key West it was tough preparing for the AT. I lived at a high point on the island which was about 8 feet above sea level. I'd throw my fully loaded pack on and hike around the island and up and down stairs cases. I practiced setting up camp and using my stove in my backyard. Mentally and physically I had never done anything like a thru hike before so I really didn't know what to expect. For the PCT I just ate food like I would never see it again and spent as much time with friends and family as possible.
What was your biggest fear when starting to solohike?
When solo hiking I don't really fear anything. If I had to pick something I'd say I fear lack of interaction with others. I'm a big people person so hiking for days without really interacting with anyone gets lonely at times. I enjoy my alone time and even while hiking with my girlfriend we hike apart from each other, but it's nice to have lunch together and each other's company at night.
What made you want to start thruhiking?
I had been working in a hospital Intensive Care Unit for a few years and hit a point where I felt like I needed to get out and live life to the fullest. Seeing people dying on a weekly basis really put things into perspective. I pictured myself on my death bed and thought, what story would I tell? Would I lay there thinking, man I wish I had done more? So I decided to be proactive and that's when the idea of an Appalachian Trail thru hike came to mind.
How many trails have you thruhiked?
I thru hiked the AT in 2015 and am currently thru hiking the PCT. In 2020 I'm looking at either doing the CDT to wrap up the Triple Crown or head over to New Zealand with some friends and thru hike the Te Araroa.
Have you solohiked all of the trails?
I started the AT with a friend but we eventually split up about 400 miles in. I ended up meeting my current girlfriend on the AT and we've been hiking together ever since. I guess you could say it was love at first hike.
What nitty-gritty advice do you have for fellow hikers?
As my fellow thru hiking friend Pretzel says "Don't carry heavy shit.". You will get wet, you will get cold, just embrace the suck and keep moving forward. There's a saying "Never quit on an uphill, never quit when you're hungry or tired, and never quit on a rainy day." The thing about that though, is it's always uphill, you're always tired and hungry, and it's always raining (unless you're in the desert).
What is your biggest hiking accomplishment so far?
I'd have to say the AT. Although the last 700 miles in the desert is definitely giving that accomplishment a run for its money.
When did you set off on your PCT journey?
I started April 12th and have been taking it really slow. I had a foot injury early on that sidelined me for a bit but I'm still getting 20's in every now and then. I really enjoy stopping in towns and talking to locals. Thru hiking is a great way to see the country and meet some amazing people.
What other hobbies do you have other than hiking?
Off trail I work with 2 guys developing video games, I also enjoy graphic design, photography, and filmmaking. For those interested you can check out my Instagram or YouTube channel.
(See Links at end of interview)
How did you financially prepare for your thruhikes?
Work, work, and more work. I save up as much as I can during my time off trail and then inevitably spend it all hiking. I always save more than I think I'll spend to ensure a cushion in case of emergencies, or to give myself a few months off when I finish to acclimate back into every day society.
What was your main goal when setting off on the PCT?
The main goals for me are to have a good time, create lasting memories, and make new friends. So much of long trail hiking is about the community. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it. I'm also working with a great group of folks through the Granite Gear Groundskeeper team packing out trash on long trails across the country. I'm really passionate about leaving the trail a better place for the next lucky person to experience.
What are your must-have gear brands?
That's a tough one but here goes...Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Granite Gear, Enlightened Equipment, Sawyer, Platypus, Thermarest, LA Sportiva, and Under Armour to name a few. That being said it's all about finding the gear that works best for you.
How long did it take you to hike the AT?
It took me 6 and a half months but I'm pretty sure a piece of me is still out there.
What was your favorite part of Virginia when hiking the AT?
Being born and raised in Virginia I enjoyed most of it. The section around McAfee Knob is really nice (be sure to stop and eat at Home Place), Luray Caverns was a neat side trip. In the Shenandoah it made me giggle seeing all the "Backcountry" signs when Skyline drive was never more than a few miles away. I'm a big fan of hiking in misty forests and there was no shortage of that in VA. I actually snapped one of my favorite pictures in VA. It was the morning after a spring rain, the vegetation was so green and lush that the mist had a green hue to it. It felt like walking in a fairytale.
What are your plans for when you finish the PCT?
After the PCT I plan on releasing a follow up documentary to The AT Experience named The PCT Experience. Instead of heading back to Florida my girlfriend and I are moving to Colorado or Oregon. From there it's all about working until we save for the next adventure.
We cannot wait to follow Reptar and his beautiful ladies' future adventures on the trail and will be keeping our eyes peeled on Instagram for the Triple Crown finish line. We wish our fellow Virginian the best of luck with his adventures and thank you for being so inspirational. Be sure to check out the links below for more information on his PCT and AT hikes!
Follow Reptars Journey:
Instagram | Facebook | Website | YouTube
A very thankful,
Back Country Momma
*All photos belong to Reptarhikes/Andrew*