There are numerous people, who have successfully turned their lives around, going from couch potatoes to 5K competitors. One Gray man has upped the ante, going from the couch to accomplishing hiking’s, “Triple Crown” and preparing for a world record attempt.
At age 27, Daniel Johnson completed his six-year quest for the triple crown earlier this year, which includes successfully hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, and is preparing to take on the 319-mile Sheltowee Trace Trail, unsupported.
While the typical hiker may have support via a vehicle providing supplies at regular intervals, supplies waiting at certain points along the trail, or getting rides to and from nearby towns, an unsupported hiker will carry everything he or she needs at a given time.
“You can refill your water from natural sources, but you can’t purchase anything along the way,” Johnson explained.
Johnson tackled the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail in 2012, which runs from Georgia to Maine.
The Pacific Crest Trail, which spans from the Mexican boarder in southern California north to British Columbia, Canada, spans 2,659 miles.
The Continental Divide Trail is the longest, spanning 3,100 miles across five states between the Mexican and Canadian boarders.
“I grew up hearing about the Appalachian Trail,” Johnson said explaining that it was something his uncle wanted to trek but never did.
“Finally, one day, I told myself, ‘If I don’t go for it now, I never will. I didn’t know at the time that it was 2,184 miles, but I was determined to go for it. Quitting wasn’t an option.”
Johnson said he was fortunate to be working for his dad doing geothermal heating and air conditioning work. Because of that, he was able to take a leave of absence from his job for the approximately three months it took to hike the trail.
“I was in the worse shape of my life at that time,” Johnson said explaining that while he was very active and full of energy while growing up, he had fallen into the “couch potato” lifestyle over the past year before he began the trek.
Johnson said he learned a lot about himself during the trek.
“It definitely helped me learn that whatever I set my mind to, I can accomplish,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it is getting in the proper mindset that makes one of these treks possible.
“Instead of looking at it all at once, you think about hiking 10 or 20 miles a day, or for another hour, or just taking another step,” Johnson said.
“Doing that, you realize how much you can push yourself and stick with it.”
“It is kind of like stringing a whole bunch of weekend backpacking trips together.” Johnson said.
Johnson said he also learned just how much stuff he could live without.
“I can literally live with everything I need on my back,” Johnson said
It was while he was traversing the Appalachian Trail that Johnson learned about the “Triple Crown,” and what it entailed.
“By the time I finished the AT, I knew the triple crown was something that I wanted to accomplish,” Johnson said.
Johnson said one thing he has collected more of during his treks is friends.
“I have made some of my best friends on the trail that I still keep up with to this day,” Johnson said adding that trail friends from California and Germany will be coming to Kentucky this year.
For anyone that has thought about tackling the trails, whether it is one of the major ones, or even one of the numerous smaller ones, Johnson said his advice would be to go for it.
“There are ap’s with maps of the trail that are accessible offline and include information about water sources and food resupply,” Johnson said explaining that the trails go through various towns where hikers may purchase supplies.
“You typically carry three to five days worth of food and a water filter, along with enough water to get you through certain stretches,” Johnson explained.
Johnson said while the scenery is incredible, like anything else, there is a point where it gets old and you must finding something else to occupy your mind while you walk.
“I do a lot of praying and meditating. I have memorized a lot of scriptures,” Johnson said when asked what he does to occupy his mind. “Sometimes you are mindlessly walking. Sometimes your mind is just wandering.”
Johnson said he will continue his hiking adventures, noting there are numerous other long distance trails in the U.S. and around the world, including the American Discovery Trail that covers more than 4,000 miles from the east to west coast, in Arizona, Florida, Chile and New Zealand.
I don’t know if my mom would have been excited about me taking my first steps if she knew I was going to do this,” Johnson said.