Elizabeth “Snorkel’ Thomas
Interview with Snorkel, Long-Distance Hiker | Author | Speaker | Coach by middle-school class “tHInK outsidE” 2018
1. Why did you choose Snorkel as your trail name?
On my first long hike, it was very cold, so I stuck my head in my sleeping bag to keep my face warm. But over time, the moisture in my breath collected inside the fabric and insulation of the sleeping bag. Instead of being warm, fluffy, and lofty, my sleeping bag looked deflated and soggy. I couldn’t figure out why my bag looked so moist even though I had been taking care to keep it dry from the rain. An employee at a gear store joked that I needed to stick a snorkel outside of my sleeping bag to breathe. I learned to keep my head outside of my sleeping bag, even in cold conditions, but the name “snorkel” stuck.
2. How do you train for a hike?
I find hiking and walking everyday is the most important thing for me. It keeps my ankles and feet strong. The feet and ankles take the longest time to develop muscles and tendon strength, so keeping this muscles in good shape is the most important.
3. How long did it take to write your book?
It took a year and a half to write the book and then another few months until I had it in hand. During this time, I was sitting in front of a computer writing a lot more than I was hiking, which was hard for me. But I’m proud about how it turned out.
4. How does it feel to be away from your family and/or animals for so long? Do you like hiking solo or with other people better?
I miss and worry about my family. I know they are worrying even more about me, but they know that hiking is something I have to do. In some ways, being able to talk with others about my hikes has made us closer when I return from a trip. I like hiking solo and with other people. Hiking solo teaches me self reliance and I enjoy getting to set the schedule and pace of the day without having to compromise. But I learn backcountry skills and about life from other hikers. When hiking with others, some more difficult tasks like crossing rivers or navigating become easier. But hiking with a bad partner who doesn’t respect my needs or won’t let my opinions be heard can be more stressful than being alone. It’s like going on a long car ride trapped in vehicle with someone who isn’t nice. The best hiking partners are people who I feel comfortable enough with to tell them my goals and hiking style before we set off on a trip and who is flexible enough to change based on my needs.
5. What do you like to eat on trail?
Right now, my favorite foods to eat on trail are: chocolate, cheese, and broccoli. I also carry nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, cookies, chips, crackers, and gummy bears. My dinners are usually dehydrated beans/soup/chili, ramen, and freeze dried dinners. There are some foods I’ve eaten too much on trail to enjoy much anymore like oatmeal.
6. Since you are a solo hiker, what would you do if you were injured badly and had no source of communication?
I usually like to carry a way to communicate with the world like a GPS unit that works as an emergency beacon. On short hikes, sometimes a cell phone will get reception. If I had no form of communication, I would look at my maps to find the closest way to get to civilization. And then I would have to figure out a way to walk to that place to get help.
7. What is your favorite trail?
I can’t say that I have a favorite trail because each one that I walk has wonderful moments and also has moments that have taught me about myself and improved my skills. True, some trails are more beautiful, some trails have more climbing, some trails have better weather, and some trails are hard to find. But each trail shows me something new and special. Each trail makes me appreciate all the wonderful things in this world and what it means to be alive. Each forces me out of a comfort zone and makes me think and see what is around me with new eyes. That’s what I love about hiking and that remains the same no matter what trail I am on.
8. How have your hikes changed you personally?
Before I started hiking for a long time, I had a lot of questions about what I wanted to do with my life. I was angry about some of my relationships with other people. I didn’t have much confidence. I didn’t believe in myself. The more I hiked, the more I realized what I was capable of. The more I appreciated what I did have in life. I stopped wondering or being angry about the things or relationships I didn’t have. I became happier and came to accept and appreciate the world around me. It grounded me and put my problems into perspective and it still does that for me today.
9. What is your greatest fear in hiking?
I worry about slipping off icy, steep mountain slopes. I worry about fording deep and fast moving creeks and rivers. I worry about meeting bad people who will hurt me. But in the end, my love of hiking is much stronger than my fears. And the evidence that I’ve hiked so many miles without a problem is a big confidence booster.
10. Do you like urban or forest trails better?
I prefer forest trails but urban trails bring me to new places and let me understand what it is like to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” In some ways, they stick with me longer because of that.
11. What kinds of wildlife have you encountered? Did you make any animal friends?
I’ve encountered lizards, turtles, snakes, newts, marmots, pikas, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, javalinas, wild boar, weasels, and even a very rare wolverine. I’ve made two animal friends.
12. What motivates you to keep hiking?
I find that love of an activity, sport, or subject can be the biggest motivator to do anything. For me, I love hiking. I love being in nature. I love focusing all my energy towards moving forward towards a goal on a hike.
Shawn “Pepper” Forry and Justin “Trauma” Lichter – First to Complete a Winter Thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015
I think the word adventure gets tossed around a lot, I think my take on it is that if you know ahead of time you are going to be successful or you are going to achieve something, there is no adventure in that.
Shawn “Pepper” Forry and Justin “Trauma” Lichter, “Team Bad Winter” hiked southbound through snow, ice, wind, rain, mud, and freezing cold. They have completed the first ever wintertime thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
They were kind enough to agree to an interview answering student generated questions by tHInK outsidE outdoor class. One of my very clever and professional students agreed to conduct the following video interview on behalf of the entire class.
Thank you Pepper and Trauma for sharing a part of your adventure with tHInK outsidE.
Find out more:
- The PCTA wrote an excellent article on their background and trip with incredible photos, “Meet the two guys winter thru-hiking the PCT“.
- Follow along on their websites shawnforry.com and justinlichter.com.
Swami – Completed 12 Long Trails in the United States PLUS Thousands More All Over the World
Cam “Swami” Honan, a long-distance hiker who has hiked more than 50,000 miles in some 55 countries gave a very informative and entertaining presentation to my 5th-6th grade tHInK outsidE class. This humble, positive, and giving man took time to visit our class just after finishing hiking from the lowest point in Death Valley to the highest point, Mount Whitney with friends Malto, Dirtmonger, and Bobcat.Swami has devoted hours to creating his website The Hiking Life, which is packed with hiking information and photos.
Wired – PCT 2011, CDT 2013, AT 2014
Hi readers! My name is Erin Saver. This journal began in April of 2011, when I started my first long distance thru hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I always dreamed of doing a thru hike after I retired, but then I realized I don’t have to wait. I’m young (now 35yrs old), healthy, and my job as a substitute teacher gives me the freedom to hike for months at a time. I originally planned to hike with a friend on the PCT, but that didn’t work out, so I ended up going SOLO and loving the independence of it. I never imagined hiking solo, but the community surrounding the Pacific Crest Trail is so supportive that I knew I wouldn’t be alone.
Before long, I became known as “Wired” due to my energy, little need for sleep, and timely blogging while on the trail. I was most inspired to do the PCT by the online journals I read. That is why I decided to create this journal and share it with others. It became the most amazing surprise of the whole hike when the journal caught on and spread quickly worldwide to become one of the most followed blogs in thru hiking. It has changed my world and the trail has become home to me. It’s been fun to be recognized on almost all the trails I hike, so don’t be afraid to say hi if you see me out there.
I have become hooked on thru hiking and am now working toward becoming a Triple Crowner (hikers who have completed the PCT, AT, and CDT). I plan to journal daily on my thru hikes
Follow Walking with Wired’s Journal as she prepares to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2014
Student interview with Wired via Facetime:
Video #1 Student Generated Questions:
What was the hardest trail you have hiked?
have you ever gotten injured while on the trail?
Do you get to see running lava?
What inspired you to start hiking?
Are there any poisonous animals or bugs on the trail?
Video #2 Student Generated Questions:
How did you get your trail name?
Have you seen any wild animals like mountain lions?
Have you ever lost the trail?
How long does it take you to get homesick?
How many miles do you hike in one day?
Sunshine and Balls – PCT 2011
From Darn Tough Stuff Blog:
If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, then you’re lucky enough. This makes me the luckiest man alive, because on top of that, I spent the last 4 months in the mountains with my oldest daughter Sunshine! Sunshine is a very goal-driven young lady and plans to be the youngest Triple Crown Hiker at age 13. The triple crown of hiking is the Pacific Crest Trail (2,652 miles), the Appalachian Trail (2,184 miles), and the Continental Divide Trail at (3,100 miles). We already hiked the PCT in 2011 and just finished the AT this summer in 113 days.
Check out where she has traveled:
National Forest Map of Long Trails
Follow Sunshine and Balls trail journal as they prepare and hike the Continental Divide Trail 2013
Interview with Sunshine, 7th grade Thru-hiker that has Completed the PCT and AT by the middle-school class “tHInK outsidE”
tHInK outsidE – What was the most difficult weather conditions you have encountered?
Sunshine – “Wind, and rain. The wind is very difficult to deal with because sometimes it is stronger than me. For example when I am on a cliff and suddenly I am being pushed by very strong wind. Also sometimes the wind knocks down our tent. The rain is hard because it makes you cold and wet, which is not always pleasant. On the AT, the rain made the rocks slippery, so it was hard to walk on rocks.”
tHInK outsidE – How did you get your trail name?
Sunshine -“ I got my tail name when I was section hiking with my dad before my thru-hike. A fellow section hiker gave me the trail name because of my hair color and sunny disposition.”
tHInK outsidE – What was the hardest part of the journey?
Sunshine – “Everything was hard, except eating. I ate a lot while hiking and when we hitched into a trail town.
Leaving family and friends, hiking etc. Honestly I don’t know what is harder.”
tHInK outsidE – How did you feel when you were done with the PCT and AT?
Sunshine – “I was impressed with myself. I honestly don’t understand how I did it. When I am hiking, some things don’t seem real, it is so cool to have these opportunities. I just don’t understand, its just too cool! The miles always go so fast.”
tHInK outsidE – Which trail was the hardest you’ve completed?
Sunshine – “The PCT had more elevation gain and was further between resupply towns, so it was harder.”
tHInK outsidE – Did you listen to music?
Sunshine – “Yes, I LOVE to listen to music! Except when it is dark or early in the morning. We need to listen for animals(bears, snakes, mountain lions, etc.) so we do not surprise them, which would make them defensive, and could cause an attack. I enjoy listening to Taylor Swift and POP music. We also like to talk A LOT! We mostly listen to music when we are tired or going up steep hills.”
tHInK outsidE – Where did your motivation come from?
Sunshine – “My iPod and talking. I was very motivated to complete the challenge that I committed to.”
tHInK outsidE – What was your favorite trail food?
Sunshine – “Snickers and candy (Starbursts).”
tHInK outsidE – What is the weirdest trail name you have ever heard?
Sunshine – “Drop and Roll, she got her name because her coat caught on fire, and had to Drop and Roll. Everyone was yelling “DROP AND ROLL, DROP AND ROLL!!! at her.”
tHInK outsidE – Who were the funniest people you have met on both trails?
Sunshine – “Provisions, was living out of a shelter, on the AT, and was mentally unstable, one could say CRAZY. He would run outside in his underwear, in a storm with a BIG stick, in the middle of the night to practice martial arts. Every day he would ask someone if he could borrow their iPod or iPhone and dance to it in Ballet. One night he put a borrowed iPod in his pants while dancing. There was one guy on the AT who carried a foam sword, for fun, and Provisions told him that he (Provisions) was training to be a ninja and right now he was trying to earn his broad sword. Provisions kept asking him to hit him with his foam sword. Also he told everyone that he was not an ordinary ninja. He was a sweeping ninja(as in sweeping the floor, with a broom, and swept the floor while dancing.) When I was trying to go to sleep he was using the end of the bunk I was using as a chin up bar. His face kept disappearing and reappearing over and over between the rungs on the ladder.”
tHInK outsidE – What made you want to do the Triple Crown?
Sunshine – “I have always wanted to hike the PCT. So when we completed the PCT we just had to hike the other two.”
Monkey and Mama Bear on the PCT 2012
From Heather and Sierra’s PCT Thru- Hike Journal
Heather aka “Mama Bear” and Sierra aka “Monkey” are a mother and daughter who successfully hiked the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 2012, starting in late April and finishing in Manning Park, British Columbia on September 23. We passed several unique milestones along the way: Sierra finished third grade, celebrated her 9th birthday, and started fourth grade all on the trail, becoming the youngest person on record to complete a continuous thru-hike of the offical PCT!
Pacific Crest Trail Association blog entry “Nine-year-old Monkey competes the PCT”
Read about their PCT 2011 journey at Heather and Sierra’s PCT Thru Hike Journal
Interview with Monkey, 4th grade PCT record holder by the middle-school class “tHInK outsidE”
tHInK outsidE – What did you miss the most from home while on the trail?
Monkey – “I missed my dad, my cats, and sleeping in my own bed.”
tHInK outsidE – Did you ever feel lonely?
Monkey – “No, I was with my mom, and I enjoyed meeting the other hikers on the trail.”
tHInK outsidE – What did your friends think about you finishing the whole PCT?
Monkey – “My friends were really excited and amazed.”
tHInK outsidE – How was homeschooling while on the trail?
Monkey – “Homeschooling on the trail was fun, but some days it was hard to do school work on the trail because we were hiking so many miles. I worked on math every day at lunch, and some days I wished I could just relax like the other hikers. But I loved reading in the tent at night.”
tHInK outsidE – How does it feel to break a record?
Monkey – “It felt really incredible to have accomplished my goal.”
tHInK outsidE – Is there something really important that you forgot to pack?
Monkey – “I didn’t forget to pack anything, but I did lose two things on the trail. I lost my purple Snow Peak titanium mug near Wrightwood, California and my sunglasses a day or two before Crater Lake in Oregon.”
tHInK outsidE – Name the three most awesomest animals and wildlife you have seen on the PCT?
Monkey – “The three most awesome animals I saw on the PCT were baby bear cubs, silverback marmots (I called them “Grandpa marmots” because they had silver hair), and a baby rattlesnake.”
tHInK outsidE – What was the worst weather conditions along the trail? How did you get through it?
Monkey – “The worst weather conditions on the trail were during a three day storm in Washington. It rained and hailed throughout the night, thunder boomed, and lightning flashed across the sky. During the day we hiked through a cold mist, which made our teeth chatter at times.
I got through the storm because I was determined to hike the PCT, and a little weather could not mess up my plans. We also received some incredible trail magic during the storm, including hot food and drinks, candy bars, and other snacks.”
tHInK outsidE – What was your favorite part of the hike and your least favorite?
Monkey – “My favorite part of the hike was reaching Monument 78 at the border because I was really excited to have accomplished my goal. I also really enjoyed hiking through the mountains. One of my favorite days was when we hiked over Muir Pass and passed by the yellow-legged frogs at Wanda Lake and stopped to investigate the tadpoles and aquatic invertebrates at a pond near Evolution Lake.
My least favorite part of the hike was hiking on really hot days in the less scenic parts of the desert. One day it was so hot it melted the sour gummy worms in my mom’s pack! Of course, we laughed a lot about that, which made it fun.”
tHInK outsidE – What hike do you want to do next?
Monkey – “I really want to hike the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail to complete the Triple Crown. This summer I plan to hike the Colorado Trail with my mom. It is shorter than the others (about 480 miles), so we can hike it without taking time off from school.”