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Episode 8: My Fellow Creatures


Episode 8: My Fellow Creatures

Bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes may be the stars behind interesting animal encounters, but Pacific Crest Trail hikers know the full story, which they discuss with our host, Josh Ellerbrock, in the 8th episode of Between A to B. 


Episode 7: Cool Story, Bruh

Episode 7: Cool Story, Bruh

Your host, Josh Ellerbrock, finally reaches Oregon, discusses the strange political scene, curses mosquitoes and mediates a forum dedicated to the art of finding yourself on the Pacific Crest Trail in this, the 7th, episode of "Between A to B".

Episode 6: Pissing on the Side of the Road

Episode 6: Pissing on the Side of the Road

Hiker norms regarding appearance, hygiene and interaction often eliminate some of the class boundaries erected by society, and for the most part, Pacific Crest Trail hikers find the result to be more comfortable and authentic than anything found back home. Episode 6 explores the topic.

Episode 5: Hello Silence, My Old Friend

Episode 5: Hello Silence, My Old Friend

In this episode, host Josh Ellerbrock relays the last two weeks of his Pacific Crest Trail journey and interviews a few hikers about the headroom they free up due to the emptiness of true silence found on the trail.

Episode 4: K.I.S.S.

Episode 4: K.I.S.S.

In the fourth episode of Between A to B, host Josh Ellerbrock ends up hiking 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in the high Sierras, a white land of ancient pines and frozen lakes, while talking to a number of fellow thruhikers about the special simplified mindset that comes with a 60-hour work week of unadulterated backpacking.

Episode 4 Release Pushed Back a Week

Hi folks,

So I've been back on the trail now for less than a week due to my former foot injury, and I've realized that episode 4 is looking a little sparse. Resourcewise, that sparcity includes my available Internet connections/ electrical outlets. I'm currently typing this post at a Burger King in a small town called Lake Isabella trying to finish ASAP so my phone will have a charge for the next few days.

As a result, I don't think I'm going to be able to release episode 4 by tomorrow's deadline. 

This might very well be a blessing in disguise. Not much of note has happened in the last 5 days, but lots will happen within the next week. If I push back episode 4's release to next Monday, I'll be able to talk about the beginning of the next big leg of this journey, my ascent into the Sierras. And that will turn a currently boring episode into something a lot more. So, officially, I'm pushing back the next episode's release date a week. Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause. 

Thanks for understanding,

Josh Ellerbrock


Episode 3: Civilization Is My Drug

Episode 3: Civilization Is My Drug

In the third episode of Between A to B, Host Josh Ellerbrock explores the twin yet opposite desires that every long distance hiker knows wellthe need to be in the wilderness and the cravings that pull hikers back to civilization. 

Episode 2: It's My Body, and I Can Cry if I Want To

Episode 2: It's My Body, and I Can Cry if I Want To

The Pacific Crest Trail is, more than anything, a physical experience. Interviews with fellow thru-hikers reveal how the physical rigors of the trail both repel and attract those dedicated to walking its 2,650 miles. 

Episode 1: Pretty Okay Expectations

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Episode 1: Pretty Okay Expectations

The first episode of Between A to B releases a week after the show's host/producer, Josh Ellerbrock, began the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile trail on the western seaboard of the continental United States. Recorded and produced while on the trail, the first episode covers the first 100 miles and features interviews with some of the his fellow hikers.

(Hi folks. Admittedly, I'm still getting the hang of recording and producing on the fly like this. It's not polished to how I would like, and I'm pretty annoyed at the amount of wind that's in a lot of the recordings. For the record, I tend to create some solutions here in time for the next episode. With that said, here it is. 

I'm thinking that when I finish up the trail, I might do some re-recordings to get it up to the quality I would like. For now, I got to get off this computer and start back pounding away at the miles. There's a trail out there for me to walk.)

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Kickstarter Success, Thanks and What's Next

Kickstarter Success, Thanks and What's Next

For those who haven't heard, the Between A to B Kickstarter succeeded in reaching its goal! The PCT is a go!

Here's a quick rundown for anyone unfamiliar with the project. 

  • Goal: $3,000
  • Kickstarter Donations: $1,800
  • Outside Donations: $700
  • Final Donations Total: $2,500

To hit $3,000 and ensure all the work that went into the campaign and pledges weren't wasted, I basically loaned out the final $500, which allowed us to jump past the necessary goal and get the thing funded. The next step? Head to California.

For all those who helped, I want to give a sincere thanks. This morning I sent out an email to my backers, but I also want to reiterate how much I appreciate what they've done here. The whole experience was truly humbling because of what they did.

I also want to give a shout out to all friends on social media who took the time to comment, share or like on the many things that "Between A to B" has released over the last month. Every eye on that Kickstarter page helped to spread interest and get us to the final goal. It was because of you folks who paid attention that we made a victory out of all the effort.

What's Next?

The trail is next...mostly. I have a few housekeeping things to take care of yet -- a few boxes to ship, a few more gear purchases to make and a few more goodbyes to give -- and then I'll be off to the races. I fly out to California on April 7. I'll be on the trail by April 9. 

Expect a major uptick in both my Twitter and Instagram activity as I begin the trail. Written blogs, however, will become more sparse because of lack of access. You'll also be able to see my location (updated daily) if you check out the map section of this website starting on April 15.

The first major "Between A to B" episode releases April 17, and I'll begin putting it together in earnest here on the 3rd. To give you a quick summation, the first episode "Pretty Okay Expectations" will be covering the initial shock of the trail on my mind and body. How are my own expectations kicking my butt? What is out on the trail, and what are the difficulties that I never saw coming? How much of a shift is going from a standard life to a trail life? Is my gear setup everything I thought it would be? Will the length of the trail seem welcoming or terrifying? How does the PCT compare to the AT? How well did I prepare for this thing? And the most important question: will I have to sacrifice my habit of reading before bed? We shall see. 

Of course, I'll keep everyone updated when that first episode hits.

Stay tuned, and once more forever and ever, thanks for helping me get here.


Trail Food Taste Test

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Trail Food Taste Test

I get a lot of questions about food on the PCT. Folks, however, seem a little disappointed when I reveal what I actually eat. Ramen and dehydrated food doesn't sound as exciting as many people's preconceived notions of scavenging from the land or eating wildlife. Well, I may not excite, but I can at least entertain.

So, I made some of the dishes I typically eat while thru-hiking, and I let my curious nieces and nephews rank the best and the worst. Here's the "Trail Food Taste Test".

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PCT Class of '17

PCT Class of '17

I'm not the only one on the trail that will be worrying about Internet connections to post my content. Writing/producing/creating new content on the trail has been a pretty common tactic since individuals started thru-hiking, and if you're sick of reading/listening to my thoughts on the experience, it's not too hard to find someone else.

Because I work so hard to please y'all, I made it easier for you. Here's a quick list of some of the other bloggers out on the trail. And who knows; some of these people might be featured on "Between A to B" in the future.

Ryan Goggin

Hosting a website called “Lost Outdoors”, Ryan Goggin is an Englishman flying over the pond to take part in the 2017 exodus many call a PCT hike. He's been consistently blogging since October, and he covers a pretty good range of subjects, including gear, training and other miscellaneous stuff. Apparently, Ryan is hiking (in part) to raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young in memory of his friend Matthew Cragg.

Brien Bower

Brien Bower, a former PCT hiker with adventure in his veins, is again heading to the PCT in 2017. Currently working as a volcano hike guide in Guatemala, Bower will be climbing the Sierrra Nevadas this spring for another west coast adventure. His website, Simple Alpine, tells his story.

Ed/ Smokebeard

A huge fan of the Leave No Trace ideology, Ed, or Smokebeard (which I'm guessing is his trail name), will be starting the PCT this May. His website hosts a number of sections about hiking. His blog posts on “Leave No Trace” especially do a great job on fleshing out details of trail maintenance and the importance of keeping our trails as pristine as possible.

Hiker Dale

If you want a blog of a hiker about to take his first steps on the PCT, check out Hiker Dale, who will be officially “out there” on March 28. It looks like Dale will be section hiking this year with plans to make it 750 miles during the 2017 season.

Witch Wandering

One of the few hiker blogs written by a woman that I could find, Witch Wandering covers the journey of herbalist and self-proclaimed witch, Britton, who apparently sells soaps, perfumes and a helping of other related products from Oregon. She'll be on the PCT sometime in early May.

Thirst 4 Adventure

The trail blog of Gabi and Dave, the two confessed to “falling in love” with thru-hiking on their blog "Thirst 4 Adventure" and will now be wandering the PCT this spring. Unlike many of the other blogs on this list, the two hikers have a substantial backlog of posts from other adventures dating back to Feb. 2015.

The Story of the PCT

The Story of the PCT

In 1926 on a bleak foggy morning, a textbook salesman/weekend mountaineer, Joe Hazard, had an appointment with a school marm, Miss Catherine Montgomery, to discuss the latest English readers. According to an essay by Barney Mann in the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, the conversation went awry for a brief moment. Here is the conversation taken verbatim from the Trailside Reader:

MISS MONTGOMERY: Do you know what I’ve been thinking about, Mr. Hazard, for the last twenty minutes?”

JOE HAZARD: “I had hoped you were considering the merits of my presentation of certain English texts for adoption!”

MISS MONTGOMERY: “Oh that! Before your call I had considered them the best – I still do! But why do not you Mountaineers do something big for Western America?”

JOE HAZARD: “Just what have you in mind, Miss Montgomery?”

MISS MONTGOMERY: “A high winding trail down the heights of our western mountains with mile markers and shelter huts – like these pictures I’ll show you of the ‘Long Trail of the Appalachians’ – from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Boundary Line!”

Don't worry. I'm also reading this, and I agree – it's pretty hokey. But I think it's interesting nonetheless. If the above is true, an offhand remark set the wheels in motion for the organization of the Pacific Crest Trail.

According to Barney Mann, the conversation took place in this building, the Old Main Building at Western Washington University, which was a teacher's college when Miss Montgomery worked there.

According to Barney Mann, the conversation took place in this building, the Old Main Building at Western Washington University, which was a teacher's college when Miss Montgomery worked there.

Unlike the organization of the AT, The PCT has no visionary like Benton MacKaye, a man who dreamed of a series of hotel getaways providing escape for overworked cogs of the capitalistic machine he thought America would become. Nor is there Myron H. Avery, the man who worked much harder to make the AT a reality than MacKaye could ever claim. Even so, the PCT exists.

Which makes me wonder – why did the PCT work? If it wasn't the love child of a single individual and instead the work of many – why did the idea resound among so many and actually get done? What was the mindset of the people back in 1926? And what were they trying to do when they decided to actually create the PCT?

In this piece, I have no plans on covering the history of the PCT. Others have logged the efforts of the past in much more detail than I ever could. If you are interested in that, names and dates can be found elsewhere. Instead, I want to explore the PCT story as a cultural undertaking, a great achievement put in piecemeal by hiking clubs, dedicated individuals and a society concerned with conservation.

And though Miss Montgomery is important because of her legacy, her seed of an idea could only grow because it was strewn in the right place – The American West, 1920s – among a people dedicated to preservation. The story of the PCT is their story.

Understanding the Past

To understand the PCT, I think it's necessary to understand the idea behind the American West. And for that, we're going to need a little history.

The first Europeans to find California were the Spanish, who took up residence mostly because no one else really wanted it. Other powers were busy settling other areas, and the few towns set up by the Spanish were mostly missionaries set out to “educate” the local Native American tribes and a few trading ports to help Spanish ships heading to Asia. Eventually, both Great Britain and Russia would show up and stake a flag here or there, but the overall population remained sparse.

Spain eventually stopped caring too much about California because their power in the European continent was shrinking. The United States entered the picture by 1840. Soon after, Mexico signed a treaty with the U.S. ceding major lands, including the Sierra Nevadas over to the U.S.

The Feb. 2 treaty was amazing timing for the United States; a week earlier in 1848, James Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill sparking the California Gold Rush. From 1848 to 1868, the population of California grew from 10,000 to 500,000. And that's ignoring Native Americans, who lost 100,000 in that same time period.

Gen. Scott's grand entry into the City of Mexico, Sept. 14, 1847

Gen. Scott's grand entry into the City of Mexico, Sept. 14, 1847

The West Coast began its strange story of uninhibited growth for the next 150 years. Industry after industry found a foothold in California. Agriculture, oil, natural gas – all three exploded over three decades. And then at the turn of the century, Hollywood became a household name. Apparently, the proximity of multiple habitats and almost constant sunny weather made it really easy for producers to schedule shoots and find appropriate backdrops. By the time Miss Montgomery was talking to Joe, aerospace industries set up shop just in time for the world wars.

My point is: the west coast, since 1848 and onward, has grown at an exponential rate practically from zero. There is no such thing as slow growth out there. And today, if you were to chip California off the U.S. Map, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world jumping just over France.

And while the west coast population grew exponentially and natural resources continued to be used up, another group began to fight back: the conservationists.

Conservationist ideas began to take hold of the American consciousness starting with one the America's first true philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. A scholar from New England, Emerson began to play with the idea of man's relationship with nature as he first began to outline a new movement: transcendentalism. He pondered ideas of solitude and of God. He wrote how society can corrupt an individual's worth. As America's populace continued to reach west, his ideas rung out. When news of the great mountain ranges and extensive prairies bounced around the more civilized states, so too did Emerson's thoughts. Henry David Thoreau's Walden followed soon after, published during California's first boom.

Admittedly, Emerson was kind of a 19th century hippy. He used this metaphor to talk about his relationship with nature. "I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."

Admittedly, Emerson was kind of a 19th century hippy. He used this metaphor to talk about his relationship with nature. "I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."

Consider that as thousands of people were mining the Sierra Nevadas, both Thoreau's and Emerson's works were infecting those living out west – individuals spending their days not in large cities but in new mining camps just a few years old.

And eventually, by the turn of the late 19th century, the seeds of transcendentalism blossomed into a major political platform. Conservation (and its more liberal buddy, preservationism) became part of the national debate. Soon after, Americans elected a conservationist to the White House.

Before Miss Montgomery wanted to know about textbooks, President Theodore Roosevelt was setting up the necessary tools for the PCT. Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, established multiple National Parks and, by the time he left office, designated approx. 230,000,000 acres to be under public protection. That's not to say Roosevelt did everything by himself, but he definitely rode the wave of conservationism during the early 1900s.

In other words, he utilized the ideas of the time. At the turn of the century, nature didn't live outside city limits. America's greatest thinkers pondered it. America's citizens lived among it. Cities didn't reign over the landscape. Heck, the great vistas of America had only been discovered just two generations ago. Mt. Rushmore didn't even exist.

Back in 1901, the world still had space. Consider what that can do for the standard American's psyche. Space gives someone room to breathe, to create, to discover, to blaze a new path, to see something that no one had seen before. If you don't like your position in life...then go find a new one beyond the horizon. And even more shocking – the leader of the country encouraged this exploratory lifestyle simply because he lived it himself. He breathed the ideal.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure ...” Roosevelt said. “Than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Roosevelt even met with John Muir, which has to be my favorite story out of all this...and I think it's relevant to my point. John Muir, as a young man, felt the need to explore the world, which he did. Eventually, he ended up wandering throughout the Sierra Nevadas and became something of a philosopher celebrity – growing this fantastic beard, hauling around Emerson and reading to himself under the stars. If John Muir sounds familiar, his main claim to fame is that he founded the Sierra Club. He was also known as the leading preservationist during the height of the conservation debate.

A young John Muir

A young John Muir

Well, Muir decided that he wanted to make sure Yosemite became a national park, so he invited ole' Theo out for a romp in 1903. The two met in California and took a train and coach to check out Yosemite. By the time they arrived, Theo was very interested, and he asked for the grand tour of the Yosemite backwoods. Muir said, “love to.” The two headed out (probably with a few secret service) and spent the night under the stars near Glacier Point. By 1906, Yosemite became a national park.

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park. Great place to take a presidential first date.

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park. Great place to take a presidential first date.

I don't even want to consider how John Muir would be received today. But in 1903, he could ask the president to go backpacking.

A Present from the Past

I may have meandered quite a bit throughout this whole article, but each point was by design (I swear.) What I'm trying to get at – that despite ridiculous growth, despite industry, despite new technology all coming together in this short amount of time, the ground work of the PCT thrived, and it thrived because there was a belief – not a belief held by a select few, but a belief held by frontiersmen, explorers, philosophers, statesmen, bureaucrats, teachers and even the president – that the wild landscapes of America needed to be conserved because the lessons learned out there, out in the wilderness, needed to be available for future generations.

In the beginning, Miss Montgomery had an idea. And after six years of concerted efforts by a number of hiking clubs located along the west coast to organize this idea into something a little more practical, the admitted “father of the PCT” Clinton C. Clarke was proposing to the federal government that it should set some land aside.

Eventually, it worked. Of course, in the 30 years before the initial proposal of the PCT and the National Trails System Act in 1968, there were lots of bureaucratic battles, cartographic efforts (including four years of one man forcing bands of teenagers to get lost in the mountains) and fundraisers. But it still worked.

As for Miss Montgomery, she never saw her efforts come to fruition. She died long before the PCT proper was “officially” finished in 1994. But if you take a look at her, I swear I've seen her face before. The attire may be different, but I've seen those sparkling eyes before. And as sure as there are dreamers, I know I will again.

Miss Catherine Montgomery

Miss Catherine Montgomery

The AT's Greatest Hits

The AT's Greatest Hits

During my Appalachian Trail hike in 2012, I kept a blog. Today, I mapped out my old posts. Read from Day 0 to Day 146, and witness the journey that worked as the catalyst for this long-hike madness.

An Attempt at Why

An Attempt at Why

Between A to B's host, Josh Ellerbrock, tries to give an answer to the question he is asked the most: "Why are you hiking the PCT?" The answer devolves into a quick examination of his past.

Between A to B: The Movie

Between A to B: The Movie

I don't have time or the equipment to film an entire documentary about this podcast. So...I did the next best thing; I made a movie poster. 

Admittedly, this thing took a lot longer than I had hoped (mostly because I wanted to make sure it looked extra ridiculous). By the way, my dog Captain is taking the place of Darth Vader, but he is not going on the trail with me.

If you're starring at your computer screen in confusion, this might clear it up.

...Sometimes, I wonder what's wrong with me, too.

The Deets

The Deets

With the start of my Pacific Crest Trail hike looming closer, this minicast covers how "Between A to B" podcasts will be structured and gives summaries of each upcoming episode.

Kickstarter link found HERE

Facebook page link found HERE.

Chasing the Sunrise

Chasing the Sunrise

A 22-hour car ride across the country brings out the "weird" in our host as he begins the next phase in his journey to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Note: "Between A to B" Kickstarter mentioned in episode can be found HERE.

A Listicle a Day Keeps Listeners Away

A Listicle a Day Keeps Listeners Away

In this episode, the host gives a tongue-in-cheek listicle to help hiker gearheads, which includes some items rarely talked about by thousands of other content creators.


(BACKGROUND: “El Fuego” by Polyrhythmics. License.)

Josh: Hi, folks. Welcome to the fourth minicast of “Before A to B”, my so-called prequel series to my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, where I plan on releasing a 12-part podcast series called “Between A to B”. Check out my website if you want to see more,, or check out my social properties. I got stuff on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. Share it, like it, you get the drill.

So today's episode is about gear. A lot has already been written about what someone should bring with them on a thru-hike. There are entire forums dedicated to the topic, lots of videos, blogs, social posts, etc. etc. Almost every hiker I know seems to have some sort of opinion on gear. Well, so do I.

I wanted to give the topic of gear my own spin, my own outlook, of what one needs to succeed on the trail. And I admit, it's something of a personal list. So if you're looking for something comprehensive, don't take this seriously.

(BACKGROUND: Corporate music you might hear on PP presentation.)

Nine Things You'll Need for a Thru-Hike Success

  1. A Good Light Weight Tent: Because of lack of tree coverage and less than ideal situations, you should have a tent that can be erected on rock as well as dirt. Ultimately, you'll need a tent shelter able to keep out the snow, rain and the swarm's of pests that revolve around a hiker's head. You'll also need enough room to store a pack and an outside chamber of rank shoes and socks.

  2. A Sleeping System: Either a foam or air pad will keep your body off the ground, help keep you warm and give you extra comfort. Round out your sleeping system with a good mummy bag rated for cold weather and long enough to fit your frame. Taller men, especially, should pay attention to length. Bag liners are an extra perk to keep your bag clean, and can be used on those extra warm nights when a sleeping bag's heat may seem like overkill. On cold nights, heat up some water, put it in a bottle and throw it in the bottom of your bag.

  3. The Ability to Be Alone for Long Periods of Time: A night alone is either a great gift – an opportunity to learn or explore – or it can a burden, the weight of ennui and isolation. Get used to both.

  4. Hiking Shoes: The type of shoe you'll need varies according to opinion. Some choose lighter trail runners. Others a stiffer high-top boot. Either way, you'll need a good tread for traction, a size large enough to allow your feet to grow and tight enough to eliminate constant rubbing and the threat of blisters. A good tip is to wear them beforehand to make sure the assume the shape of your foot before hiking hundreds of miles. To show how smart you are on the trail, always brag about your shoe brand and repeat this adage often “One pound on your foot equals five on your back.”

  5. Stubbornness: No need for explanation. I inherited mine from a family of self-proclaimed bullheads.

  6. A Well-Fitted Pack: When putting on a pack, you'll want the weight resting comfortably on your hips. Straps should be used to keep the pack from falling backwards. Keep your load lifters pulled tight. And the straps across your chest should be used to avoid any potential mishaps. Most bags these days are equipped with an internal frame. It should be big enough to store all your shit. If you decide to use an external frame, people will make fun of you.

  7. A Disagreeable Past: The more you feel like an outside, the better you'll fit on the trail. For example -- a series of dead-end careers, working at failing and stagnant newspapers, writing stories about local politicians and little old ladies, writing technical marketing materials on topics I know little to nothing about, myriad failures, thousands of rewrites -- these make me a great addition to trail culture. Bonus tip: if you want to feel like a true thru-hiker, talk softly to yourself at every chance, brag about the multiple years you've spent on trails and always hike without a shirt. There's nothing that says “I'm fucking crazy” more than hiking without a shirt.

  8. Hope: A corollary: Don't keep too much hope because chances are that you'll quit a thru-hike if you start one. However, hope can keep you going longer than most and may even push you to start a thru-hike because, in your head, it may jump-start a potential career, which will lead to stability, meaning and the opportunity to have a life that doesn't revolve around one bedroom apartments and feelings of depression.

  9. A Ukulele: To keep the hike entertaining and to scare away mountain lions and hobos.

(BACKGROUND: Ukulele playing “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” originally performed by Cat Stevens. This version is performed by Josh Ellerbrock)

Thanks for listening. Just so y'all know, I don't plan on releasing a minicast next week because I will be putting all my stuff into boxes and driving 18 hours across the country in order to spend a few weeks home before taking off for California. In other words, expect the next minicast on March 6. Once again, thanks for listening.


Ears, Ankles, Knees and Toes

Ears, Ankles, Knees and Toes

In this minicast, the physical challenge of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is explored through an interview with a physical therapist who happens to be the host's sister.


(BACKGROUND: Sound of the host breathing heavily while running.)

Josh: Welcome to another episode of Before A to B, the prequel to my upcoming travel podcast series called “Between A to B” to be released as I walk the 2,000+ miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. If you like what you hear, if you could share this, like it, tweet it, whatever, spread the word, it would be much appreciated.

If you take a listen to this backing track, you should already have an idea of what this episode is about. I recorded this particular clip when I was running earlier this week. The idea is to build up some muscle around the joints through repeated impacts before I head to California, because if I were to describe the trail in only two words, that phrase would be “physically demanding.” So to get a better idea of what my joints, muscles, tendons, etc. etc. might encounter out there, I found a physical therapist to give me a few pointers. To be more specific, I talked to my sister.

(BACKGROUND: “Exercise 1” by the Superfools. License.)

Angie Huber: Okay. My name is Angie Huber. I'm Josh's sister. I'm a physical therapist and instructor.

Josh: Besides that intro, she always wanted me to mention her credentials as a marathon runner and her specialization in total knee replacement. She currently works as a lecturer at the University of Findlay. And basically we reviewed, toe to head, the body parts that receive the most stress during a hike of this size. Also in this episode, I put together a short clip that explains why I think sound and hiking form a perfect pairing. So, let's jump in. Feet first. Get it? Feet...feet first? It'll make sense in a second.

Angie Huber: Well, umm, when you look into hiking you got to realize that your weight bearing not just your normal body weight, but you're carrying a backpack, so a lot of injuries can occur, when hiking, in the feet. You can get paresthesias, because you have that extra weight.

Josh: Quick footnote: Parathesias are the medical term for when something falls asleep, like that prickling sensation. Hikers tend to get parathesias in their toes when their foot gear fits incorrectly, or they tie their shoes too tight.

Angie Huber: And then usually, you're also getting used to a new pair of shoes on different terrain, so the foot is constantly getting more pressure than it's used to. The feet change in the sense they do get stronger. And then depending on the person's actual foot type, whether they are a pronate or supinate, it just means a flat foot or high arch foot, that's going to lead them to different types of injuries depending on their shoe wear and the how strong the inside muscles of their feet are.

Josh: What about the skin of your feet?

Angie Huber: Yeah, that actually is one of the biggest things that hikers need to think about before they go out for long hikes. When you look at the amount of compression you are putting on the feet, and then you're adding in flooding, you're getting a lot of moisture to the foot, you tend to get blisters on the feet. So prior to going out for a hike you need to make sure your shoes are fitting correctly and when you aren't, you need to let them air out. When you have moisture, you tend to get more blisters. So hiker feet, they can get a lot of damage to them, if you're not taking care of your feet.

Josh: Ankles

Angie Huber: Oh yeah, ankles take a beating on hiking because the surface is uneven all the time. So, um, one of the biggest things is spraining your ankle, so that's just twisting it, if you land on it wrong and twist it. You know, someone that's not on a mission of hiking everyday would probably sit down and let that ankle have a rest for a day or so, but that might not happen so much when you're in the middle of a hike. So ankles can get a lot of sprains and irritation from that.

Um, the other things with the ankles is there is a lot of tendons, which is a basic part of the muscle, it just gets overused because of so much repetition. So you've probably heard of Achilles problems, um, there's other tendons other than the Achilles that can also be irritated around the ankle joints. But mostly from the feet, you're going to have the spraining problem, and you're going to have overuse on those tendons really cause a lot of pain.

Josh: Knees

Angie Huber: Yeah, knees do get a lot of strain with hiking. One of the biggest things with uphill hiking is the kneecap, so there's something, a big word is chondromalacia patellae, but basically, it's just irritation to the back of the kneecap because of the angle of your hiking when you go up. When you go uphill, there's a lot of compression on the back of the kneecap, and yeah, it can definitely get aggravated. Anybody who has already meniscus-type issues in their history, which is a cushion basically between the knee joint, they tend to have some problems with more of that uphill power. But then the downhill becomes more of an issue, because you lose, the big term is proprioception, but after you've gone downhill awhile, basically, your knees get a little wobbly, and your sense of placement on the ground becomes less. So your risk for any kind of overuse injury becomes higher after doing a downhill. So, one of my suggestions would be if you just had a long downhill hike, take a break before you go on. That might be your break time versus the uphill because your knee caps really become weak and unstable from doing downhill hiking. Yeah, overuse injuries from the tendons, knee caps becoming irritated and any arthritic changes in just over-compression can occur in hiking.

Josh: Hips

Angie Huber: Wear and tear from hips for hikers specifically, you're going to get a lot of, basically, tendon irritation or your overuse injuries. The other big one that can be a problem goes back to the uphill, if you're doing a lot of uphill hiking, there's this band, have you ever heard of IT (iliotibial) band problems? That band can really rub along the side of the hip, and cause some inflammation and swelling and (audio untranslatable), what we call bursitis, which is just swelling along the side of the hips. So that can be a big problem, and that can be more of an overuse issue as you keep going. If that doesn't necessarily heal, that can really limit walking. Other problems... there's a lot of internal problems of the hips that can get aggravated with hiking, but to actually have a true injury while you're hiking probably is less likely in the hip. It's going to be more overuse problems.

Josh: Back.

Angie Huber: Back takes a hit with the backpack. Now I'm sure you'd be much more knowledgeable about getting the right backpack and putting it on right, taking that load off the back, but no matter how well you're backpack is or how much appropriation to make it fit right, you're still getting that much more compression on your disks and your spine. So your back can get really sore.

You're carrying a backpack all day and then you have to sleep on the ground. Some people's backs don't like that so much. Most people who have back pain and back problems do better with a firmer bed, but even a firm bed will cushion you some and disperse the pressure of your weight.

(BACKGROUND: “Pretend and Walk Outside” by Krackatoa. License.)

Your whole body adjusts to what you put it through. So I think people can take a lot of pain if they repetitively make themselves do it. On the flip side, there are some things you just need to stop for. Don't get me wrong. (laughter)

Josh: Finally, I want to talk about ears. Recently, I've had a few individuals ask me 'why am I doing a podcast?' That's a great question. I'm glad I can answer it. First, to better make my point, we're going to make a quick scene change here. Okay, bam.

(BACKGROUND: Song replaced by people walking on gravel.)

Hiking. That's what we're doing. So, those last three seconds that we just experienced, now that time, is 90 percent of the moments that comprise a thru-hike. Vistas are great. The people you meet along the way are exciting. You never really know what's around the corner. But throughout it all, you have this. Step. Step. Step.

Now this, this monotony, (Step.) this is your (Step.) life on a thru hike (Step.) for the next five months. (Step.) And throughout it (Step.) all, there's only (Step.) one thing you can (Step.) really do. And that's (Step.) think. If you currently (Step.) have the perception (Step.) that you have time (Step.) to think now, you're wrong. (Step.) Completely wrong. (Step.) Those moments. Those (Step.) single minutes of wandering (Step.) concentration. They (Step.) barely even touch on your existence. (Step.) You're too busy. (Step.) On the trail, they (Step.) are your entire existence. (Step.)

Now, the experience of a (Step.) trail hike, it's rarely visual. (Step.) Okay, you have miles of (Step.) forest and scrub and desert. (Step.) Hundreds of miles (Step.) of nothing, of blue sky (Step.) and brown sand. They (Step.) lose their novelty (Step.) pretty quickly. As for vistas, (Step.) those life changing (Step.) views you hear so much (Step.) about. They become (Step.) just another image. (Step.) They mean nothing. You've (Step.) seen them before. (Step.) You'll see them again (Step.) a few miles down the road. (Step.) And the miles in between, (Step.) they barely even register.

(Step.) I argue that a thru-hike (Step.) is almost an entirely auditory (Step.) experience. You have (Step.) your own internal voice (Step.) as the D.J., and you have (Step.) the option of millions of channels. The (Step.) number of stations is only limited (Step.) by your creativity and your curiosity. (Step.) So, if you want to know (Step.) what it's like to hike (Step.) over 2,000 miles, get used to this (Step.) and get comfortable (Step.) with whatever your reflections (Step.) might reveal. The trip (Step.) is auditory, and that's (Step.) how I intend to portray it. (Step.) So, get your ears ready. (Step.) We'll see where this leads us. (Step.)

Alright everybody, (Step.) thanks for listening. (Step.) Join us next week (Step.) for another episode.

(BACKGROUND: “Step.”s repeat then fade.)