Two and a half years ago these images went viral thanks to this thread on reddit.

I posted them the same night I got home from hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2000 mile footpath from Georgia to Maine. The journey took me 153 days and changed my life. Before I did that I was a consultant for a software company. When I tried to go back, it didn't work.

For five months my alarm clock was birds. I felt the sun, wind and rain on my face every day. Switching back to right angles and deadlines gave me genuine panic attacks.

I spent the following 11 months exhausting my savings and racking up debt so I could go back into the woods and work it out on paper. I took a small tablet and bluetooth keyboard into the forest closest to home and lived by waterfalls and streams again, this time putting it down in a way that makes sense, not just to hikers.

But... What I also wanted to do, was entertain. Too many hiking books are written diary style. Day 42: 18 miles. Oatmeal again. No one wants to read that.

Where's the Next Shelter? is what I brought back from the woods. It's nonfiction but reads like a novel. I've been told it's funny which is good because I meant it to be. Imagine how I'd feel otherwise. It's thought provoking, full of surprises, and most importantly, for the rest of August 6th, it's FREE.

By some miracle, enough people who weren't my mom liked it and now I get to hike and write full time. I live in the woods (literally, my house is in a forest now) and I get to work with the trail and all the wonderful people who surround it.

I teach for REI, moderate /r/AppalachianTrail, sit on the board of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, I've recorded an audio book, and have recently been telling stories for NPR's The Moth.

This is the happiest and busiest I've been since quitting my office job! One might even say I'm obsessed with the outdoors. If you're wondering how someone goes from being kinda normal to throwing it all away to go live outside, you're in luck. That's what my current book is about.

Home is Forward tells the story of my comedic descent into madness. It starts in boot camp, the first time I ever slept in a tent and takes us through jungles, over tundra and on top of glaciers. It's even a bit of a love story, too. Gross.

So thanks for looking. I've got tons of stories and plenty of opinions, and I'm ready to go. Whatcha got?



EDIT: You guys. Did we just sit here for 9 hours? No wonder my back hurts. I need to go for a walk... No wait. Bed.

This was amazing. Almost ten thousand free books went out this weekend, most of which happened today, here. I hope at least six or eight of you liked it enough to leave a review when you're done, because you just made Where's the Next Shelter? the #10 free ebook on ALL OF AMAZON. Holy shit, reddit, THANK YOU!!!

Comments: 1613 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

TheCatSnatch3926 karma

I remember your last ama! I was the store manager at the Dollar General in Adams MA, you bought cookies, and we shot the shit outside for at least 20 minutes. It's good to see you're doing well. What is next your next adventure?

garmachi3060 karma

See? This is what I'm talking about!

I'm on my next adventure now! I quit the office job and tell stories. I can't top this.

Myakem847 karma

Have you heard of this other trail, the PCT?๐Ÿ˜‰

garmachi737 karma

Sounds hard.

Kickflip9001312 karma

what did you eat?

garmachi2389 karma

I'll come back in a minutes and type up a list, but for now, here's a video answer. This is me on the trail, right after resupply:

Meals On Trail: I want something light, cheap, and full of calories. Notice that flavor does not come into play.

  • Breakfast - Pop tarts or Honey Buns. The ones that have that thick layer of "icing" that you can peel off in one piece? Yeah, save that for tent repairs later. Seriously though, you want big calories and carbs early in the day. 700 calories in one of those bad boys. I also add Carnation Instant Breakfast to my instant coffee just for the calories and vitamins.

  • Lunch - No such thing. I used to stop in the middle of the day and cook up some ramen, but that's time consuming and in the summer it's too hot to eat soup anyway. Instead, gnaw on the ramen brick while you walk. The crunchy bits brush your teeth while you eat, so it's two for one. But for real, I kept my pockets stuffed with Clif Bars, jerky, dried fruit, snickers, a small jar of peanut butter, nuts, berries... pretty much munching all day.

  • Dinner - Knorr pasta sides. Throw in a packet of tuna for protein. Maybe thicken it with insta potatoes too. Mmmmm. Gruel.

Meals in Town: This is a whole new ball game. You've been operating at caloric deficit for days. Time to binge.

  • If I could time it right, I liked to get into town around lunch time. I'd start with a beer, a salad and either a cheese burger or a large pizza. Just for me. After a second beer and a few scoops of ice cream, I'm ready to (a) do laundry and (b) start thinking about where I'll have dinner.

Lamb-and-Lamia728 karma

How much money did you need saved for this whole thing?

garmachi1584 karma


Everyone's answer will be different. I already had all my gear for example. But I also had bills to pay back home. To normalize this, we'll make the following assumptions:

  1. You have all your gear. (That cost varies wildly... give me time)
  2. We're not factoring in costs back home.

The whole thing can be done for $5k. If you don't stop in town too often and don't drink too much beer when you do, $5k is about a grand per month, or $250 a week, and your only expenses are food, rides and laundry. Plus the occasional hotel/hostel.

That's pretty lean though. If you want to enjoy a few zero days (you hike zero miles and enjoy town life instead) and sleep in a few more warm beds, $6-7K is easy to spend, too.

zeussays411 karma

You just linked back to this entire thread.

garmachi279 karma


GraysonVoorhees424 karma

The pic on the right looks like one of those photos a terrorist group that hides out in the jungles of the Philippines might release demanding ransom money. Are you back to normal?

garmachi673 karma

Are you back to normal?

Not even close. I'm blurry now.

LordDongler274 karma

You look like someone's awesome middle school science teacher

garmachi316 karma

Funny you should say that. I used to want to be a middle school science teacher back in the day. My dad was.


topsecreteltee319 karma

What was the effect of a beer on your body with that intense energy output?

Also, what you say about pop tarts really puts who should and should not be eating them into perspective.

garmachi868 karma

I could get hammered from 2 beers. Hell, fresh bread gave me a buzz.

Insaiyan_Elite65 karma

Do you or have you tried using protein bars instead of the honeybuns?

garmachi247 karma

Yep. When my weight got dangerously low I switched. They're about 5X the cost though.

Babsmitty1208 karma

My brother hiked just past Pennsylvania on the AT a few years back. He tells me that one day he just thought "What the fuck am I doing here?" then called me to come get him. He doesn't have kids or a wife, but he had community responsibilities and a dog that he left behind.

That being said, what drove you forward every day? Was there a day where you realized how much it had changed you - not just physically but emotionally?

I'm looking forward to reading your book - when my brother left I read quite a few trail books. They do read like diaries lol

garmachi1928 karma

what drove you forward every day?

It was something different every day.

My insane love for living outside is what got me out there in the first place. The people are pretty amazing too. I was a 44 year old computer engineer making friends with humans I never would have encountered under any other circumstances. A retired machinist who foraged for edible plants and played the fiddle. A young lady with a brand new anthropology degree, an Israeli cartoonist, a Japanese swordsman. The year I hiked we had an astronaut on the trail with us.

You develop this huge extended family that's stretched out over a hundred miles or so, and you know where everyone is without asking. It's almost like a pack, and that pulls you along. The trail becomes your life. You don't even think about "the real world" for days.

If you do quit, you have to go back to your job... Gross.

Aphid61383 karma

Replies like this are why I subscribed to r/IAmA. (Also, thank you for the free e-book!) I remember your post a couple of years ago & just skimmed it again -- great stuff. I'm incredibly happy for you that you get to hike & tell stories for a living now. ;)

Btw I'm just a day-hiker; my hubby's sectioning the AT. He's going for 2 weeks to Massachusetts next month! Best wishes & hope there are lots more books in your future.

garmachi340 karma

Never say "just a day hiker". :-)

But I know what you mean. Thank you for the kind words!

Takavasen478 karma

Hello there! How many pairs of shoes did you use? What was the average weight of your backpack during the journey?

garmachi753 karma


I destroyed four pairs of sturdy hiking shoes. I put the 5th pair on my feet for the final mountain on the last day. So, four or five depending on how you count that last set.

flyingmops261 karma

How did you get supplies? As I'm assuming you did. And what about water? Did you carry enough to drink, or did you dig out mud and drank through a filter?

It's really inspiring what you've done, thank you for doing this.

garmachi722 karma

Every 3-5 days the AT gets pretty close to town. In a few places, it actually goes right through. Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA are good examples. They paint the white blazes right on the telephone poles on Main St!

But usually, you'll have to hitchhike, walk or find a shuttle into town. Once you're in town, it's a whole new ball game.

If I could time it right, I liked to get into town around lunch time. I'd start with a beer, a salad and either a cheese burger or a large pizza. Just for me. After a second beer and a few scoops of ice cream, I'm ready to (a) do laundry and (b) start thinking about where I'll have dinner.

Not even kidding. Hiking the AT you burn 5000-6000 calories every day. You cannot carry enough calories to sustain that, so you have to binge eat in town. And you'll still lose weight.

Towns along the AT usually have hostels that are cheaper than hotels. That way you can sleep in a bed and get a hot shower occasionally too. I recommend "taking a zero" about every ten days. (That's a day where you walk zero miles, basically sit in town and rub your toes while eating and drinking...)

Drugstore_Loudboy45 karma

Can I see a photo of you now?

Jew_Lizard442 karma

Green Giant! It's Wolf Kisses from the shrimp gang saying hey and congrats on all the success. Who's log entries did you appreciate the most?

garmachi415 karma

Shrimp Gang!

You had the coolest log book logo for sure. I'll see if I can find one. But for pure WTF, you gotta love Lemmy:

Jew_Lizard164 karma

Thanks dude, the right answer was Lemmy or The Engineer but I'll take it! I live one state below you so we'll have to get up for a hike some day soon. I'll hit you up on Facebook.

garmachi116 karma

Please do!

Engineer was awesome! We also would have accepted Color Bandit!

Wuzabtle261 karma

Why did you do it?

garmachi637 karma

It was always one of those bucket list things, you know? I love backpacking and camping, and every time I go out, the one thing I wish I had was one more day in the woods. So as soon as I found out there was a trail that takes months to hike, I was all about it.

Unfortunately, I was fresh out of boot camp at the time, and the Marines don't give you time off for bucket list stuff. So I kept it in my "someday" file for a long time.

Too long. I was in my 40s when I finally started taking my dream seriously. I moved it to my "plan" file, started saving up and researching and by the time I was 44, I hit the trail.

It was nothing at all like I expected either, and when I was done, I was completely spent. (See the before and after pics...) But it felt amazing to give myself totally to a thing I'd wanted for my whole life. To some, it's a vacation or a trip into the woods. Playtime. But it's serious hard work and a mental challenge too. Finishing it put me in a place mentally where things that seemed impossible before now just seemed hard. That's what I was after. I'm glad it worked.

Wuzabtle56 karma

Thanks for the answer, crazy that you were in the military, I'm in the military as well and sometimes I think if I'm not front line I didn't give enough. You know what I mean?

garmachi75 karma

I do. It's weird, like I almost make things harder than they need to be sometimes, too. Just to see...

No_Charisma38 karma

Hey man, thanks for doing this. So it looks like your early story kind of resembles mine. I got out of the Marines in '06, but instead of going straight to school I went to work for an orthopaedic surgeon for ten years, and now finally I'm one semester away from graduating in mechanical engineering. My question is since you mentioned being in computer engineering, how did you handle the hike professionally? I'd love to do either the AT or the PCT but life just always kind of figures out how to assert itself over those kind of dreams. Were you at an age where your coworkers or company could recognize the need for an extended leave or what? I'm just kind of curious about how you made that aspect of it work.

garmachi91 karma

how did you handle the hike professionally?

About as poorly as humanly possible. I had been saving and planning for a few years, but REASONS happened and I simply quit, pinning all hopes on the likelihood that I'd find similar work when I returned. I'd had a few offers and backup plans. What the hell, right?

Little did I know all this would happen...

DammitJagex195 karma

When you finished your journey what was the first meal you were able to give yourself? Was it as glorious as I assume it was.

garmachi555 karma

Birthday cake!

I turned 45 the day I reached Katahdin. My wife met me and brought that and homemade sausage biscuits with cheese, and tons of hard vegetables. I was craving broccoli and cauliflower for some reason. Probably some nutritional deficiency that my body understood more than my brain.

xx123cody25xx205 karma

How often were you in contact with your wife & how often did you see her on your journey?

garmachi512 karma

We live down south, so for the first month of my hike she came to visit me on the trail every weekend. She's a hiker too, and climbed a few mountains with me near the start.

Once it got to be a four hour drive for her, we stopped seeing each other and only spoke on the phone. She joined me at the very end.

Nerzana92 karma

How was it for her with you being gone so often? I understand she visited you a lot but 5 months is a while to not see a spouse on a regular basis. Also you said you left your job and now live in a more wilderness setting. Did she follow you?

Apologies if this was too personal.

garmachi163 karma

No worries.

It was hard for both of us. We're both prior military which helps a little, but only because we already knew what it was like to be apart.

We're still together. I'm super lucky.

Synssins161 karma

I admire your stamina and will power to walk the trail! I've been fantasizing a little bit about doing it myself, but I'm not in the financial or physical position to do so. At 390 lbs, it'd be a struggle for me to get moving in the first place... I was at 332 less than a year ago, and fell off the weight loss bandwagon when I injured my shoulder lifting... I was down a total of 102 lbs back then, but the injury took the wind out of my sails and I started eating comfort foods again...

I'm just getting started again with cardio, and I've been thinking that a long distance multi-week hike would be the perfect way to get started again... I have the strength and a lot of stamina due to the weights/cardio in the gym, I just don't know if I can afford to do it.

Any suggestions on how someone like me could do what you did?

garmachi389 karma

It sounds to me like you're on your way. Just stick with it!

Here's what I like to tell people who are thinking about doing something like this, but are worried about physical fitness: As long as you can carry your pack seven miles, that's all you have to do on day 1.

The first shelter is 7 miles from Springer. If you start in April, you have almost 12 hours of daylight in which to accomplish that task. You could walk a mile, even taking a full hour to do it. Then rest half an hour. Then walk another mile. Then rest a FULL HOUR. And so on. If you can do that on the first day until you've done 7 miles, you win for the day. Eat some noodles and go to sleep.

If you can do that for 3 days in a row, you've made it to your first town. Now you get a real bed and a hot shower.

You don't need to hike 20 miles on that first day. You can do the whole trail without ever hiking 20 miles.

I say, find trails near where you live. Bike paths, even the track at a nearby school. Whatever you do, don't do nothing! Get out there and walk, even for half an hour every other day. It gets easier and it gets MORE FUN. Don't ever quit!

haisyfox156 karma

I've been wanting to hike the AT for some years now. Being a young single female, safety is my largest concern. What advice do you have for me?

garmachi185 karma

My friend Allyson did it. Here's her excellent post on solo hiking and safety:

WeHaveTheTechno144 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this. I've thought about hiking a trail at an admittedly much more leisurely pace than an average trail warrior, since I'm admittedly in terrible shape. Two questions:

1) What's something you're just sure I'm going to forget to bring?

2) What's the best advice for a lifelong non-athlete / perhaps partially disabled person who wants to enjoy the outdoors on a trail (past of course getting in better shape)?

garmachi286 karma

My pleasure!

  1. You forgot to bring enough toilet paper. That or a handful of condiment packets from the fast food joint in town. A little extra fat (and flavor) goes a long way on the trail. Mayonnaise in foil pouches trade on the trail like cigarettes in prison.

  2. As long as you have the ability to leave your house, you can enjoy a trail. Google what's in your area, you'd be surprised. Grayson Highlands on the AT for example actually has ADA compliant wheelchair accessible trail through some incredibly pretty terrain. Bike paths are great for enjoying nature on wheels (or however...) Check out your local hiking clubs. I found local groups via meetup dot com.

Heck, If it's all you can do, go around the block. A little bit of wind and sunshine are always a good thing!

theophilus153144 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA, and for the generous offer of a free book!

What has been your most memorable encounter with wildlife?

garmachi170 karma

The time I saw a bear get captured in a trap outside a shelter.

Got video of it too. Check it out:

Quinn_tEskimo143 karma

What's your go-to technique for blister prevention and care?

garmachi331 karma

Growing up too poor to drive, having a paper route, carrying a bass drum in marching band and then spending ten years in leather combat boots.

If this option is not available to you, make sure your shoes fit. Your feet will grow half a size or even a full size from all that walking. Some people like liner socks, like toe gloves. They keep your toes from eroding each other, which can be a bloody mess.

Also, if you're new to hiking, start with short days and take frequent breaks. Take your shoes and socks off after 3 miles and air out those piggies!

If you DO get blisters (you will) learn to care for them. An infected blister is the worst. Keep them clean and covered. Duct tape works wonders. For real.

EDIT: Okay Tarantino... can't get enough feet? Fine. Here's more:

Jalakee137 karma

Before the AT, had you done any "shakedown" hikes of a week or more? Just to see if you could handle it, if your gear was on point, test out logistical issues, etc.

garmachi148 karma

I sure did.

I'd been backpacking for years already, so I kinda knew what I was doing. Turns out you learn the whole way, no matter how long you've been at it.

I shot a little video on my shakedown. I show my tent and some other gear in it. I had no idea that moments later I'd run into a bear. That actually became the opening scene of my book.

I kept a blog the whole way, and I started making entries ten days prior to starting, so some of my shakedown stuff is in here:

KingPellinore103 karma

What was, hands down, your absolute worst day on the trail?

garmachi463 karma

It was a surprise emotional breakdown about 1800 miles in.

I had already wrecked my feet and overcome that, contracted Lyme disease and dealt with that, separated from my friends, been rained on and delayed by bears and snakes. I was feeling pretty tough, nigh on invincible. At least physically.

I was in Connecticut and suddenly started missing my wife. I'd talked to her on the phone that day, and had even seen her on the trail a few times back when I was closer to home. But for some reason on that day I just started missing home and I sat down on a log and cried.

I wanted to go home so badly that I felt like all that harsh stuff I did to my body had been for nothing, and it made me feel stupid for even having tried this.

I called her and she told me that it was okay to quit, and somehow, that was what made me feel better. Good enough to continue. And it was gone as quickly and unexpectedly as it came on.

AYY__LMA094 karma

What was your fondest memory during your trip?

garmachi1085 karma

The people. Oh my goodness the humans out there... When you go up to 6000 feet seeking company you find exactly the same kind of eccentric weirdo you were looking for.

And not just the hikers.

I met someone on the trail in Pennsylvania who was semi-retired and spent his days delivering "Trail magic" to the shelters. He'd show up at random with candy, pop, and even shared his weed with those who were into that sort of thing. (...raises hand)

He gave me his number and said "If you ever need anything as long as you're in PA, call me. Once you're in New Jersey, you're someone else's problem. But here... I got your back!"

Okay, cool I thought. 3 days later, when I came down with Lyme disease (didn't know it yet, just felt like shit) I took a chance and he answered. He came to fetch me and gave me a trailer on his property, with AC, TV, Wifi... It was heaven. He took me to a doctor and let me recover at his place. He refused every attempt to pay him back.

The AT is surrounded with people like this. Something about that thin strip of dirt attracts the kindest of the kind.

nikon_nomad76 karma

So how bad was Lyme disease? No lingering effects?

garmachi280 karma

Not bad, but only because I caught it early. The symptoms felt like the flu but without the boogers. I had chills and goosebumps even though it was 85 degrees out. I needed multiple naps per day and everything hurt, even the parts I had been resting.

Fortunately, a quick round of antibiotics killed it. Had to take 'em for a month. I'm fine now. Nerfectly pormal.

Lakester1489 karma

How were the mosquitos?

garmachi250 karma

Kinda annoying sometimes, but TERRIFYINGLY HORRENDOUS for about two weeks in August.

You'll get 'em bad anywhere if you're there during mosquito season. For me it was Massachusetts. It was 90 degrees and I had on long pants, tucked in to my socks, long sleeves, gloves and a head net and I was still getting devoured. One of them bit me through my shoe.

Then, a week later, a cool breeze blew them all to Ohio I guess, or somewhere. They just... poofed.

westbee58 karma

Do you happen to do any runs or races?

I just want to say thanks for motivating me to get up and start walking and exercising again.

I eventually got into running again. Something I used to love to do when I was younger.


This is me just one week ago:

garmachi46 karma

My wife and I ran some Tough Mudders and few half marathons a couple years ago. Not much into it anymore though.

Nice pic! You go!

SeinfeldFan956 karma

Wow! Very bold and inspiring. Good for you.

What is one piece of advice or a statement you'd like to share with everyone?

garmachi257 karma

What is one piece of advice or a statement you'd like to share with everyone?

Everyone? No pressure...

"Whatever you do, don't do nothing."

I didn't hike the AT all at once. I had to wake up every day and do a little piece of it. At the start, down in Georgia, Katahdin seemed a million miles away. Impossible!

Every step I took, no matter how insignificant it felt, got me closer to that summit. As long as you're doing something that gets you closer to that dream of yours, you're better off than if you'd sat there dreaming about it. You might not be there yet, but you're closer. Keep stepping.

sglville53 karma

What are your favorite boots, shoes, and socks for hiking?

garmachi209 karma

For shoes I go with Salomon XA Pro 3d. Not everyone will like 'em though. Merrell is very popular too.

I personally don't wear boots because they're too heavy. I get my ankle support from my trekking poles. Think about it. If I wobble or roll an ankle, I already have something in my hand to "grab" as I'm falling. 2000 miles, never sprained even once. Fell on my ass a bunch, but my ankles are fine.

I do have a pair of Vasque Breeze's with a thousand miles on 'em. Some places you just gotta have boots, and those are mine.

Darn Tough makes the best socks. If you wear a hole in 'em, they'll send you a new pair FOR FREE. Socks for life, can't be beat. Donate some to your local homeless, please.

RabidDustBin50 karma

What was your favorite sight/view on the hike? Your most reviled?

garmachi239 karma

Favorite: The entire state of Maine looks like this.

Least Favorite: When Satan designed Hades, his chief architect proposed a cobblestone road for the main thoroughfare. Upon seeing the model Beelzebub declared it too sinister for even the likes of Hell, and the plan was scrapped. The model was shipped to Pennsylvania where it serves as the "trail" for now.

holyoak50 karma

What is your opinion of the author Ed Abbey? Followup, now that some time has passed since his death, would you change his prescription for the outdoors? If so, how?

garmachi135 karma

I read Monkey Wrench Gang about a decade ago and remember being super inspired by it. Like, I wanted to buy a chainsaw and go cut down billboards and shit. I no longer condone this exact approach, but I think that a lot of that spirit is still in me.

I get pretty upset when I see beer cans in a fire ring, or graffiti on a shelter. I go to great lengths to "Leave No Trace" when I hike. I talk about it in my classes a lot, and I'm not afraid to call someone out for hurting our wilderness.

The state of Maine has some good ideas for preserving their wilderness, I like to use them as an example for doing it right.

holyoak101 karma

Monkey Wrench Gang, though very popular, is not a good synopsis of Abbey. Other writings are much deeper and less deliberately absurd. This was the quote is was referring to:

โ€œOne final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While itโ€™s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.โ€

garmachi43 karma

Clearly I am not up to snuff on my Abbey. I really like this, and should queue up some more!


backpackingzack44 karma

Gary, do you have any plans on doing another long trail?

garmachi96 karma

Desires, yes. Plans, no. At least not concrete plans.

I'm section hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail (700ish miles when complete) but only because I can practically see it from my living room.

Parts of the PCT appeal to me, especially the northern sections. I've done parts of the Sierras before and dream of going back . I hate the desert though, and that alone will keep my name off the Triple Crown list.

The CDT is my top choice for next trail. A lot of it is "make up your own route" which I love.

But my heart will always belong to the AT. I love the green tunnel. I find it and the people who surround it infinitely fascinating. I might do the AT again, slower this time.

acidus142 karma

Hey man, I'm going to be doing something similar in November, trekking the Te Araroa the length of New Zealand.

What was the best thing that you took with you? How did your body adapt to the demand you where putting on it?

garmachi93 karma

Gotta say, my phone.

I kept it powered off most of the time, but when I needed it, it was a game changer. Get rides to town... Call home... Take pictures... Hey, if I could get a signal, I'd hop on amazon or rei and order new shoes or a new shirt, and it'd be at the post office when I arrived. Indispensable.

My favorite hiking gear specific item though is the Xped Shnozzel bag. It's waterproof stuff sack or pack liner and it has a nozzle that mates with my air mattress. The bag is a bellows that you can use to inflate at bed time without wasting important lung effort.

EDIT: Here it is in action:

thegraymaninthmiddle37 karma

What was your trail name, and how did you get it?

garmachi64 karma

Green Giant. Tall guy, green shirt.

Under_the_Milky_Way35 karma

Big fan of the Moth!

Can you give us some idea of what happens behind the scenes? How much of the story did they help with?

Etc.., just curious how it is to be on the Moth, bucket list item for me!

garmachi66 karma

The process is simpler than you'd think.

The Moth records in a few major cities (and for some reason a few small ones, like mine...) Once per month they host a "Story Slam" which is basically a high budget open mic. If you want to tell, you put your name in a hat and if they pull your name, you take the stage. No help.

You get 6 minutes with a hard cutoff, your story has to be true, and you can't use notes. That's it. You stand up there in the lights, completely blind to the audience and you just go. It's nothing at all like telling stories for friends at a party, unless you have 400 friends.

When you're done, a panel of judges gives you a score and the winner advances to something held once a year called a grand slam, and then nationals in NY.

As far as getting on the air, you don't have to win, the producers just have to like your story.

I did a lot of public speaking for my job prior to this and loved it. I come from a family of teachers, so I guess I have whatever makes you not fear audiences, so I'm one of those nuts who goes out in search of stuff like this. I tried open mic comedy for a while too and I'm terrible at it. Totally different format, but it gave me tons more respect for actual comics.

modestapple1035 karma

How are your feet!?

garmachi60 karma

I did bad things to my feet.

I knew in advance that my feet would grow half a size, or even a whole. Somehow, I ignored that when it happened, I guess I was in denial. Anyway, I damaged the main nerves in each foot. It took me a year to get normal feeling back, and even today I have to wear metatarsal pads to prevent re-damaging them.

This is not normal however, so don't take my case as typical.

Carter450234 karma

If you could go back in time to before you started, would you do it again? Why or why not?

garmachi85 karma

I'd rather go forward in time and do it again, so I can have twice the amazing memories!

Things I would do differently: Go slower.

HardenedEngineer34 karma

It's always great to see hikers reaching out.

A couple logistical questions,

1) What did you use for maps?

2) Did you ever use the mail drops for resupply, or did you buy in town?

3) What what your daily mileage in the South, and how did that change once you hit the new England mountains and 100 mile woods?

And just for fun, what is your trail name, and how did you get it?


garmachi85 karma

1) What did you use for maps?

The AWOL guide. Each page is an elevation profile since you don't have to worry about turning left or right ever. There are tick marks corresponding to points of interest like water, shelters or road crossings. Lists of phone numbers for each town too.

2) Did you ever use the mail drops for resupply, or did you buy in town?

All of the above.

3) What what your daily mileage in the South, and how did that change once you hit the new England mountains and 100 mile woods?

I hiked 7 or 8 miles my first day. That was as far as I needed to go. By the time I got to Virginia, I'd been hiking long enough to get my "trail legs" and the ground flattened out, so I was cruising 20s. That was the norm until the Whites (New Hampshire).

They told us for weeks in advance, "Watch out for the Whites! You'll cut your milage to a third!" Of course we didn't believe them. We were invincible.

My first day in the Whites, I hiked 7 miles. The next day, 3. And the day after that, zero because a freak storm pinned us down. The Whites are no joke. Everything north of that is like running a Tough Mudder every day for three weeks.

And just for fun, what is your trail name, and how did you get it?

Green Giant! Tall guy, green shirt. Sometimes I say, "Tall guy, low carbon emissions" but that just goes over their heads.

teacherofderp44 karma

low carbon emissions" but that just goes over their heads.

If that goes over their heads, you are exceptionally tall.

garmachi34 karma

You are literally the first person to get that. This is why I keep trying.

skreeth28 karma

Thanks for the free ebook and thanks for sharing your interesting story!

Was there ever a time on the trail you thought you might actually die? I imagine you encounter plenty of wildlife, but also potentially dehydration, starvation, exposure, or possibly ax murderers?

garmachi117 karma

Mt Washington, home of the most severe weather on earth.

It was 54 and drizzling when I began my climb. Halfway up it was 45 and raining sideways, 60 MPH gusts. I decided to turn back and on my way down the wind knocked me over. I thought someone tackled me, but I was on belly sliding across wet rock toward a drop of unknown height. I grabbed a root at the last second like some kind of cartoon character. I watched my pack cover get ripped off by the gale, and saw it sail, flapping into the wet. Not an offering to the storm god, but a sacrifice, taken against my will. At least it didn't get me.


I apologize in advance if this question has been asked, but how did you entertain yourself while walking? Did it just become an autopilot type thing that you didn't have to think about? Did you have books/music to keep some sanity?

garmachi22 karma

Podcasts, music, and nature. But most of all, the people!

CeroBlack25 karma

Thanks so much for the free book! Very kind of you.

Odd question, but something I'm curious about. It's easy to get online and find lists of mistakes to avoid on the trail, but are there any you know of (or made) that may be uncommon or not talked about much?

garmachi38 karma

I had read that my feet would get bigger, and when they did, I was in denial. I should have bought bigger shoes, but didn't, so I damaged my feet. Took a long time to repair themselves too.

Look4theHelpers25 karma

Hello! I just busted out laughing hard enough to scare my dog after looking at that sweet mullet, but I do have a question:

What were your favorite parts/views of the Appalachian Trail? Where are the spots that just take you aback and make you appreciate our glorious planet?

wageslavend25 karma

What skills did you learn that were the most useful?

I grew up in the outdoors and on the trails, so making a fire or pacing the day seem second hand.

Is there something you wished you had learned before the hike?

garmachi49 karma

What skills did you learn that were the most useful?

Perseverance. The ability to look at a monumental task and take it apart in my brain, breaking it down into doable steps, rather than being intimidated by the whole thing.

Is there something you wished you had learned before the hike?

I wish I'd considered my nutrition more. I fell into a cycle of eating cheap lightweight garbage in the woods and high price tasty junk in town. Look where that got me. I would have made the weight sacrifice and actually carried an apple or something out of town besides sugary goop and carbs.

Kanazureth24 karma

What's the one thing you never imagined you'd eat on the trail?

Was there any food you wouldn't eat before the trail, that you found yourself eating out of necessity?

garmachi53 karma

What's the one thing you never imagined you'd eat on the trail?

A half gallon of ice cream in one sitting.

Was there any food you wouldn't eat before the trail, that you found yourself eating out of necessity?


But seriously, shots of olive oil. Just a little sip with dinner for fats.

shipsaplenty24 karma

What would you say was your transition back to "normal" like? What specifically about your day to day life made it so hard to return to?

garmachi276 karma

I've written about this extensively. I've talked about it too, with my wife, with a therapist and with other hikers. Still trying to figure it out.

Thru hikers use a couple of phrases pretty casually, not realizing that they carry some weight. We refer to what happens on trail as "out there" and things in town as "the real world." It's like there's a total separation of realities, but you become so casual about it. It's just second nature. Everyone knows there's two versions of reality. The one where all the uptight people who smell like the shampoo aisle drive around and honk angrily at one another, and the one where my brothers and sisters talk to the squirrels and sing to the birds. It's insane how weird you get after a few months "out there."

For five or six months your entire physical reality consists of what you can carry. You reduce and streamline your life like a wandering monk. At one point my most cherished possession was a cup. You don't need a big house, you don't need a new car, you don't need new pants, just more duct tape.

You become a minimalist. You develop a Pavlovian response to sundown: Time to sleep. Hot water and electricity are miracles. Ice cream is orgasmic. One bite of an apple makes your eyes roll.


You're back in a cubicle with a report due so you can keep getting paid so you can gas up the car. Janice from accounting is clipping her god damn fingernails again and why the hell isn't the wind blowing? Oh shit. I'm inside. I have to get out.

Next thing you're sweaty and palpitating. Fuck the TPS reports. I'm out.

It takes five or six months to walk to Katahdin. It takes a few hours to climb it. It takes the rest of your life to get back down.

TacticalPoutine23 karma

When you started hiking, was there somethings for which you found you had overprepared/underprepared?

Also, how did you deal with weather? Do you just hike through rain or is that often not possible?

garmachi51 karma

I sent a lot of stuff home those first few weeks. Stuff I never would have thought of. For instance...

Those fancy Nalgene bottles I bought? Impractical. Gatorade bottles hold as much, weigh half as much, and can be thrown out/replaced for a dollar. I didn't need my wallet, or a map, or my sunglasses. Sunscreen either. So many pounds dropped that first week!

The cool thing about walking in the rain is when you get totally soaked and can't get any wetter. That's when you stop caring and start splashing in puddles and singing. People pay extra for rain scented laundry, you get to be the real deal for free!

dcnerdlet23 karma

I just want to thank you for sharing your experience in your book. I bought it awhile ago, and stayed up all night reading it (making for a loooong ass workday). It's one of my dreams to hike the AT, I'm trying to get my husband into hiking so I don't feel badly about going alone. Your book made me feel a lot better about the fact that I'll likely be hiking in my 40s like you did and showed me that it can be done. It also helped me mind my feet and how I walk during my day hikes now since before I was just ignoring any weird feelings/pain. So, seriously, thank you.

As for my (required) questions: 1. How are your knees? 2. How's Lemmy? Do you keep up with him or Voldemort anymore?

garmachi24 karma

As for my (required) questions: 1. How are your knees? 2. How's Lemmy? Do you keep up with him or Voldemort anymore?

My knees are great! Which is kinda surprising, since I had my 3rd arthroscopic done 3 weeks before starting the AT.

Lemmy is in art school chasing his dream! Voldemort and I just talked a few days ago. I think we'll be friends for a long time!

the_potato_smuggler20 karma

Those appear to be the same shorts they give us in the usmc. Are you a former mayrin?

garmachi26 karma

Silkies For Life!


jajajamyn19 karma

Any thoughts about doing the PCT? My cousin is on it now, and I just did a small part of it which really made me appreciate what you guys go through!

garmachi24 karma

I'm not a fan of the desert, so I'd love to do almost all of the PCT. I spent six weeks in northern California years ago. I'm aching to go back.

cobunkulous19 karma

Did you get bit by alot of ticks? And, did you ever get lost?

garmachi42 karma

I flicked a lot of ticks off of me before they bit me, but alas, one got me. I have had Lyme disease, and it wasn't that bad. Only because I caught it early though.

I never got lost, but I did get confused and hike south a few times.

jhenry92217 karma

I am probably not the only one to say this, but, I have trouble convincing myself these are in fact the same person.

Not even the same SPECIES.

Did you have to prove who you were to people who didn't believe you?

garmachi16 karma


Those pics are also still frames from my animated beard growth video, which usually convinces them.

CPadventures15 karma

Just downloaded the book. What was running through your mind when walking? I ask this I am picking a course for university and wonder does your thought process change when you have hours upon hours to walk and think for month's.

garmachi32 karma

Just downloaded the book.

Awesome! Thanks!

What was running through your mind when walking?

You're about to find out. ;)

Not being sarcastic either, but kinda the whole point of my book is that I want the reader to get inside my head. When you're done reading it, you'll be just as nuts as I am.

Remember this when you get to Chapter 15, "Everyday." I used it to take a break from the story and try to capture every minute detail about a "typical" day on the AT. (There's no such thing, but I tried!) This is the one that'll get you into the long distance hiker headspace.

THECrappieKiller15 karma

You look a lot sexier. Do you get more ladies now? FYI I am a straight male, not afraid to tell a man when he's sexy.

garmachi85 karma

I get the same lady, but more often, so yes. ;)

J_r0en13 karma

Very inspiring story. I'd like to go out to the wilds aswell but I'm scared that in the future I miss the old life, and can't i wont have the opportunity to get back to it. What would you say to all of us who are in this position?

garmachi22 karma

The trail goes near a town every 3-5 days. You have literally hundreds of opportunities to quit!

bearfan44410 karma

Did you stop wearing your glasses? Did your eyesight improve from being in the wilderness?

garmachi27 karma

I stopped wearing the because they fogged up constantly in the humidity. My eyesight still sucks, I just squinted a lot.

Pass_the_lolly7 karma

Tell me, what did you think of the mahoosuc notch? Isn't it supposed to be the "longest mile" of the AT?

garmachi7 karma

"longest mile" of the AT?

More like "most fun" mile of the AT!

Wuzabtle5 karma

How much did it cost? In dollars.

garmachi15 karma

Everyone's answer will be different. I already had all my gear for example. But I also had bills to pay back home. To normalize this, we'll make the following assumptions:

  1. You have all your gear. (That cost varies wildly... give me time)
  2. We're not factoring in costs back home.

The whole thing can be done for $5k. If you don't stop in town too often and don't drink too much beer when you do, $5k is about a grand per month, or $250 a week, and your only expenses are food, rides and laundry. Plus the occasional hotel/hostel.

That's pretty lean though. If you want to enjoy a few zero days (you hike zero miles and enjoy town life instead) and sleep in a few more warm beds, $6-7K is easy to spend, too.

carpediday5 karma

Im planning on doing the PCT two years from now, but I just can't seem to take the first step to make it reality. Do I start by reading the books? Buying the gear?

How did you get around to finalizing the plan and actually start preparing?

garmachi6 karma

Go get a copy of "Pacific Crest Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail" by Zach Davis.

5pecial4 karma

I want to hike the AT, but I feel like I wouldn't fit in as a well-educated, non-hippie, conservative. Would I?

garmachi6 karma

It's the island of misfit toys out there. Once your beard kicks in they'll never know.

AlphaJones23 karma

Why did you choose the Appalachian mountains?

garmachi5 karma

I don't know. I've spent most of my life on the east coast, and I confess there are plenty of better looking mountains. But something about the Green Tunnel feels like home to me. I love sitting on a log or a rock, by a stream in the shade. I don't need a mountain goat knocking me into the dust, or scorpions, you know?

wuop3 karma

Not to be mean, but your before/afters look like two different kinds of shit. Of course, we all want the structurally integral no-wipers, but you started with forceful spatter and ended with wearisome thoughts about whether we should continue given that the tissue now has tinges of red.

How'd you wipe?

garmachi10 karma

For sure. I needed to lose about 20 pounds and lost 47. There was about a two week period in between though when I was just right, but that didn't last.

I kept 3-5 days worth of TP in a ziploc bag.

wuop10 karma

Please stop having a good attitude about my attempts to roast you. It's disconcerting.

Also congratulations.

garmachi14 karma

Roast harder?


Pinstripe8193 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! Very keen to read the book but doesn't look like the link is working for Australia.

Will it be available on Kindle at a later date here?

garmachi5 karma

It goes back to the regular price tomorrow which means they'll pull it from the free list. It should be back on .au tonight.

ironman822 karma

what do you think of the situation in venezuela?

garmachi3 karma

It's horrific.

nowhereman1361 karma

Are you looking to complete the triple crown?

garmachi3 karma

No, but only because I don't want to do the desert parts of the PCT. I want to do the 2.75 crown.

verscharren11 karma

Did you find bigfoot?

garmachi3 karma

No, but I met Squatch.

RPDrogan1 karma

Be honest, did you get this idea by watching "Into the Wild"?

garmachi2 karma

I read that book and was inspired. I also learned a lot about what not to do.

Cinemaphreak-3 karma

Are you wondering, dear reader, where the free book is?

Follow the Amazon link (either of them) and you will be given an option for Kindle Unlimited version.

HEADS UP: you will be required to sign up for Kindle Unlimited for a free 30 day trail, which you are very likely to forget to cancel and will then be charged $10 a month.

garmachi3 karma

It's ALSO on Kindle Unlimited, but it's definitely free to buy today as well.