We have all played games like the Zelda series, World of Warcraft, and Dungeons and Dragons in which you are adventuring out on a grand quest. But most of us have never really done this kind of adventuring before in real life. Well, lucky for us we have interviewed our very own real life adventurer to tell us all about his latest journey, teach us a few things that a future adventurer would want to know, and to hopefully inspire us to create our own adventure.
Lindsay Garber: Welcome back! I know you have done a few adventures in your time. I want to list a couple of them. You have previously been skydiving, you’ve been diving with great white sharks, hiked Kilimanjaro, traveled many places around the world, and most recently returned from an estimated 2,650 mile adventure hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. Out of all the adventures that you’ve done, why did you pick this adventure and what has been the most difficult thing to acclimate back into?
Phil “Redwood” Anderson So, the “PCT” (Pacific Crest Trial) has been something I kinda had wanted to do for a little while. My sister really wanted to do it 3-4 years ago so she introduced me to the idea of it. And I watched the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon, where she goes along the PCT, and I was trying to figure out something I wanted to do which was really big, I guess I had already done a few things, but I was trying to do something that was extra big. I was contemplating South America, or backpacking around Southeast Asia, and I saw the PCT, and thought it’s something that’s a bit more structured, instead of wandering around, and something about it just clicked. Once I started doing a bit more research I dove in head first. I quit my job, and I had already sold my condo at that point. I was ready to go off and do something crazy. Once I got my permit, I was on the trial a month later
Lindsay: Wow, so you fully committed to this few month trip.
Redwood: Yeah, it took a total six and a half months, and five of those were on the trial.
Lindsay: How many days of the six months was your mom trying to call you to make sure you were okay?
Redwood: You know, the first few weeks, I didn’t always have signal, but I was telling my Mom… “Mom I swear I’m alive, I’m fine. I know it’s 100 degrees out there, but I’m fine and I found water, I’m going to be okay.”
Lindsay: My mom is the same way and I just travel through Los Angeles traffic, and she still tries to make sure I wam okay.
Redwood: There was definitely an adjustment period for her, and she kind of backed off after that, “He’s fine…”
Lindsay: You also had your blog, which was really great, because people could keep track of you through your blog.
Redwood: Yes, there is a website called Hikefor.com and people can sponsor you for charity. However many miles you hike, they’ll put up a cent for every mile. I thought it was a cool way to bring other people in who were following me from work. Give some extra meaning to it.
Lindsay: Definitely! What I like about interviewing you is that a lot of people adventure in video games, but you did this in real life. One of my favorite video games is the Zelda series where Link is an adventurer, but, I know this is probably a very silly question, but I just really want to imagine how you started. Did an old man give you a sword and say “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.” Did you tie your shoes, grab your gear, and walk out your door of your home and begin down the street? Or was it a drop off situation to actually get out of the city? And can you paint us a picture of what was going through your head from the night before to when you took your first official mile?
Redwood: May 31st, 2018, I got driven down to Mexican border. The terminus is about 100 feet away from the Mexican border. There is a border fence there.
Both Lindsay and Redwood laugh.
Redwood: I was dropped off and my friend drove away. All the dust from the tires went up and I was by myself. “Oh shit this is real…” and I had to move. That day I got dropped at 2 P.M. in the afternoon. I set my tent up two miles away. I set it up before so I wouldn’t have to carry it the first twenty miles. I had to travel 20 miles, and it was already 2 P.M.. So the first day on the trail I was night hiking. It was dark by the time I got there. It got dark at 7 P.M., “Huh, there are mountain lions out here, or maybe not. What do I do with this?” I was making loud noises every couple of minutes so they knew I was there, until I was walking past other people’s tents, because by then I was like, “Okay, now this is fine.” It was funny. That morning I woke up and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I was a little scared and apprehensive, and had second thoughts. I thought “Maybe I can wait another day, I don’t have to go yet.” I was so comfortable. I was trying to latch on. I got up and then yeah.
Lindsay: Murphy’s Law states that “Things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance,” or more commonly, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” So I guess that was one, having to hike at night.
Redwood: That was funny, on the trial you start off with your actual name, but eventually you get a trail name. Someone gives you a trail name. Mine was given to me by a girl in Washington, named Murphy’s Law, because everything that could go wrong happened to her.
Lindsay: That’s so funny. How did you get your name?
Redwood: My name was Redwood, I didn’t have a trail name. Someone tried to call me “Phil Jackson” because I’m 6’9 and played basketball, and there is Phil Jackson the famous basketball couch. That wasn’t going to work. There was at least one more, but nothing stuck. As I was walking through the Sierras on the John Muir Trail (JMT) section, there were a couple headed south on the JMT, and they said, “Do you have a trail name?” “No…” “You should be Redwood.” “Cool.” After a couple days, I thought it was pretty good, and it stuck.
Lindsay: I don’t know a lot about trees other then the fact that they give you oxygen, but that’s a great name.
Redwood: The Redwood is the tallest tree, and I’m… well I think there might have been someone taller on the JCT but I didn’t meet them.
Lindsay: For these things that could go wrong, or did go wrong, and as we know there are no random merchants to trade with or get new items from in the middle of an adventure. What were some of the most notable things that “went wrong” that you knew you needed to plan for and what were a few things that “went wrong” that you couldn’t plan for?
Redwood: You know it’s going to rain in Washington, you can have rain gear, but when it rains for three or four days in a row… well. You set up your camp gear, and you wake up and all of a sudden your tent is in a puddle, the floor is soaked, and part of your sleeping back is wet. It starts to get interesting. I believe that was day two or three of that particular rain storm, and then the sun came out the next day at noon. We threw our stuff over the bushes and let the sun dry it out. There was definitely a couple hundred miles in Washington where when it rained, and when it stopped I’d play “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beetles. It was the best thing in the world, the sky would open up. You just have a deeper appreciation for the elements. You have to resupply on the trail, and the trail goes through Acton in this one particular stretch. By resupply I mean getting more food. You carry about 5 days of food at a time, and you have to get more food in town. I tried to visit this one grocery store, and they had a rat infestation, so the grocery store was closed. So I couldn’t get anything there. I had to hike until the next day. I had enough food for that, and then I had to Uber into a town, with very shoddy cell service. It all works out. There is a saying on the trail, that the trail will provide, everything you need is on the trail.
Lindsay: Including Uber.
Redwood: Including Uber.
Both Lindsay and Redwood laugh.
Redwood: Everything works out eventually.
Lindsay: That’s good to hear. I mean your alive!
Redwood: I am alive, and in one piece.
Lindsay: I will say the trail provided in just enough ways.
Lindsay: Sometimes when questing, you run into other adventurers. Did this happen with you? Was it planned? And did traveling with others take you along a new side quest that you didn’t know would happen?
Redwood: Absolutely. One of the best things about the trail, is the people you meet. I started by myself in the middle of the summer, way behind the pack. It got kinda lonely out there. It felt good to reflect. They call your trail family, the people you meet, your Tramly.
Lindsay: That’s adorable!
Redwood: There’s a label for everything. We definitely did some questing on the side, getting into trouble. I remember going through Muir Trail Ranch in the Sierra, there are all the people who do the JMT which is 200 mile section. Which is really long, but when compared to the PCT it’s not that long. But there were these five gallon buckets of food to resupply from in the JMT. All the extra get left over. I met this one group of six people, and we went and picked over the leftovers. We probably got over $800 dollars of food for free, and were able to resupply for the next week.
Lindsay: The trail provides!
Redwood: Then you get sucked in, when you finally get through a town. I spent over three or four days in Bend, Oregon.
Lindsay: Beautiful town.
Redwood: It’s a beautiful town. Just doing absolutely nothing with some cool people. Watching Lord of the Rings, and comparing it to the trail. There is this one point where they are all on this mountain, and a large group of crows fly over them, and they all duck behind the trees to get out of the way. I thought that is so like South-Bounders. All these people who are heading southbound will just run into you, and you are like, “What is happening.”
Lindsay: Were you camping, in a hotel?
Redwood: Logistically, you have towns somewhere between every 50 to 175 miles. So you are out on the trail for maybe a couple of days, my longest was 8 days. During that long stretch, you are camping. Then you can go into town, hitch hike into town. Some towns are right on the trail. Then you can stay at a hostel or a hotel. It’s easy to stay a couple of days, after you’ve been camping for a week straight.
Lindsay: So, is that where you shower, and re-up on things you need?
Redwood: Yes, resupply, shower. I have a real newfound appreciate for that, which I did not have. Do not take that for granted.
Redwood: A hot meal. I had a stove with me, but its so good having something different after having so much ramen. Going into town is one of the best feelings. You can really push yourself, when you know that shower and food is waiting for you. I will get up at five in the morning, and hike 20 miles by noon so I can get pizza, or what ever else I’m craving, and especially beer. There are definitely provisions in the Sierras, and you go through 700 miles in the desert before you get to the Sierras. There is really no water sources. Maybe a river or a couple streams and stuff. A lot of people will leave water caches out. A water cache is gallons and gallons of water in five hundred gallon jugs, like Arrowhead water. They call them trail angels, who will come and refill the water for us. Then you finally get to the Sierras and there is so much water. All that snow pack is melting. Every day you jump in the river, and that’s your shower.
Lindsay: There are times in games where I would enjoy a side quest so much that I would spend a lot longer doing the side quest then the main quest and it would lengthen my journey. Your goal miles and date span, were they accurate?
Lindsay: And what did you have to accomplish each day to achieve this goal? You noted the adventure would be from May 31st till September 30th and the goal was 2,650 miles.
Redwood: Yeah, so I was a little ambitious with the goal. I got my permit, and I started a little late. Most people start April, mid March, or the first week of May. I started on May 31st. You have to start late enough that you can get through the snow pack in the Sierras, but early enough that you can get through the snow before it starts falling in Washington. I ended up skipping the second part of the desert, like 350 miles, I did that later, but in order to make it up to Washington my average was to be 22 miles a day, without taking a 0 miles hike day. I ended up starting to strong, and got shin splints and achilles tendonitis within the first two weeks, and I had to take a couple days off before I could keep going. It was not fun. By the time I got to Oregon, the ground got a lot flatter, and I started doing 25-30, lot of 30 mile days.
Lindsay: After your pain, you were able to rest, and push even harder.
Redwood: Yeah. So I started off with 20 miles days. It was too much, but then you start getting your hiking legs, and your body starts to adjust I probably dropped 25 lbs. Not that I had a whole lot to loose.
Both Lindsay and Redwood laugh.
Redwood: I got really skinny, and kinda became a hiking machine.
Lindsay: A really well dressed hiking machine I may add. You were in a button up shirt, with your sleeves rolled up. You could have gone to a fancy dinner.
Redwood: In my shorts.
Lindsay: Yeah, if you put on longer shorts, or pants.
Redwood: I got an awesome leg tan though.
Both Lindsay and Redwood laugh.
Redwood: Sometimes it was hard to tell whether it was dirt or actual tan.
Lindsay: From May 31st, til what was the end date?
Redwood: My original plan was with 22 mile days, from May 31st til September 30th. I had heard Washington starts snowing early October. Once it starts snowing at your feet it’s basically impossible to hike enough each day to be able to make it. I got to the Canadian border on October 19th. We got a foot of snow in Snoqualmie, which is mid Washington. We left one day, from Snoqualmie pass, after staying in a hotel for a couple nights. We left right after this rain storm passed, and it had been snowing up the mountain, the first night we camped in snow. There was snow on the ground. At that point there were ten of us. Seven people turned back the next day.
Lindsay: How do you “turn back”?
Redwood: We hiked maybe seven or eight miles outside of town. They went back to town and that was that for them. Although three of them who went back, decided the next day that actually it wasn’t that bad and joined up with us later. A couple people skipped up to just before the Canadian boarder, and they wanted to see it all the way.
Lindsay: When you make it that far, you push through.
Redwood: Exactly. I finished December 14th. My sister got married in November, so I took the time for that, and then I piece-mailed the last 400 miles that I had to do. Then we ended up getting a bunch of snow in southern California.
Lindsay: How many people did you think you met during the whole adventure?
Redwood: There were 4,500 permits issues this year. A thousand of those people finished. I probably met a couple hundred easily.
Lindsay: Do you still keep in contact with them?
Redwood: Actually, one of the guys I hiked with, his trail name was “Lost Shit.”
Lindsay: I want to know how that name happened…
Redwood: Oh, so his friend Shaman and him did some recreational drugs, and then went to sleep. “Lost Shit” woke up at four in the morning. When you go to the bathroom in the woods, you have to dig a hole. It was dark, and he did his business, and couldn’t find his tent, coming back, so he just made a bed of sticks. It was 40 degrees, he had shorts on and a down jacket or something. He went to sleep until seven. Then he started playing Marco-Polo with everyone around him. So his name ended up being “Lost Shit”.
Redwood: He is WWOOF-ing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) on a farm right now. So I was just up the last few days in San Luis Obispo WWOOF-ing with him.
Lindsay: What is WWOOF-ing?
Redwood: WWOOF-ing is a work trade. He gets food and board, and he works for a few hours a day.
Lindsay: As for your miles spent, did you reach your estimated 2,650?
Redwood: Yes, outside of a 10 mile stretch in Idyllwild because the trail was closed for fire closure, I’ve done every mile, with the exception of a mile in lake tahoe. It’s bugging me.
Lindsay: Wow, it’s on your mind.
Redwood: Yeah, when you get so close, and you are trying to get 100% in a game, and you 99%. You want to finish that last bit just so you can say you did the entire thing.
Lindsay: I’m sure so many people can get that. Some people would argue that Link’s fairy companion, Navi, was absolutely annoying. But at least he had some company when he was “alone.” What kinds of thoughts kept you going, or kept you company, when you are traveling alone and know you have a long way to go?
Redwood: Travelling alone is tough. You can get wrapped up in your own head. Fortunately I had this thing called a cellphone filled with podcasts and music. I had my game plan each day that I had to walk until noon. I had to walk ten miles or go until noon before I’d let myself listen to music or a podcast. You can kind of get the same thought through your head and it can be a bit challenging. You can focus on something from your past that isn’t great and all of a sudden it’s replaying over and over again. In some ways it was great because I had a chance to work through some stuff that I didn’t realize I still had.
Lindsay: So many years ago, why now! Speaking again of Link, Link would start off each game with almost nothing and along his journey he would pick up items. Obviously you had a lot more time to prepare for your adventure than Link did. What were the most important tools you brought and what tools did you have to get along the way?
Redwood: I started out with basically nothing. You send a lot of time trying to figure things out. You know how much everything in your pack weighs by the ounce. You send a lot of time and frankly money trying to get everything as light as possible. Unlike in video games, you don’t have an unlimited inventory. You actually have to carry it, and not eight sets of armor. I had one pair of shorts, one pair of boxers. One shirt to sleep in, and one shirt to hike in.
Lindsay: That’s why all your photos look like the same day.
Redwood: I had to replace my shorts after 1300 miles, having to sew up the rips in my butt. They were totally shredded, nobody would want to walk behind that, haha.
Lindsay: You didn’t want to keep the shorts as a trophy? Turn it into a headband?
Both Lindsay and Redwood laugh.
Redwood: I knew I should have asked you for some fashion tips.
Lindsay: Next time.
Redwood: Next time. I went through five pairs of shoes. So I had to order those, and send them to the next town, before the ones I was wearing fell apart. You don’t want to order them too soon, because then you are spending too much money on shoes. I definitely got more layers. Because it was getting cold. I started at 95 degree weather, and then by the time that I was finished we had days in the 20s.
Lindsay: How do you adjust?
Redwood: It was interesting to see the change of the seasons happening. Something your not really in tune with, but now that I’m back, I kind of take for granted, you know what time the sun is going to wake up and go down every single day day, because you are hiking all throughout the day. Towards the end, to able to get all my miles in, I was hiking a couple hours at night after the sun went down.
Lindsay: You needed those extra layers. What about knife, or sword?
Redwood: I had a little pocket knife. Super basic, it’s all you needed. A stove. Some people didn’t carry a stove, which I thought was nuts. It takes time, and you have to carry the water for it. It was super minimalist.
Lindsay: Wow, cause I was thinking, I’ve been to REI, I’ve seen how many things they sell.
Redwood: They sell lots of stuff… I love REI, I’ve spent lots of money at REI, but if you spend all your time at REI you will have way to much stuff. They have “hiker boxes” all over towns, whenever you go to a town, or hotel, or a restaurant that is close to the trail, there is a huge storage bin. Hikers will throw their extra junk in there that they don’t need anymore. I had this umbrella that I took with me through the desert. I thought, great I’ll have shade. I never used it.
Lindsay: Well someone is very thankful for your umbrella. One of my favorite Link games was Ocarina of Time where you get to ride Epona and you would be able to get through areas a lot quicker. I did read in your hiking blog that you did hitch a ride… Why did you decide to hitch a ride and, no offence, but how did you get someone to actually pick you up? Hitching a ride solo is something I would probably never do, so I’m just trying to get into this thought process and how you are not dead.
Redwood: My first hitch hike, I had shin splints coming out of was coming just south of Idyllwild, 150 miles into the trail. I got a hitch, because I had to go into town and rest up for a couple days. The first hitch, I waited for ten minutes with my thumb up. I had never hitched a day in my life. All these cars were passing me, and a guy pulled over and I was like “Great”, and then I thought that it was interesting, and that the car was a little trashed, “This will be fine. It’s only a 10 mile hike” and I notice a half eaten carton of ice cream on the dashboard. Half the ice cream was melted and running down the dashboard. I noticed my butt was wet, and I looked down, “Oh no! I’m sitting on the rest of the melted ice cream.” This guy was swerving through traffic, and I thought, he was definitely a meth head. He stopped three minutes later to show me a stream, for his dog in the back. He was filling up some water for the dog, and I thought, should I run right here. We kept going for a couple more miles, and he pulled over to get a drink from a convenience store, and I told him the trail was right there, so that I was going to go now. I then thanked him, and hid tell he left. There was another guy five minutes later to give me a ride, and he was a super nice guy. Gave me his number, and told me I could call him if I needed to hitch out of town.
Lindsay: 50-50 chance you are going to meet a crazy?
Redwood: I’d say about 95%, there are definitely interesting people. He was the most though. You meet some really generous people who will pick you up, when you smell awful. I remember this one time in Chester California, there was four of us coming off the trail, and havent showered in four or five days. We get in this guys truck, when you are out in the open you don’t smell yourself, but the minute we shut the doors. “Oh.. that’s us that smells so bad. Sir I am so sorry. You are much braver then us.”
Lindsay: Braver, for giving a ride. That’s funny.
Redwood: I said, “I don’t know what you thought you were getting yourself into, but I am sorry.” But he responded “Yeah but I have had some really great hitch hikers. You meet some really generous people.”
Lindsay: But most of them are sober from meth?
Redwood: Yes sober from meth.
Lindsay: When I read that, I was like “Oh my God he is hitch hiking!”, I would never do that myself. A woman for those who don’t know, I’m 5’4 and not that strong. It’s not something I would do.
Redwood: There were definitely times that I felt uncomfortable, but it worked out.
Lindsay: Yes, you are alive and healthy. In doing this hiking adventure, you were able to get sponsors to help you raise money for Earthjustice and the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Way better than saving a Princess in my opinion. Any advice for future adventurers?
Redwood: You have to listen to yourself. You can push yourself through pain or discomfort for a while. At the end of the day you have to listen to your body and soul and they will guide you. There were people that got off the trail for a couple of weeks. Some of them got back on, and some of them called it quits, because it wasn’t for them. Met a girl in Mammoth when I went skiing there a couple of weeks ago, who said, “I hiked from the border to Mammoth, and that was enough for me.” Now she is working in a restaurant. That’s her thing. If you listen to yourself, you’ll know whats right. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You have to find a balance.
Lindsay: That’s great advice, and listening to your soul, that’s something I don’t tap into very often, but I guess with enough time with beauty and nature you can tap into things you don’t normally tap into.
Redwood: You know when your body is telling you to stop. There are days when I wanted to hike 25-30 miles that day, and got to mile 15-20, and thought I don’t feel like going anymore I’m going to give myself a break. You learn a lot of those lessons you can apply to your normal life. You can push yourself real hard but you’ll burn out. The trail tought me that.
Lindsay: Tough breaks from the trail. Now that you are back, have you began planning your next adventure? Or is it time for a rest?
Redwood: I’ve been doing almost nothing. I sat on the couch a lot. It’s been wonderful. There’s been climate control and running water. I haven’t had to worry about where my food is going to come from. It’s been fantastic. It’s been raining a ton in Los Angeles. I’ve been sitting on the couch and watching the rain fall. It’s kinda nice being on the other side of the window. I think I’m going to go out and ski for a couple weeks. I’d really like to get out to Mexico City and take some Spanish classes there, and finally learn Spanish, since I’ve somehow made it 32 years in Los Angeles without having picked it up. I have some ideas. I think the next big adventure is going to grad school. I am studying for the GRE, and those are the next big things. In terms of walking another couple thousand more miles, I’m a little hesitant. I feel like it will hit me but it’s been about two months. I’m starting to get the itch. I’m waiting for to really hit.
Lindsay: Seems like quite the adventures. Thank you for telling us your stories, and to help out any future adventures who may want to take that quest. Is there anything else you’d like to add, thank, or anything else?
Redwood: Thank you for having me, and giving me the opportunity. It’s been great sharing my experience. For all of the people listening who are kind of on the fence. I understand what it’s like to be in a normal life, but sometimes you want to take the plunge, and go do something crazy. Have the courage to do it, if you want to do, go for it. It’s not for everybody. I don’t think everyone should do it. But if something inside of you is telling to try something new, then go for it. You can always come back, and get a normal job, and return to so called everyday normal life. If things line up in your life, then go for the adventure, it’s fun.
Lindsay: Go for the adventure. Famous last words. Thank you!
Redwood: Thank you!
Hopefully Redwood’s story has inspired an adventure within you. But if not, there are also many ways to help future adventurers, our Earth, and some amazing organizations. Here are a select few below:
- Earthjustice is one of the organizations that Redwood selected the sponsors donate to for his hike. Behind nearly every major environmental win, you’ll find Earthjustice. As the nation’s original and largest nonprofit environmental law organization, they leverage their expertise and commitment to fight for justice and advance the promise of a healthy world for all. They represent every one of our clients free of charge and would be a great organization to consider donating to.
- The other organization Redwood selected that the sponsors donate to for his hike is the Pacific Crest Trail Association. From across the country and the world, their members travel to the mountain ranges of the American West to beat back brush and restore this trail. From shore to shore, we champion the needs of the Pacific Crest Trail. They are dedicated to the notion that our hard work to protect, preserve and promote this National Scenic Trail is a precious gift to future generations.
- As another option, you could donate to or become a Clean Trails advocate, ambassador or leader in which their aim is to eliminate waste on all the trails that grace our public lands and educate and encourage others about clean trail awareness.
Let us know what your next, or favorite, adventure is in the comments. Or if there are any other helpful organizations you would like to also recommend please do!
If you would like a more in depth look at the adventure as a whole, check out Redwood’s BLOG which also contains some amazing photos.