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Outdoor Meccas Are Not a Social Distancing Hack

As the coronavirus cleans throughout the nation, with limitations and closures rippling prior to it, one impulse has actually been to get some materials and light out for the hills —– or the desert, or the crag. Out there , the thinking goes, there’’ s tidy air to breathe , less individuals, and less contagion.

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But this Huck Finn technique to the pandemic is rapidly facing the truths of the modern-day world, and how illness spreads, and its speed, and the effects of our actions.

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Already there ’ s a brand-new message for the majority of those leaders, and it ’ s being yelled by everybody from traveler workplaces to ethicists’: Come back to the raft, Huck. And park it, for 2- to 4 weeks. Possibly more.

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Even one week earlier, individuals appeared to be searching for security in the boondocks, or thinking about doing so. California State Parks got about 97,417 outdoor camping appointments in between February 1 and March 11, about 80 percent more than throughout the exact same duration in 2019. In Texas, a park authorities informed Outside today that Big Bend National Park “ is loaded. ” Sales of the camping tent ” Roofnest have more than tripled considering that the break out started, the business reports. Climbers put into Bishop, California, in the eastern Sierra, and New Hampshire ’ s North Conway.( Last weekend, a long line of vehicles bring citizens’of Seattle, the nationwide center of the break out, got to their 2nd houses or rental houses in the rural mountain valley where I reside in Washington state, their SUVs loaded with bikes and clothing. They stopped en route into town to clear our supermarket of fresh veggies and the great coffee.)

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But something moved today, and rapidly. Possibly it was just the ever-evolving scenario with the infection. On Wednesday, California State Parks closed those exact same camping sites it was booking. Unexpectedly, escaping everything didn ’ t feel always sensible at all. Rather, it felt practically like attempting to outrun the tide. Worse, it appeared self-centered. In a much-shared short article on the climbing up website, ThunderCling, Dave McAllister scolded the Bishop climbers who had actually gotten here to play, and hide, with apparently no issue for their prospective influence on a neighborhood that has a considerable percentage of older individuals and has actually restricted medical resources. As Paula Flakser, a Bishop regional and climber, informed McAllister: “ I, personally, am livid seeing individuals utilize this as a chance to take a climbing up getaway ‘ far from all of it. ’ You are not far from everything. You are simply going to a various kind of neighborhood. ”

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On Tuesday ‘, the American Alpine Club released a note to climbers inquiring to delay climbing up journeys in which they would hang out in towns such as Bishop. “ This is not the time to head to the desert or rally to your preferred national forest for “ social distancing, ” AAC ’ s keep in mind checked out. It was an extraordinary admonishment, at an extraordinary time, acknowledged Taylor Luneau, the club ’ s policy supervisor. “ I believe the context of ‘ social distancing ’ got spun up with the concept of, ‘ Hey, now is a great time to be outdoors,’’ ” Luneau stated. “ The issue is that it neglects the problem of, ‘‘ Hey, I stop at the filling station along the method”, and I go to the “shop, ” he stated. “ There ’ s several touch-points where you possibly communicate with other individuals. “” The reaction to the note has actually been primarily favorable, he stated.

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But perhaps no location shared the exact same experience as Moab. In earlyMarch, the normal, big, late-winter crowds started to put together around Utah ’ s red rock experience town to bike, trek, and off-road . Something felt “ spooky ” about the scene, stated Mayor Emily Niehaus. Public lands spraddle around” the city, Moab itself is little, which indicates couple of resources if and when the pandemic gets here.

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Utah took some actions in early March, consisting of closing schools for 2 weeks. By Monday, nevertheless, the leading brass at 17-bed Moab Regional Hospital was very anxious about the pandemic. They composed a strongly-worded letter to Herbert. As numerous as 6,000 individuals from all over the nation might be on their method. “ Please. Do. More. Now, ” they composed, in boldface letters.

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On Tuesday, the Southeast Utah Health Department did simply” that: the three-county health department closed all dining establishments and bars ( other than for take-out orders) and forbade all accommodations– hotels, Airbnbs, camping sites– from taking brand-new visitors who are not necessary visitors or main citizens, to name a few actions. The order requests 30 days.

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It was vibrant. It was indicated to be. Mayor Niehaus stated authorities are attempting to send out a message that Moab can ’ t accommodate individuals who believe they can come there andpractice ‘ social distancing. ’ The regional health center has simply 17 beds, she stated, and today it is running so short on products that the regional sewing neighborhood is sewing face masks. And there ‘aren ’ t even any verified cases in the neighborhood. What if a visitor got here bring the infection and spread it? she asked. Or, even worse, had’a mishap– as individuals do, in Moab– and polluted a lot of individuals at the healthcare facility? she stated.

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Moab is more secure—if you stay at home, the mayor stated. And you ’ re much safer too, due to the fact that there are likely more medical resourceswhere you are. “ This is not the time for trip. And after that, when this pandemic is over, I ’ ll see you in Moab. “”

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Some individuals appear to be getting the message. Bookings were expanding in February for Native Campervans, which leases 45 tricked-out rigs for journey around the West. “ we ’ ve seen simply a mass exodus of consumers canceling, right now, ” stated Dillon Hansen, one the co-owners “.

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Concerned, too, about the effect of their organisation,” on Thursday the business presented a brand-new policy that limits where occupants can take their vans: no national forests, no entrance neighborhoods. “ We value the towns and entrance neighborhoods that surround our National Parks and other locations which is why we need to encourage accountable travel to them, ” the policy checks out. The business asks occupants to get any needs in huge cities near the van pick-up area, and to utilize the van for dispersed outdoor camping, far from others.

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“ We comprehend this is going to trigger more cancellations, ” Hansen stated. “ But I feel if we wear ’ t do our part toslow the“spread of this illness, then we ’ re simply adding to this break out. “”

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What is an outside enthusiast to do today? The signals can be complicated. Today, President Trump stated to prevent discretionary travel.On the other hand, the federal government likewise simply waived national forest entry charges. Which is it– Get out? Or stay at home? Possibly there ’ s a 3rd method: Stay house, however go out.

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“ The thing to be doing is to—separate. That ’ s the only weapon we have, ” stated Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “ And that indicates not hanging out with other individuals. It ’ s not to stand with 300 individuals at a rock-climbing location. , if we desire to re-create Italy– implying their death rate– we ought to continue to roam around.. ”

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You can still go outdoors and recreate, Caplan stated– however go outdoors with your canine. Don—’ t be spending time—with other individuals. “ Again, we ’ re speaking about a month. It ’ s not like the cruelest confinement ever troubled a person, ” he stated. “ You can view rock-climbing “videos. ”

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Go stroll the pet dog.’Put your face to the sun. Listen to the spring birds. Even Californians,” all of whom “are under lock-down since Thursday night, are enabled to go for a run or a walk, so long as they ’ re alone. “ I can ’ t highlight how corrective I believe that is, ” specifically throughout this time of unpredictability and stress and anxiety, stated Land Tawney, president and CEO’of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers .

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Tawney stated his kids are old adequate to check out the headings. They are terrified. The other day his household went for a walk in the woods, away from others. They developed a little fire. They fell apart up headings about the coronavirus, and tossed them into the flames. “ When I returned, ” he stated, “ my brain remained in a much various location. ”

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Read more: outsideonline.com

A Bike Ride Through the Garden of Good and Evil

On a deserted road in the mountains of Southern Spain, things were getting desperate for 28-year-old Jay Austin and 29-year-old Lauren Geoghegan. The young American couple had been cycling all day though a January storm, and their socks were soaked from the icy rain. At one point, they pulled over to argue about directions. But after 15 minutes of bickering, they realized that their only option was to push on.

As they slogged up an incline, Austin’s teeth began to chatter and he lost feeling in his fingers. Geoghegan’s bicycle issued an ominous shriek.

“Your bike isn’t sounding so good,” he said.

“It isn’t riding so good, either,” she replied.

Several miles later, Geoghegan’s tire blew out. The couple stopped to consider their options. They were in a foreign country in the middle of a freezing rainstorm. There were no other people in sight, no cars on the road, not even a gas station where they could take shelter. Their hands were too numb to make repairs. And now, with the last hours of daylight slipping away, the rain was turning to snow. 

Since the start of their journey in July of 2017, six months before, Austin and Geoghegan had gotten themselves out of all sorts of jams. They had traversed deserts in Namibia, outraced a charging elephant in Botswana, and survived a painful bike crash in Zambia. They’d been sick, hungry, lost, lonely, and exhausted. But they’d never found themselves in a predicament this dire. Standing by the side of the road, next to a broken bike in the driving snow, Austin and Geoghegan stared at each other. What do we do now?

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a large white van ripped around the corner and screeched to a stop beside them. The driver, who turned out to be a Spaniard named Ricardo, loaded Austin and Geoghegan’s gear in the back of his vehicle, gave them some fresh towels, and took them to his house in a small town about ten miles down the road. He served them hot tea and cake, and put their clothes in his dryer. When the couple needed to leave so they could catch their bus, Ricardo insisted on driving them to the station, an hour away. And when they realized that they didn’t have enough cash for the fare, he loaned them 100 Euros, no questions asked.

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It was a staggering display of kindness. But, for Austin and Geoghegan, it didn’t come as a complete surprise. During their trip, they’d experienced one act of generosity after another. Complete strangers welcomed them into their homes, cooked them hot meals, and gave them warm beds. 

“Evil is a make-believe concept,” Austin wrote on his blog on April 5, 2018, day 273 of the trip. “By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.” 

With a bare-bones budget and only the supplies they could carry on their bikes, Austin and Geoghegan would spend a total of 369 days on the road, traveling from South Africa to central Asia, cooking their own food and mostly sleeping in a tent.

The couple, however, would never make it back home. On July 29, 2018, Austin and Geoghegan were murdered by terrorists in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. 

Within a day, outlets around the world were reporting on the deaths of two idealistic millennial American bike tourists. Many commenters mourned their passing, but thousands more seemed to take an odd delight in the tragedy. 

“Evil is a social construct, huh?” wrote one commenter on Jay’s blog, Simply Cycling, where he chronicled his and Geoghegan’s around-the-world trip, “then I guess these two morons died in a construction accident.” “Thanks for exiting this world and not reproducing your stupid fucking idiocy,” wrote another. Many people blamed Austin and Geoghegan for their own deaths. They were pilloried for being too trusting, too naive. 

Debates erupted in the comments section of Austin’s blog. It seemed that the incongruence between the couple’s idealism and their brutal murder had raised questions about the fundamental nature of humanity.

“Be assured,” Christian evangelist Franklin Graham wrote in a Facebook post about the murders, “evil does exist in this world.”

Even on the day he finally quit his job in June of 2017, Austin recognized that, all in all, his life in Washington, D.C., was pretty good. He had a graduate degree from Georgetown University. His office, on the top floor of a ten-story building, offered handsome views of the Capitol rotunda. He had quality friends, and his job as a management analyst at the Department of Housing and Urban Development provided him with a good salary and allowed him to carry out what he considered to be important work. But despite all this, Austin felt that something was missing. 

For the past seven years, he’d done the same things, in the same places, on the same days of the week. Showing up to morning meetings, filling out time sheets, staring into the computer. 

“I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed,” he wrote on his blog. “There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world, and I’ve long since scooped up the last of the scraps to be found in my cubicle.” 

Austin had already developed a reputation as a somewhat kooky colleague. Instead of a jacket and tie, he might arrive at the office in a V-neck T-shirt and flip-flops. He brewed kombucha at his cubicle. He assembled a cornhole set in the hallway. When he realized that his standing desk was too high, he began working from atop a mini trampoline, so his computer screen could be at eye level. 

“Everyone really loved Jay,” said Jessi Axe, a coworker. “He was so outside of what most people think you should live your life like.”

Austin had a slim frame, closely cropped hair, and, according to one cyclist who met him during the journey, “the kind of smile that kids tend to lose when they grow up.” He relished political debates and had a voracious curiosity about the world. When he finished reading Born to Run, the 2009 bestseller about an indigenous tribe of elite marathoners who race essentially barefoot in Mexico, he decided to go shoeless himself.

“Jay, what are you doing?” a friend asked upon seeing him running a 5K race barefoot.

“This is how we’re meant to do it!” he replied.

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In 2012, at the age of 23, Austin moved out of his apartment and plowed his savings into a 145-square-foot tiny house to reduce his carbon footprint and eliminate his monthly housing costs. With the extra cash, he set off on a series of adventures. He drove his motor scooter across the United States, backpacked through Europe, spent a month in India, and cycled all over Morocco.

Austin’s appetite for rugged exploration was rooted in his less-than-privileged childhood in Manalapan, New Jersey, an upper-middle-class town 50 miles south of New York City. While other parents commuted to jobs on Wall Street and lived in homes with outdoor swimming pools, Austin’s mother, Jea Santovasco, struggled to support her three children. After divorcing her husband, she found work as a secretary and moved the family into a double-wide trailer in a section of Manalapan that had been set aside for affordable housing. “We were like the poor family on the block,” Santovasco said.

Without the means for fancy vacations, Santovasco taught her children to appreciate the wonders all around them. She took them to beaches, art exhibits, and apple orchards—anywhere they could visit for free. On nice days, the family liked to climb to the top of a hill at a nearby park and spread out a picnic lunch. “You don’t get happiness from money,” Santovasco told her children. “You get it from being outdoors and appreciating the sunrises.”

As a boy, Austin dreamed of becoming an astronaut. “I wanted to see the whole world,” he explained on his blog. “I’d seen a photograph once of the view from a spaceship, and there it was: the blue marble, both enormous and absolutely minuscule at the very same time.”

After graduating from a selective magnet program at his public high school, he earned his degree from the University of Delaware in just two years. In 2009, he moved to Washington, D.C., to begin work on a master’s degree in government at Georgetown. And it was there that he met Lauren Geoghegan.

With long, dark hair and caring brown eyes, Geoghegan had taken a more conventional path to Washington. The oldest of three sisters, she grew up in a comfortable home in Glendale, California; her father was a psychiatrist and her mother was a psychotherapist. She excelled at Immaculate Heart, the private all-girls academy where she attended middle and high school. A deep thinker with an empathetic nature, she refused to take SAT prep classes because she considered them unfair to those who couldn’t afford them. Nevertheless, she did well enough to enroll at Georgetown. “Lauren was the one that everybody was drawn to,” said her former roommate Molly Scalise. “She made you feel like you were the only person in the room.”

After graduating in 2010, Geoghegan took a job in Georgetown’s admissions office and began socializing with a group of alums that included Austin. Austin wasn’t like most guys in Washington. He was intelligent, fun, and provocative—always kicking around some new theory. “He challenged her to think in new ways and about new things,” said Geoghegan’s mother, Elvira Munoz. Yet he was also compassionate and kind, and she felt respected by him. Over time, their friendship turned romantic. They had picnics in the park, went on hikes, and passed Sunday afternoons in the kitchen cooking soup.

Right from the start, cycling was central to their relationship. At first, their adventures were modest; an afternoon tour, for example, of the 50 streets in D.C. that were named after states. But soon their ambitions increased. In October 2016, they rode around the perimeter of Iceland. When they got back to Washington, they started dreaming up something bigger.

It was the vulnerability of being a traveler on a bicycle that made it, according to Austin, the best way to explore new places. “Cars create the expectation that disaster can be averted: just trust the car,” he wrote. “Bikes create the expectation that disaster is pretty much inevitable and should be embraced: just trust the universe and the people that inhabit it.”

Over the Christmas holiday of 2016, Austin and Geoghegan told family and friends about their plans to quit their jobs and ride around the world. They didn’t have a timeframe or a set itinerary; moving slowly and taking unexpected detours was the whole point. They figured they’d be on the road for anywhere from two to three years, as they plodded along a general trajectory: start at the southern tip of Africa, head north into Europe, cut east into central and southeast Asia, fly over to South America and then, finally, pedal back home to the United States. Since Austin and Geoghegan would be on a shoestring budget—just $23 a day—they planned to avoid restaurants and hotels.

The news surprised Geoghegan’s friends. “We all thought it was kind of crazy,” roommate Molly Scalise said. Geoghegan certainly had an adventurous streak; she loved exploring new cultures and had studied abroad in Spain and Lebanon. But she was more comfortable checking into a hotel than camping by the side of the road. And while not overly materialistic, she enjoyed good food and nice jewelry. “Jay was a minimalist,” Munoz said, “and Lauren loved the things that she had.”

Still, Geoghegan was ready for a change. After seven years in Georgetown’s admissions office, she was considering other career options, and was thinking about going to graduate school. This seemed like a natural time for a break. Although she wanted to see the world, Geoghegan also had strong feelings for Austin, and it was unclear if the romance would survive should he take the trip without her.

For their part, Austin’s friends were grateful that his more pragmatic, less impulsive partner would accompany him. “We felt a lot more comfortable with him on this trip with Lauren,” says Ashley Ozery, a childhood friend of Austin’s. “But Lauren would never have gone without Jay.”

Over the next six months, the couple researched the countries along their route and created spreadsheets to track their budget and equipment, in order to ensure that their load was as manageable as possible. “They were weighing everything from their toothbrushes and underwear to their water bottles, down to the ounces,” Scalise said. As the date of departure approached, they felt a nervous excitement. Geoghegan wondered whether or not her body could really hold up to thousands of miles of cycling. Austin had something else on his mind.

The trip, Austin believed, was much safer than most people assumed. (Indeed, 159 Americans were murdered abroad in 2017, while 653 were killed in Chicago alone that same year.) Still, he was clear-eyed about the danger. Sure, humans were generally kind. But the couple would be on the road for years, and a single regrettable encounter—with, say, a wild animal or “an angry individual,” he wrote—could be disastrous. He was happy to shoulder that risk for himself; in fact, he included detailed instructions for his memorial service in his will, in case he didn’t return. But it wouldn’t be just Austin’s well-being at stake. 

“When you love someone, you want to keep them safe, yet when that person exists in a great big unpredictable world, it’s impossible to keep them totally safe,” he wrote in his blog on January 10, 2017, seven months before he and Geoghegan were set to depart. “I worry about something happening and not being able to stop it from happening, or not being able to do anything once it does happen, and that’s not just a worry; it’s a terrifying fear that outweighs all the preceding doubts and dread put together.”

Arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, the first week of July 2017, Austin and Geoghegan rode north into the red dust of the Kalahari Desert. For nearly 600 miles, they rattled over rugged terrain while the sun toasted their lips. Turning east into Botswana, they watched the desert give way to the African bush. They passed three-foot termite mounds and heard baboons crying in the distance. Each night, before setting up their tent, they scoured the thick brush to make sure there weren’t any snakes. 

Their first three months on the road reinforced their optimistic views of the world. When they stopped at a gas station in Botswana to ask if they could camp on the property, the manager instead invited them to sleep at his house. He cooked them dinner and sent them off the following day with rolls of bread that his wife had baked. Later, when they went to settle their bill for an evening at a private campground, the owner refused to charge them. “We think what you guys are doing is crazy and awesome,” the man said, “and we won’t accept your money.”

“This is why we’re traveling,” Austin wrote. “Not to cycle fast but to cycle slow. Not to be given things but to be given hope, confirmation that the oft-maligned batch of humans that occupy this planet are largely good and kind.”

The confidence that Austin and Geoghegan had in others, however, would soon be tested. During a 31-hour ferry ride up Lake Malawi, Austin and Geoghegan locked their bikes on the ship’s front deck while they passed the journey on another deck. When they reached their destination, however, they found that their bicycle lights had been stolen. Austin was angry. He’d considered checking on the lights earlier, but “then I thought about how safe we’ve felt these past four months,” he wrote. “How often we’ve left our bikes unlocked outside of markets without trouble. How literally nothing has gone missing. I trusted they’d be just fine below deck until morning, and I went back to sleep.”

The theft made him think differently about the people he met along his journey. “From this point forward, we’re going to feel a little more nervous, wary,” he wrote. “It’s a little thing, these lights. Physically, financially, it’s trivial. But emotionally, it leaves me a little less trusting of the people around me, and I don’t like that feeling.”

On December 22, 2017, five months and two weeks into their journey, Austin and Geoghegan arrived at the northern tip of Africa and boarded a ferry for the short trip across the Strait of Gibraltar. For safety reasons, they’d taken a commercial flight from Tanzania to Morocco, skipping over several countries. After riding the ferry to the northern side of the strait, they got back on their bikes and began pedaling into Europe.

With darkness falling over the Spanish town of Algeciras, the couple struggled to find a place to stay. Police told them they weren’t allowed to camp; a woman at a church refused to let them spend the night on the property. Their options were dwindling. It was three days before Christmas and they were thousands of miles from family and friends.

Wandering through the streets, they came upon a park crowded with holiday revelers. Men and women were singing carols, laughing with friends, and sipping hot chocolate. For a moment, the couple felt like the characters in a holiday movie who don’t make it home for Christmas. Then, they heard a man’s voice. “Hey, do you need any help?”

The voice belonged to a man named Pablo who, after hearing their predicament, invited the couple to have hot chocolate and scones with his family in the park. Later, he bought them drinks and tapas at a nearby restaurant and arranged for them to stay at his brother’s house. The following day, when Pablo learned that they didn’t have holiday plans, he insisted they celebrate Christmas with his family. The next three nights were a blur of olive oil and walnuts and conversations that lasted until 5 in the morning. They called it their Christmas miracle.

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After saying goodbye to Pablo, Austin and Geoghegan began their push across Europe. It was a backbreaking, months-long stretch; the blanching African sun had been replaced by a nasty winter. But here too, their burdens were eased by kind strangers. In the mountains of Southern Spain, when Lauren’s bike broke down during the snowstorm, Ricardo came to the rescue. While they were pedaling near Nice, a Frenchman brought them to his house, where they ate pizza, drank beer, and watched the Winter Olympics on TV. By late April 2018, they had made it to Muo, a bayside village in Montenegro, where they met Geoghegan’s parents for a 12-day vacation.

As they meandered through old towns and watched cruise ships float into port, Geoghegan’s mother had time to reconnect with her daughter. From the beginning, Munoz had told Geoghegan that if she ever felt she’d had enough, the family would pay for her plane ticket home. During their time together in Montenegro, Munoz encouraged her daughter to return to the United States. 

By then, Austin and Geoghegan had been on the road for more than nine months. The couple had ridden thousands of miles through extreme conditions, going weeks without the comforts of a box-spring mattress or a shower. Geoghegan had experienced health issues: in Spain she got pink eye; in France, an ear blockage muffled her hearing and sent her to the hospital. There were relationship problems, too, ordinary conflicts exacerbated by the strain of traveling together for months on end. Money was the biggest source of discord. Austin kept a tight watch over their budget, while Geoghegan was more willing to splurge on occasional indulgences. “I remember them having a bit of a tiff about gummy bears,” said Teresie Schafranek Solum Hommersand, a Norwegian cyclist who traveled with the couple in Africa. “She really wanted some and Jay was like, ‘Well, is it really necessary?’”

Despite it all, Geoghegan told her mother she wasn’t ready for her journey to end. “Lauren was so proud of herself for being able to do what she did,” Munoz said.

Parting ways with her parents, however, was hard. And as the couple rode out of Montenegro and traveled east across the Balkans, Geoghegan became conflicted about the trip. She was homesick. The couple decided that once they got to Istanbul, they would reevaluate and determine whether or not it was the right time to turn back.

Arriving in Turkey’s chaotic and bustling capital in May of 2018, Austin and Geoghegan treated themselves to an Airbnb room and recharged for a week. In the ancient crossroads of East and West, they realized they weren’t ready to go home. “Once they made it beyond that check point,” Scalise said, “it was like, We’re in it.”

In June, Austin and Geoghegan rode into Osh, Kyrgyzstan, the starting point of the Pamir Highway, an austere but breathtaking 400-mile passage from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan along what was once the Silk Road. Adventure cyclists consider it among the world’s legendary itineraries. In order to ensure that they’d arrive there by mid-summer—when, according to Austin in his blog, “it’s most safe and enjoyable”—the couple took a flight from Istanbul to Kazakhstan, and then snaked their way south into Osh. 

The couple arrived for the Pamir Highway’s busiest season for bike touring, and in a cafe in Osh, they bumped into another young couple that was preparing to bike the route: Sophie Boyle, from England, and Frenchman Nathan Beriot. They all clicked, and decided to tackle the mountains together. 

Late one afternoon, following several days of riding, the cyclists found a grassy spot near a river to camp. While they put up their tents and began cooking, they noticed a car, a Russian-made Lada, moving slowly toward them. “There wasn’t even a road,” Boyle remembered. “It was just on grass and rocks, along the river.” Watching the vehicle bounce closer, the cyclists grew perplexed. Who were these people? What did they want? The car rolled to a stop, and its doors creaked open.

A Kyrgyz family emerged, offering sweet tea and homemade bread. They warned the travelers not to drink from the river and gave them clean water instead. A young girl took out a sitar, and everyone sat in a circle and listened to her play. They all started singing. “It was incredible,” Boyle said.

A couple days later, the group crossed into Tajikistan. During their time together in Montenegro, Munoz had told Geoghegan that she was worried about the couple’s plan to cycle through Tajikistan because of its proximity to Afghanistan. Geoghegan had gone online to look up the State Department’s travel advisory on the country, and found it at “Level 1: Exercise Local Precautions,” the safest level possible. “Mom,” she said, “it’s safer than New York City.” 

At the time, the State Department’s assessment was consistent with the views of leading experts. Tajikistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country with a repressive government, and some of its citizens have fought with ISIS in Syria. But unlike neighboring Afghanistan, up to to that point it had no history of terrorist attacks targeting Westerners, and it wasn’t considered a hotbed of extremism.  

The Pamir Highway, also called the Roof of the World, climbs to elevations of more than 15,000 feet, making cycling a brutal challenge. “It is cold and windy and mountainous and, most of all, very, very high,” Austin wrote in an Instagram post on July 25, 2018. “Lauren’s been having a bit of difficulty.” 

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On one pass, Geoghegan struggled to catch her breath and had to be driven to lower elevation. “It was the stress of the altitude,” Boyle said. “She was having panic attacks.” Amid these concerns, Geoghegan again began to wonder if it was time to return home, at least for a while. Though no final decision had been made, Boyle said the couple was considering taking a break from the journey after they’d completed the highway. “Lauren was thinking of flying back to the states, seeing friends and family, earning a bit more money, and then maybe rejoining Jay,” she said. 

But while she was still in the mountains, Geoghegan wasn’t giving up. After saying goodbye to Boyle and Beriot, who decided to take a more difficult route through the Pamirs, she and Austin began riding with Kim Postma and Rene Wokke, a Dutch couple in their late fifties who they’d bumped into several times on their route. On July 12, the group came to another punishing 14,000-foot pass. This time, Austin rode up first, parked his bike at the top, and then came back down to help Geoghegan, pushing her bike up the incline so she could walk. They all celebrated at the summit. “We were so happy,” Postma said. Together the cyclists looked out over the dramatic panorama of snowcapped mountains and brilliant green valleys.

From there, the four pushed toward Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, where they could enjoy a hot shower and a nice meal after their grueling ride through the mountains. Along the way, they met a Swiss couple that was riding the same route—Markus Hummel, 62, and Marie-Claire Diemand, 59—and the six cyclists decided to travel together. Over the next ten days, the couples became close friends and made plans to spend time in Dushanbe as a group. They’d rent an apartment together, go out for pizza, and enjoy nice bottles of wine. “It was all paradise in our heads,” Postma said.  

As Postma would later tell The New York Times, early in the afternoon on July 29, the group stopped at a gas station to refill their water bottles. A man in his early thirties with black hair and olive skin walked up to Postma. Unlike most other Tajiks they’d met, he spoke perfect English, and he pointed out the Daewoo sedan he said he owned. 

What did she think about the country? he asked Postma. What about the people? Postma found him pushy.

“Where are you from?” he asked Austin. 

“The United States,” Austin said.

The cyclists left the gas station and began pedaling along a quiet stretch of pavement overlooking an amber hillside. It was around 3:30 P.M. A clear, calm afternoon. Austin and Geoghegan were leading. They were less than 70 miles from Dushanbe. 

According to Kim Postma, the Daewoo plowed through the cyclists from behind. The force knocked Postma off her bike. When she looked up she saw the other cyclists on the ground in front of her. Several men jumped out of the vehicle, ran toward the already injured travelers, and began hacking at them with knives. “They are killing us!” Marie-Claire Diemand screamed. Then, as quickly as they appeared, the men were gone. 

Austin was stabbed 18 times. He lay helpless on the road, slowly bleeding to death. Geoghegan, Wokke, and Hummel also died in the ambush.

On August 11, 2018, friends and family gathered in Washington, D.C., to say goodbye to Jay Austin. Following his instructions, there were no religious rituals. No suits and ties, and no black dresses. Instead the mourners converged in a park downtown, formed a circle, and shared memories about the man they’d lost. A friend read a passage from The Little Prince, Austin’s favorite novella. “In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night … You—only you—will have stars that can laugh!”

That month, the world would learn that the man the group had encountered at the gas station outside Dushanbe was named Hussein Abdusamadov. He was an ISIS extremist who’d reportedly been ordered by Qori Nosir, a 45-year-old Tajik cleric and alleged recruiter for radical Islamic groups, to execute an attack in Tajikistan. 

“When Muslims are being killed everywhere,” Abdusamadov told a reporter in a New York Times documentary series that aired in June, “we must try to kill nonbelievers wherever we find them.” Abdusamadov and the four other Tajik radicals he had recruited for the mission had spent weeks scouting for potential targets before stumbling into the Western travelers. 

As details of the murders spread, Austin’s blog and Instagram were almost immediately overrun by hecklers and trolls. The couple were attacked for being naive, stupid, sanctimonious, millennial, and educated, among many other things. For a while, Austin’s mom, Jea Santovasco, waged war in the comments, thanking well-wishers and decrying the trolls, but it eventually became too much. 

“It was jaw-dropping. It was heartbreaking. It was devastating,” Santovasco says. “Where is the humanity in these people?”

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Despite the grim public response, Austin and Geoghegan’s loved ones—and the many others who came to know them during their trip—chose to find encouraging lessons in the couple’s story. “They made me more cognizant of how I am spending my time,” said Sarah Rempel, an American who hosted the couple in Zambia. “Am I doing something that is worth it? Not as in, is it productive, but is it leading me to a happier life right now, today?”

More than anything else, though, those close to Austin and Geoghegan were determined not to let the tragedy poison their views of the world. “I don’t want my lesson to be: the world is evil so don’t put yourself out there,” said Adrian Evans-Burke, Austin’s coworker. “I want my lesson to be: the world is also beautiful, and you can experience that beauty.”

Back when Austin and Geoghegan were cycling through Spain, after they were rescued by a stranger in the middle of a snowstorm, Austin wrote a post on his blog. “We live in a world where how you live is dictated largely by how you trust. If you do not trust others, if you believe human nature to be something dark and rotten, you close yourself off to a whole lot. If you do not open the shutters, all you get is darkness, no matter what’s outside. True, you may get darkness even if the shutters are open. Darkness or something worse: a rock hurled through your window, a tree branch kicked up by violent winds. But there’s no way to let the light in unless you open your shutters to the wider world.”

Read more: outsideonline.com

Fame, Romance, and a Second Chance on the PCT

It was Valentine’s Day 2019 on the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern California, just a few dozen miles north of the Mexican border. This stretch of the PCT runs through the Laguna Mountains, 6,000 feet above sea level, and the high-desert scrub that spreads in every direction was blanketed with snow. Pretty much nobody was thru-hiking it this early in the year, but 33-year-old Cory McDonald was already underway. As he trudged along on a thin layer of frost, weighed down by a backpack, he heard a voice behind him say, “Hey, Second Chance!”

Cory froze. He turned to see an older man he didn’t recognize, who somehow knew his trail name. “I saw you on YouTube,” the man said.

The stranger, standing trailside, didn’t look like a thru-hiker. Of course, people thought Cory didn’t either—thanks to his shaved head, baby face, and a weight of nearly 400 pounds. But at least Cory had a backpack. This man wasn’t carrying one, and he made Cory very uneasy when he said, “I followed your footsteps through the snow.”

This wasn’t the first instance of somebody tracking Cory down in the wilderness. Don’t murder me, he thought as the man came closer. How many more times is this going to happen?

Cory’s decision to attempt the PCT dated back to March 2018. He was living by himself in Fort Myers, Florida, definitely not loving his existence. He’d recently given up trying to make a living as a day trader, which was stressful and volatile. Before that he’d quit a job selling soft drinks to gas stations, and before that he’d worked at Target and Pizza Hut. He was bored. He also doubted that he’d ever find love.

“I was very depressed, very unhappy, miserable with everything,” Cory told me when I first interviewed him by phone last summer. “My life wasn’t going in the direction I wanted. I couldn’t get a girlfriend. I was very lonely, and I kept sitting around, dreaming that one day I’d have this awesome life.”

Cory blamed his weight. “I tried different diet plans, but none of them were working,” he recalled. “I kept gaining weight every year.” Heart disease runs in his family, so he visited a cardiologist, who studied the results of an echocardiogram and told Cory his heart looked mostly healthy. But the doctor scared him with stories about former patients who had dropped dead from a heart attack in their late thirties.

“That was a big eye-opener,” Cory said. “I just felt like I hit rock bottom.”

Not long after, while surfing YouTube on his couch, Cory came across a channel called Homemade Wanderlust, where he discovered a series of hiking videos made by a woman named Jessica Mills, a 33-year-old from Alabama who used the trail nickname Dixie. Dixe was a vision: charming, fun, outdoorsy, and doing a solo long-distance hike on a trail that Cory knew little about, the PCT. It was far away from Florida, in the romantic-sounding West.

One video led to another, and Cory soon discovered an entire ecosystem of thru-hikers who were vlogging about their adventures. They shot videos as they went, releasing episodes on their YouTube channels maybe once a week. Cory and thousands of others could vicariously experience a thru-hiker’s journey as the hikers lived it.

“I was blown away by Dixie, Darwin, Jay Wanders Out, Whimsical Woman, all the YouTube hikers,” said Cory, ticking off the names of other thru-hiking stars. “I started binge-watching them and said, ‘I want to do this, too. I want to go hiking.’”

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Cory had some experience camping and hiking in Missouri and Florida, and he researched what he needed to know about taking on the PCT. He didn’t train, but he spent more than a hundred hours rounding up equipment. “It was next to impossible to find gear that would fit me, ultralight or otherwise,” he said. In November, he sold his house. Cory knew he’d be slower than most thru-hikers, so he booked a ticket to San Diego for the end of January 2019, months before anybody else would begin the northbound transit.

As for YouTube, Cory was interested in becoming a star himself—but not until after his thru-hike, when he’d lost some weight. He decided to bring a GoPro with him anyway, for practice. Before long, a friend in Florida encouraged him to go ahead and start making episodes, sending her his footage so she could edit and upload it. He gave in, and episode one on the Second Chance Hiker channel debuted on February 6. In it you watch Cory at home in Florida, stepping onto a scale. Then he’s on the jet ride to California, asking for a seat-belt extension. Finally, you see him standing next to the southern terminus of the PCT, goofily waving at Border Patrol agents as they drive past.

“I’m Second Chance Hiker, and I’m starting the Pacific Crest Trail on January 30 to drop 200 pounds,” Cory announces. It’s windy, and the sky is overcast, but he’s giggling and smiling. “I’m just trying to get my life back on track.”

Thousands of thru-hikers tackle the country’s longest trails every year. And hundreds of thousands, if not millions, watch them on screens. I watched some myself in early 2018, as I prepared for my own thru-hike of the PCT that summer.

In 30 minutes of recent searching, I found more than 60 YouTube channels devoted to thru-hiking. The most well-known belong to Dixie and a hiker called Darwin, who asked that I not share his real name. Both Dixie and Darwin have more than 200,000 subscribers. Dixie has posted nearly 350 videos, which have collectively gotten more than 31 million views. Rates vary, but for every thousand views a channel receives, its creator earns a few bucks through advertising. That can add up quickly, and it’s fair to say that YouTubers like Dixie are the biggest names in thru-hiking right now.

“YouTube’s influence is enormous,” said Scott Wilkinson, director of communications at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, which is based in Sacramento, California. “With good reason. People like Dixie and Darwin are so popular, because they are authentic and they care. There is nothing crass or commercial or enterprising about what they do.”

Not long ago, Wilkinson said, Cheryl Strayed was the biggest trail celebrity—her 2012 book Wild, along with the 2014 film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, brought more people to the PCT than ever before. But Wilkinson said that YouTube and social media may have surpassed Wild as “the leading drivers of growth on the trail.”

Dixie is the queen of the medium. Young, blonde, friendly, with an easy-listening accent and scraped-up limbs, she’s part southern belle and part hardcore adventurer. Her videos have the unusual ability to make thru-hiking seem both approachable and epic.

“I want to bring the experience to people’s living rooms,” Dixie told me. “If I’m freezing cold and miserable, how do I let other people feel that, without just telling them that I feel cold? How do I have somebody else get as close to that experience without doing it themselves?”

Alas, the online thru-hiking community is also rife with cyberbullies, trolls, and argumentative jerks, many of whom aren’t thru-hikers but seem to think they know all about it. Dixie has had some unsettling experiences. One time she blocked a man from her YouTube channel after he cursed out other viewers in the comments section. He found her email address and wrote: “I can’t wait to find you on the trail this year, where you can’t silence my voice.” After Dixie posted a video about whether thru-hikers should carry a gun on trail—she doesn’t think it’s necessary—one person commented, “I’m going to put a bullet in your skull.” Equally chilling, a few fans discovered her home address in Alabama and visited her house unprompted.

For Dixie and others who get targeted, the online vitriol comes in all forms: body shaming, gear shaming, charges of egotism and self-promotion. The most successful YouTube thru-hikers, like Dixie and Darwin, make enough money from their online presence to support what is basically a never-ending journey. Darwin, who hit the trail in 2015, says he can make anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 a month off views of his YouTube videos—not a fortune, but enough to keep him going. Dixie says she makes twice as much from the crowdfunding platform Patreon as she does from YouTube; there, 900 monthly donors get access to private Q and A’s with her, and some use Dixie as a consultant to help them plan their own thru-hikes.

Darwin and Dixie both said that people's skepticism about their authenticity and motives can sting. Running a successful YouTube channel is harder work than it appears, and there are easier ways to make a living, but they do it anyway because they love it. Neither has been tracked down on the trail, but they don’t doubt it could happen.

“If people were willing to show up at my house uninvited,” Dixie said, “they’d absolutely be willing to find me on trail.”

Because of the exertion he put himself through on his first day, Cory ran out of water that night. There are few water sources along the initial stretch of the PCT—just a sea of muted-green, drought-tolerant shrubs stretching across khaki-colored mountains that characterize much of the first 700 miles. Fortunately, a storm rolled inland, and the next day Cory collected rainwater running off his tent.

By his fourth day, Cory had walked a total of 7.3 miles. Slow starts aren’t unusual, but most thru-hikers on the PCT aim to cover around 20 miles per day.

Still, Cory remained inexplicably, infectiously happy. He’d sing silly songs to the camera. He’d laugh like a little kid at his own jokes. Cory confides his thoughts and feelings to viewers, as if he’s speaking to good friends on FaceTime. It’s endearing, which is probably why his YouTube channel took off and people started watching and cheering him on. “I’m very proud of you for just getting out there and giving it a shot,” wrote a viewer. “Sending love and support from Australia,” wrote another. A fan group launched on Facebook; its members uploaded photos of themselves hiking. One of them posted watercolors he’d painted based on stills from Cory’s videos.

But not everybody approved of Cory’s quest, and some believed he shouldn’t have been attempting it because of his weight. He was a danger to himself and others, they said.

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“You need to take the black capsule,” one troll suggested, a reference to committing suicide. Another, writing on a popular forum for Appalachian Trail hikers called White Blaze, said: “If more people Fat Shamed others (which should probably be compulsory), then perhaps the 39.8% of obesity amongst the 99.3 million US adults could be seriously reduced and SAVE LIVES, instead of being concerned about ‘hurty feelings’!”

“You would think some of these park rangers would intervene … and [put] a stop to this freak show,” someone else wrote on the same forum. “I did call the PCT assoc. when I first saw this clown and gave them a ear full about it. I think if more people did they can pull his permit.”

Cory tried to ignore the nasty comments, but then something truly unexpected happened: strangers, fans and haters alike, started searching for him on the trail.

In Southern California, the PCT roller-coasters up forested mountains and down into desert-valley passes, crossing highways and back roads several times a day. By watching Cory’s videos and approximating his mileage, people could home in on him. Early on, a woman from the Facebook fan group announced her intention to help “rescue” Cory and get him off the trail. Shortly after, strangers started driving to various segments of the PCT to look for him. They would park along the road and start hiking until they saw their quarry. One man who showed up was homeless, and he told Cory that he would follow and “take care” of him.

If people weren’t trying to rescue Cory, they were often trying to manipulate him. One stranger demanded that Cory hire him as a “manager.” In Agua Dulce, a small trail town outside Los Angeles that’s been used as a location for dozens of Hollywood films, a woman impersonated a journalist to get access to a home where Cory was staying overnight, claiming that she had an appointment to speak with him. She then tried to physically intimidate him into accepting her brand of drinking water as his official sponsor.

“She said it cures cancer and snakebites,” said Cory, who doesn’t remember her name but calls her Water Lady. Other hikers hid Cory in the back of the property, but Water Lady parked out front and refused to leave. Cory’s friends had to sneak him out.

Two incidents frightened Cory more than any others. On a February morning at 6:30, still too early in the year for other thru-hikers to be on the trail, Cory was lying in his sleeping bag when he heard a voice outside his tent.

“Second Chance, is that you in there?” a man asked. “I’ve been searching for you. I’m here to help.” Cory freaked out. He was alone in the woods, and he hadn’t asked for assistance. “It’s very scary, because you don’t know what their intentions are,” Cory said. “Some of them have it in their mind that they’re here to save me and I should be grateful and thankful.” Not long after, another stranger showed up, the one who tracked Cory’s footsteps through the snow. In both cases, he hid his fear, politely refused their help, and excused himself before hurriedly hiking away.

After encountering the “stalkers,” as Cory called them, he messaged Darwin on Instagram, looking for advice on what to do about such people. Darwin shared a strategy that he and Dixie had used for years: Delay your social media. Don’t post YouTube videos, Instagram posts, or anything else until weeks after you’ve hiked through an area.

Cory started publishing videos on a monthlong delay, and for the most part, it worked. Strangers stopped finding him; nobody tried to rescue him. By April, as more and more people began thru-hiking the PCT, Cory discovered that many of them had been watching his early videos as they prepared for their own hikes. If they happened to catch up with him, they were thrilled.

“One day ten people in a row wanted a selfie with me,” Cory said. “I felt like the nerdy kid in the high school movie who becomes super popular, and everybody wants to talk to you and get your picture.”

Life was looking up. Cory kept posting videos, gaining 25,000 followers. And he’d met a girl in Agua Dulce: Nessa Pepp, a fellow YouTube thru-hiker from Germany. “She’s the perfect girl,” Cory said. “She’s really sweet, and she sells honey in Germany. When we first met, she didn’t know who I was, and she actually didn’t think I was a hiker, because she thought I was too fat. I thought that was really funny.” They started hiking together a few days later and after a few weeks became a couple.

Before long, Cory and Nessa ran into a problem that had nothing to do with YouTube or his weight. After weaving through the desert mountains, the PCT ascends into the glacial-carved Sierra Nevada. But 2019 was a record-breaking snow season, and the range’s famous mountain passes—the trail reaches its highest point at the 13,000-foot Forester Pass in California, near Mount Whitney—were snowbound and dangerous. When Cory arrived in the southern Sierra, he assessed the situation, then chose to do what many PCT hikers do: skip the Sierra and get back on the trail far to the north, in Ashland, Oregon. The plan was to do the California portion later that year, once the snow melted.

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Though it was already June by this point, Oregon’s Cascades also hadn’t fully escaped the grasp of winter. On Devil’s Peak, not far north of Ashland, the trail disappeared beneath a sheet of snow. Faced with the option of pushing on or backtracking, Cory and Nessa decided to keep going. Cory strapped on his microspikes and followed a steep, trodden snow track that went down the mountain.

He didn’t get far. Nessa was filming when Cory started sliding out of control, grasping at the snow unsuccessfully. The images she shot, which can be seen near the end of episode 73 on YouTube, show him flailing and grunting loudly in discomfort.

In episode 74, Cory finally stops sliding, and he slowly makes his way back to the snow track and down the mountain. Shortly after, as the adrenaline rush fades, he stumbles and feels a sharp pain. Screaming and unable to get off the ground, Cory realizes that he’s badly hurt, and Nessa uses her InReach to call for emergency assistance. In due course, help arrives, and Cory is taken by helicopter and ambulance to Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Cory’s story—inspirational, defiant, feel-good—was suddenly overshadowed by an uncomfortable question. The online critics and haters had doubted his ability. Were they right?

When an adventurer negligently wanders into the wilderness, it’s not just their livelihood at stake. Search and rescue missions are expensive, often billed to the public, and can distract personnel from other emergencies. Sometimes volunteers get hurt or die in a rescue attempt, which happened in California earlier this year.

The consequences are far-reaching, and Cory is aware of that. But he thinks the public does a poor job of determining who has acted negligently and who is capable but simply got into a jam that could have happened to anyone. Cory told me about a number of hikers he met who were rescued at some point but faced no consequences or judgment. Cory begged Nessa not to hit the SOS button, because he knew what the critics would say about a guy like him getting rescued.

“I went up there with all the right gear, I didn’t cross my limits,” Cory said. Accidents happen all the time, but there’s a double standard. “If you are attractive, they assume you know what you’re doing. But I’m a big fat guy, so I get judged much more harshly.”

Cory was right about the flak he’d get after posting the video of his rescue. “Pathetic,” one commenter said. “People like them should not be allowed in the mountains.”

“I swear you act like you’re so hurt to get … attention and sympathy,” wrote another.

“I tried to watch the rescue video, but it was too painful,” Cory said. “I didn’t like that day at all. It was an awful day.”

As Cory recuperated in a hospital bed in Klamath Falls, he learned that he’d likely sustained tissue and nerve damage in his back. His doctor said he would recover, but he had to stop hiking for at least three weeks. It’s not uncommon for thru-hikers to end their hike because of injuries, but Cory didn’t want that to be the end of his story.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said on YouTube. “I’m out here to accomplish something, and I haven’t accomplished it yet.” A hiker and fan living in Bend, Oregon, opened up his house to Cory, who rested, recovered, and plotted his return. Progress was slow—at first his back couldn’t even bear the weight of his pack. He decided to spend time hiking and camping in Oregon forests around the PCT, slowly building up his strength. But before he left for the woods, a surprise visitor showed up.

It was Dixie. Turns out Cory’s original inspiration to hike the PCT was a fan of his channel.

“I was completely blown away to meet Dixie,” Cory said. “Meeting her has been one of the greatest highlights of my hike.” The two had a long conversation, and Dixie helped Cory get back on the trail, carrying some of the gear to the campsite where Cory would spend the next five days.

After seven weeks of recovery, Cory got going again in August. The PCT in Washington is not as high as the Sierra, but it’s steeper and wetter, and winter can dump snow on the Cascades as early as mid-September. With his back still healing, Cory hiked sections of trail without a pack, occasionally skipping ahead by car so he could keep up with Nessa. They weren’t just racing the weather; they were racing Nessa’s six-month visa, which was set to expire on September 27. But they were determined to make it to Canada in time.

By this point, Cory had hiked significantly farther than his critics expected, but he would keep hearing hateful comments from people who doubted him. “You shouldn’t be hiking until you deal with your food addiction first,” a stranger in Washington told him on the trail. Cory had noticed a consistent pattern. “It’s always older white guys,” Cory told me. “Every time.”

But Cory didn’t care about any of that anymore. His back had healed and he was backpacking again. He didn’t care that he wasn’t a “purist” thru-hiker, choosing to cherry-pick the sections of trail he wanted to hike the most, meeting up with Nessa when he could. He hiked Washington’s Goat Rocks Wilderness twice, where the razor-thin crest of the Cascades dramatically slices through the alpine air, just because he found the scenery so moving. He had lost nearly a hundred pounds and felt healthier than he had in 10 or 15 years. His shaved head had grown wild with hair, his unruly beard a thru-hiking badge of honor. And Cory kept churning out YouTube videos, where fans loved him just as much as he loved them.

In his last video from the PCT, people who had watched his hike jammed the comment section with their affection. “I have followed you from day one and worried, laughed, cried, cheered with you in every video,” one wrote. “I’m so proud and happy for you, and deeply inspired,” said another.

Reinvigorated, Cory told me he is newly determined to keep hiking, to run toward life rather than hide from it. “The PCT has been a complete reset of my life,” he said. Not to mention, Cory reminded me, he found love. Nessa managed to renew her visa, and they’re now figuring out their future.

On September 20, Cory arrived at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. In the final moments of his nine-month journey, he and Nessa slowly danced on the border of Canada. 

Read more: outsideonline.com

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