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Out and Back

Out and Back

Author: Gaia GPS

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In the Out and Back Podcast presented by Gaia GPS, host and Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin dives deep into conversation with long-distance hikers, record-breaking athletes, offroad travelers who sold everything to live full-time on the dusty backroads, and other awesome guests who have mastered their backcountry craft.

In every show, Shanty goes one-on-one, tapping into each backcountry expert’s superpower so you can take their experience and knowledge with you on your next adventure.
13 Episodes
Shanty and Mary catch up with world adventurers Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes and Lauren “Neon” Reed for an update on their journey across the Americas. Hughes and Reed have spent the last five years hiking, biking, and paddling their way across South/Central America, Mexico, and the United States on their non-motorized tour of the American continents. The long-distance hikers are hunkered down in the States waiting for COVID to subside before finishing off their adventure in the northernmost part of North America. In this episode, Hughes and Reed discuss how they traveled through the wilderness in foreign countries, their incredible and heartwarming interactions with the locals they met along the way, and some tips for treading lightly through indigenous regions and cultures. We also hear about their safety plans and how their contrasting personalities serve their expedition mission in equal but different ways. Don’t miss this episode if you want to learn about getting off the tourist path in South and Central America.
When Mary Cochenour became a wilderness ranger, she was forced to conquer her fear of solo backpacking. It took some time, but with a lot of practice, Mary eventually grew comfortable camping alone in the woods. That is until she realized she wasn’t alone after all. A man had been stalking Mary even in the farthest corners of the wilderness. Mary says of the night she met her stalker: ”It maybe was Sunday night and the weekend crowds were gone. And I felt really isolated there. And I was sprawled out on the granite slabs and I took off my shoes and I was watching the sun fade. And all of a sudden I could hear footsteps coming up behind me..." On Episode 12 of the Out and Back podcast, Mary reveals how this sketchy incident inspired her to keep backpacking solo and how she drew on this experience when working with victims as a violent crimes prosecutor in Montana. This story, although gripping at times, reminds us that sometimes you have to face your fears head on to finally overcome them.
In 2017, registered dietitian Aaron Owens Mayhew quit her job to hike the PCT. The only catch: she hated — and hated paying for — freeze-dried meals. Meal planning for a five-month thru-hike felt impossible, as did carrying enough nutritious food. So Owens Mayhew put her culinary expertise to work. Her thru-hike didn’t go as planned, but Backcountry Foodie was born. In episode 11 of the Out and Back podcast, Owens Mayhew shares stories from her two decades of backpacking and the behind-the-scenes of how she created her popular backpacking food site and meal planning service. She also shares how you can cut down on food weight while eating healthier and more delicious meals on the trail.
Right now, the longest hiking route in America is being designed, mapped, and tested. The American Perimeter Trail circles the contiguous United States to make a 12,000-mile loop of existing trails, roads, and off-trail travel. Long-distance hiker Rue McKenrick dreamed up the route after completing America’s thru-hiking Triple Crown and found himself craving another engaging long-distance hike in the US. So, he scoured the maps. When he couldn’t find another long trail to hike, he imagined a route that connected existing trails and a few offtrail routes in between. In summer of 2019, McKenrick left his home in Bend, Oregon to scout the best track for the American Perimeter Trail. He’s hiked some 8,000 miles since then. In this interview, Shanty catches up with McKenrick during a town stop in western Michigan. McKenrick explains what inspired the American Perimeter Trail project, his vision for the trail, and the unbelievable encounters he’s experienced the way. Hear about how he navigated his way around massive swaths of private property in Texas, endured police questioning for having a backpack and an “accent,” and what happened when shots were fired over his head. McKenrick gets real with Shanty, revealing the one item he takes with him on every journey — an open heart.
On episode 9 of the Out and Back podcast, world adventurer and author Justin "Trauma" Lichter shares his wildest stories from across the globe. Lichter recounts how stampeding elephants and stalking lions stopped him in his tracks on his attempted thru-hike of eastern Africa and how he successfully completed a 2,000-mile high-altitude traverse of the Himalayas. In addition, he provides a behind-the-scenes scoop on his most headline-making trip: becoming the first person, along with Shawn “Pepper” Forry, to successfully complete the Pacific Crest Trail in winter. On top of all these stories, Lichter gives insight into the challenges and rewards of international adventures and the complications of winter travel on the PCT. He also digs into what motivates him to keep pushing the limits in the outdoors. Finally, Trauma also takes some time to talk with Shanty about avalanche safety, winter gear, and international resupply strategies.
8. Will "Akuna" Robinson

8. Will "Akuna" Robinson


When Army veteran Will Robinson returned home from a combat tour in Iraq, he struggled with depression and PTSD. He spent more and more time at home, withdrawing from civilian life and turning to alcohol for self medication. One day, he flipped on the TV and saw Reese Witherspoon wrestling with an oversized backpack in the movie “Wild.” That movie scene took Robinson back to his deployment overseas when he read a book about hiking the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Inspired, Robinson shut off the TV and got to work planning his hike. Just two weeks later, Robinson put two feet on the trail and began walking north. Robinson, dubbed “Akuna” on the trail, sits down with Shanty in episode 8 of the Out and Back podcast. He engages in a frank discussion about how hiking has helped him find purpose, community, and the space and time he needs to focus on himself. He recounts how the PCT hike allowed him to address his PTSD and Depression. Inspired by how the trail made him feel, Akuna continued on to hike the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail — becoming the first Black man to complete the Triple Crown of long trails in America. Tune in as Robinson talks about being the first Black man to complete the Triple Crown, what that achievement has meant to him, and how all the hateful comments on social media mentally drained him. Akuna also touches on the recent flood of media requests in his inbox regarding speaking about the issues people of color face in the outdoors. He explains what he believes his fellow hikers can do on trail to make the outdoors a more welcoming place for people of color, and what it means for outdoor brands to become better allies. Laid back yet passionate about hiking, Akuna highlights the healing nature of trails everywhere, whether long, short, or in between.
If you’ve ever wondered how much money it takes to set off on a long thru-hike like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, guess no more. In this episode of the Out and Back podcast, Shanty tackles thru-hiking’s financial costs with author, gear reviewer, and dedicated long-distance hiker Liz Thomas. Known as “Snorkel” in the trail community, Thomas gives an honest and realistic picture of a thru-hiker’s budget. Learn Snorkel’s philosophy on buying gear, ways to save money in trail towns, and hear about all the hidden expenses that most hikers never even consider. Snorkel also takes us out of the wilderness and to the city sidewalk with 14 urban trekking routes across American cities. From Los Angeles to Seattle, Snorkel created 100-mile hikes through metropolitan areas to make the joy of thru-hiking more accessible to people who enjoy the comforts of civilization. While not the most economical thru-hike, these trips provide a unique way to experience the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.
Shanty has a deep conversation with "Adventure Alan" Dixon, who inspires all of us to simply put “two feet on the trail” and get out there. A trailblazer of ultralight backpacking and author of one of the most popular and comprehensive backpacking websites available (, Dixon is widely known for his spec-heavy, detail-oriented backpacking gear reviews and expert advice on all things backcountry. But in this interview, Dixon leaves behind his engineering background and the gear spreadsheets to reveal his more vulnerable side. Dixon recounts one of the most harrowing mishaps of his outdoor career, bringing him and his climbing partner to hallucinations and the brink of death in the Tetons of Wyoming. He talks about the “controlled chaos” of his upbringing that trained him to love high adventure in the outdoors and why he prefers high routes to slaying miles on long-distance trails. Although an early adopter of the most extreme versions of ultralight backpacking, Dixon tells us that you should not wait until you have the perfect gear or are in better physical shape to get moving on the trail. His goal is to encourage everyone to get on the trail and start hiking today. Tune in to episode 6 to learn more about Adventure Alan and his backpacking philosophy, including the one thing you need to leave behind in order to lighten your backpack.
5. Lifestyle Overland

5. Lifestyle Overland


Take a ride with Kevin and Sarah McCuiston of "Lifestyle Overland" in episode 5 of the Out and Back Podcast. Known for their full-time overlanding adventures, the McCuistons casually stepped into the sport when they were “looking for something to do” in rural New Mexico. Surrounded by public lands and sprawling open space, the couple quickly became obsessed with the freedom they felt on the backroads. They loved overlanding so much that they ditched the traditional 9-to-5 grind and took up residence on America’s lesser known trails, almost instantly becoming famous for their travels to wild places in their Toyota 4Runner “Silver.” On the show, Kevin and Sarah discuss their transition from conventional life to full-time overlanding (with their young daughter Caroline in tow), the nearly 800-mile Enchanted Rockies Trail they created in the beginning of their overlanding career, their northern trip through Canada, Alaska, and beyond the Arctic Circle, the details of their rig, tips for traveling long distance with a toddler, and their favorite meals out on the road. Finally, they explain how you can break into the sport of overlanding by seeking out trips on local trails and using the 4WD vehicle you already own.
Episode 4 has Shanty sitting down with Blue Ridge Outdoors 2020 Hiker of the Year, Daniel White. Known as "The Blackalachian" in the outdoor community, White tackled his first thru-hike in 2017 when he turned to the Appalachian Trail to get away from a bad break up and burn out at his job. In this episode, White recounts the ups and downs of his AT completion, opening up about a racist encounter at his camp near the Mason-Dixon line on the AT. He also takes us through his "powerful" ride on the Underground Railroad Trail and his trips to Europe last year, where he hiked across Scotland and completed the Camino Del Norte in Spain. Fueled by both adversity and kindness from the people he met along the way, White’s drive for solo adventure shines through in this interview.
3. Andrew Skurka

3. Andrew Skurka


Shanty catches up with backpacking and navigation expert Andrew Skurka. Skurka started his long distance hiking career in 2002 when he completed the 2,170-mile Appalachian Trail as a novice backpacker. From there, Skurka took his hiking status to the next level by laying down the first tracks on three enormous, untouched routes in America. Through those thousands of miles of solo hiking, Skurka has become a master at finding his way in the wilderness. Listen in as Skurka takes us through his unusual progression of long-distance hiking, from the well worn path of the AT to these high-risk, high-mileage adventures. In the process, Skurka also touches on the multiple high routes he’s created in recent years, what he carries in his backcountry navigation kit, and the one, simple concept that everyone can do to stay found in the backcountry.
Shanty catches up with free-spirited and fun-focused Thomas Gathman, who picked up the trail name "The Real Hiking Viking" due to his Norse-like beard and his warrior status as a former Marine Scout Sniper. Viking served two combat tours in Iraq before coming home, selling all his possessions, and hiking more than 20,000 miles on America's longest trails. In this episode, Shanty goes beyond the iconic beard and unravels Viking's often-overlooked journey from sniper to pro hiker. Viking shines a light on how he was first introduced to thru-hiking culture and what inspired him to step on the trail and never look back.
The Out and Back Podcast launches with Heather “Anish” Anderson, who spells out the complex set of factors that drove her to accomplish speed records on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Arizona Trail, as well as become one of a handful of athletes to nab all three long trails, some 7,500+ miles of hiking, in a single calendar year. In this episode, Anderson explains how she faced her fear head-on to finally convince herself that she is indeed an athlete as well as what inspired her in her journey from her first overnight backpack trip in 2001 to thru-hiking some 30,000 miles over the last 19 years. Finally, she talks about the very real “post hike depression” that she and other thru-hikers experience after re-entering society following months on the trail, how journaling helped her process the grief that overcame her after claiming the fastest known time on the PCT, and how those journals ultimately formed the basis of her book "Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home" (Mountaineer Books).
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May 6th
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