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  • Saturday, March 30, 2013

    The Before Interview with Victor Maisano, 2013 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

    Earlier today, Victor Maisano officially began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (you can follow him and his crew at BackpackingAT.com). 

    If you're reading this you probably know I've been answering some of his questions about the trail. Before he left I turned the tables and asked him a few. I thought it would be interesting to ask them before and after to see if, and how, his answers have changed. 

    The first few questions, however, I asked because I like knowing what motivates others to take on such a challenge. Are they an adventurer discontented by a cubical life? Do they just want to challenge themselves?  Did they conceive the endeavor when things in life seemed to be falling apart or when everything finally came together? 

    Hundreds of people head to the Appalachian Trail with a unique story and personal motivation. I love seeing how all their stories converge.

    RG: When did you first hear about the Appalachian Trail?

    VM: I believe I first learned about the Appalachian Trail in Boy Scouts. There is a fifty-miler badge I always wanted to get, but never had the chance to earn.

    RG: When did you start dreaming of doing it? Or what finally inspired you to take this on?

    VM: Oddly enough when I was in Costa Rica. Even though I was living the Caribbean dream and saving turtles 24/7, the water always seemed to be clearer in the other pond. Throughout my thought process of "what is next" after volunteering at a Sea Turtle Conservatory, I knew I was not ready to head back to a "normal" life back in the corporate world full time. So looking to challenge myself physically and mentally the Appalachian Trail came easily to mind. My mind was fully set after skimming a couple of articles online and bouncing around previous AT thru-hikers blogs. I would imagine myself in their shoes/pictures!

    RG: What are you most looking forward to?

    VM: Meeting great people, seeing random animals (other than the ones you find in suburbia) and attempting my wilderness survival skills from time to time.

    RG: What do you hope to get out of this experience?

    VM: New perspective from this hiking community and learn all that I can from the experience that I would not have from reading about it.

    RG: What was your first big adventure? 

    VM: I would like to think my first big adventure was when I headed to Vietnam for 2 months with my older (adopted Vietnamese) Brother when I was 15ish. Sleeping on dirt floors, eating interesting meals (including dog) and being the only white person in these small villages was certainly an eye opener for what the vast opportunities the world has.

    RG: There are a lot of unknowns that you wonder about when planning a hike like this. What are you biggest concerns?

    VM: To be honest it's power. I plan to be very social media savvy and fear the amount I want to update will not correspond with amount of juice I am bringing - granted I am bringing solar panels through the green tunnel. Other than that it's my lack of Knives. At the moment I am bringing a smaller sized serrated knife. Seeing as He-Man and Leonardo were able to protect themselves from all sorts of enemies, I figured that's what I need. However I know that Skeletor nor the Shredder will be anywhere near the trail. 

    RG: What is your current pack weight?

    VM: Yikes sensitive topic. I think right now it's 45ish lbs.

    RG: I agree it can be a sensitive question. It's often followed by someone with an ultralight pack telling you you're doing something wrong. I only ask because I want to see if, and how much, it changes by the time we do this interview again. So, what is your favorite gear item right now?

    VM: To be honest it's my Osprey 65L Backpack. Never before in my life had I had a backpack that of a quality nature. This pack feels like I am giving my little nephew a horsey back ride and he's holding on tight!

    RG: How are you preparing (physically, or mentally)?

    VM: Physically I am not - I am solely relying on my youth to start me off. I know this not the smartest idea, but I feel my body is very adaptable. Plus I won't complain even if was having a hard time.

    Mentally - I have been trying to imagine myself on the trail and going through the various scenarios. Reading other peoples blogs and just speaking with previous section and through hikers has been great as well!

    RG: Yeah, physically the best way to prepare is to backpack before heading out, which can seem a bit redundant if you're not trying to break a speed record. Have you backpacked before? What's the longest you've ever hiked?

    VM: I have backpacked 2 sections of AT Before. Both in/near the Smoky Mountains, with a small group of friends for 50 miles over 4 days.

    RG: Do you have more adventures in mind after this one?

    VM: Next adventure is TBD. I would not mind switching back and forth between water and land based adventures. My mind has been definitely wandering, but my bank account says I need a job BADLY. Perhaps I can combine the two?

    RG: Combining the two is a dream of all wanderers, but the good news is many find a way. And the Appalachian Trail can make anyone realize how little income and possessions they really need, which will get you halfway there.

    Last question, do you have a trail name yet or do you prefer the tradition of letting it happen on the trail? Some people prefer to go into it with a name already chosen to avoid a bad name. For example, for most of my hike I was called Nancy Drew, but not everyone will be so lucky.

    VM: I do not have a trail name. I would prefer the traditional route. However I have a feeling with my personality and friends, this will be very random and most likely not reflect me. But I'll go with it.

    RG: I'm sure we'll find out very soon what it will be on your blog at BackpackingAT.com. Thanks for your time Victor and good luck out there! 

      
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