Have You Met Swami Bittergoat?

Backpacking

Swami is sporting a stylish camouflage Gore-Tex hat, full rain gear and a gargantuan, pale yellow monstrosity. This is no candid shot; I was actually posing. If you could see my face, it is quite giddy. It says: “Holy astrofuckballs, I’m doing this, I’m really, really doing this.”

This was me on my first thru-hike: Appalachian Trail 2013.

But did you see that pack, though? Me neither. That’s because it is in the process of being ingested by my 70 liter pack cover. I can assure you that I did not carry a 70 liter pack on my first thru hike. I did that on my first ever over night backpacking trip. I carried so many things on that fateful trip I couldn’t fit my sleeping bag inside.  The bag was from Canadian Tire–our Wal-Mart–and wouldn’t quite fit in my friends’ backpack either. We strapped it on the outside.

Solid technique!

I am eternally glad that it was drier than an overcooked turkey that weekend. I am not so sure that I’d be a thru-hiker if not for that trip to the Smokey Mountains. I’ll write more about this episode another time.  And yes, this is a shameless ploy to string you along  as I patter away from cold tent floors, posh bunk beds and wherever else I may get access to a keyboard (or my phone) to write for The Trek.

That invariably brings us to the point of this post.

Hi! My Name Is Amiththan. Trail Name: Swami BitterGoat

No,  I didn’t spell my own name wrong. There are two th’s in it, actually. I tell people that it is this type of  redundancy that makes me unique. #truestory. My trail name, well, that’s another story entirely.

I won this year’s sponsorship bid. Thanks for all of you who participated in the voting process–whether you voted for me or not is besides the point.  I want to share below the email I wrote to the finalists moments after the voting period officially ended, when none of us really knew the results.  It still captures for me how I felt then: about this community, my level of gratitude, the incredible trail magic of the sponsorship itself…

 Hikers, friends, would be Triple Crowners:
Just wanted to take a quick minute congratulate everyone and a big thank you to the team at Trek.co for this fantastic opportunity to grow the community.
On a personal note, I’ve never really been able to articulate to my immediate family what is that I do out in the woods, holding a graduate degree and married and family and all that hostage. Seeing my mum who doesn’t understand YouTube and so many of my co Chinese Canadian company workers (mostly elderly women) get behind on learning YouTube –myself included in this list– and sharing all of our stories through their Network was truly something I’ll never forget. This campaign gave me a way to explain myself to a community of people for whom distance hiking is as strange as the man in the moon. 
In that way, this already feels pretty sweet.
So thank you! See you all out there. 

First up for this year is the Arizona Trail. I start on Feb. 16, Mexico to Utah.  Then, I am going to hit the CDT south bound in June-ish depending on snow and ice in the high passes. That is a lot of trail time. Wish me luck and send me food and good vibes.

What Will I Write?

Gear and trail hacks: How things have changed since my very first gear list circa 2013 when carrying a smart phone was a major source of contention & what will I be carrying on the Arizona Trail, how will that change for the CDT southbound.  When I was in middle earth–er I mean Te Araroa–there was a stretch where I did not carry any food at all and kept eating and packing out savoury pies. For days!

Food, books, miles: If you are new to the distance hiking world, let be known with no uncertainty that distance hikes are about indulgence of many kind: whether it is your fantasy, food, a gluttony for punishment…  I put in some quality time making and consuming food, devouring books and crushing miles before they crush me.  This one time I hiked 61.3 miles through the night, 24 hours straight and only stopped for the prospect of fried chicken. In suede boots!   I promised Badger I’ll write an entire post about this some day.

Diversity and Stewardship:  This is basically why I am here and out there, folks.  I  have lots to say and still much to learn about these tropes. I love creating and participating in dialogue.  I hope we can engage issues with sincerity and treat one another with respect along the way.

Massive thanks to:  The Trek for giving me this platform; my mum & the Chinese-Canadian ladies at work who made sure the word got out about the badger contest; Valerie for believing in my story and that I’d eventually figure out how to edit a video on my smart phone.  My gratitude to friends, relatives near and far, trail family, and of course you:

“my dear Bagginses and Boffins, and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses, and Hornblowers, and Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Goodbodies, and Proudfoots..”

I regret to announce that this the beginning. I am going now. And I mean to return, shortly from a trail near you.

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