The physical steps in the sand may have been washed away, but the steps of those before will forever remain imprinted on the very fabric of hiking, backpacking, or simply taking a long walk. Steps that were taken long before the backpacking that we know and define today had become this cultural phenomenon. Steps that were taken for the pure joy, wonder, and freedom of putting one foot in front of the other. No to little social media, no videos, only a hiker and their memories. A beauty undefined and lost in the world today.
To utter the phrase "thru-hike" or long distance backpacking without the names of these few, well it would be akin to a world without oceans, a tree without roots, a life without breath. It would not only be inherently wrong but it would go against the very essence of this community that is called the outdoors. The hikers that paved the way for so many to follow in their footsteps. Well, paved is an interesting word choice, because while the meaning remains the same, there was very little to no pavement where these hikers went, only thick brush, confused communities, and wilderness to welcome them. Let us pay homage to those that came before...
"Nimblewill Nomad", "Buck-30", Bart Smith, Al Learned.
Four names. Unfathomable ripples that continue to spread today in the hiking world. These are the hikers that have stepped, continue to step, and will have imprints in the "sand" of hiking forever. We know our words can never do justice to what these people have accomplished and created, but we hope our words can at least pay respect and deep appreciation to the people that we will forever remain indebted too.
"Nimblewill Nomad", a name, a legend, that we cannot distill down into a singular paragraph. Honestly, we would never try. Instead what we shall say is this man never stops inspiring. Hiking is akin to breathing it appears with him. We lack the vocabulary skill to paint a picture of who this man is and what he means to everyone in the hiking community. What we will say is "Nimblewill Nomad" is a gentleman who remains in the heart of almost every hiker we know and is the very heartbeat of the thru-hiking community.
"Buck-30", well if you have spent anytime on long distance trails within the past 10-15 years, you can almost guarantee Buck has written a trip report about it. Giving accessible information to those that will follow. We honestly are bewildered at his tenacity and commitment to continuing to pursue and explore trails that are still "new" and continue to grow with his help.
Bart Smith, from our research the first person to successfully hike all 11 National Scenic Trails. We actually are shamefully lacking in knowledge of his travels, but nonetheless his footsteps before can be felt in everything the trail means. Photos and trip reports but more importantly some of the first footsteps through these trail communities that would open the door for so many more.
Al Learned, from our research one of the most underrepresented and in direct correlation one of the most truthful in what it means to be a hiker. All he did, does, is hike. Hiking without the "chains" of our own making whether that is social media or writings, hiking in unrequited freedom.
Of course there are many more that have come before, come after, and currently continue to inspire those around them. Yet, these four names, are the names that inspired us on our very own journey to complete all 11 National Scenic Trails. These were the first to accomplish this "goal." We put goal in quotations because being a long distance hiker ourselves, we can confidently say that the word goal is just a fractional piece of what it means to hike these trails, a secondary consideration. It is something that is found along the way, but not the fuel. It simply is the result of hiking year after year. Yet, the fuel is unique to each hiker, but has universal truths. Being fueled by freedom, community, and love for the outdoors. We all are fueled separately by our internal flames, but the fuel only truly become an unquenchable fire when combined with others.
Feels like the set up to a joke.... how do you find hikers?
Go to a McDonalds and find the grassy patch.
All questions will be answered in their McFlurry saturated eyes.
We ourselves feel guilt, conflict, and even embarrassment with our own publicity, because while it has benefits to inspire the next generation of hiker, it sometimes makes us feel distanced from the true essence of hiking. The essence of just being. We feel we have not yet "earned" the right for our own name to be uttered in the same syllables as those above. Yet, that itself is what is beautiful and wonderful about the hiking community. All our welcome. To "earn" is only the pressure that you put upon yourself and the "chains" of your own self image. All our welcome.
That being said, we hope to continue to assuage our own internal chains by continuing to pick up on the groundwork that these four began. The work of awareness, inspiration, community, and love within the outdoors in pursuit of a "goal". Where in the pursuit of the goal the accomplishment becomes secondary, and the journey and life lived along the way is the gift.
We welcome all hikers, section hikers, thru-hikers, any and everyone that has the goal of hiking all 11 National Scenic Trails to become a part of our and more importantly your community. ElevenSkys has now become the only official platform where those that have completed all 11 NSTs and those that are in pursuit of all eleven live. A platform where inspiration can be drawn from those before, a platform where awareness of others in the same pursuit can be found, and a platform for the wonderful "in-between" on the journey there.
If you have begun hiking, have yet to start, or are somewhere in between, you are welcome to register. When you register, we will ask you simple questions, about proposed timing, proposed direction, and proposed year for each trail, but if you have yet to figure that out, well great! No problem, life is a journey, the way there complicated, just fill out the form with the information that you wish and we will compile together a profile for you. As everything in life, it is not set in stone, when changes are needed, we will update your profile accordingly.
If you yourself are inspired and happy with living the journey along with and through others but not currently hiking, wonderful! This is for you too. We ask all those that are encompassed within the hiking community to reach out. Reach out to those that you know that are currently in pursuit of this goal and let them know about our registration. Reach out to us at ElevenSkys to inform us of those that we may not know about so we can reach out ourselves.
This is a community compiled list, so by no means do we claim to have everyone that has either completed or is currently in the hunt for all 11 NSTs, we only can provide profiles that we know about and that have submitted a Registration.
Once submitted each profile will have its own landing page for the hiker filled with their unique stats/data/and any other information they wish to share.
It is an ever growing list, so please let us know of anyone that you do not see listed on the Completion Page or On the Hunt Page.
We want to thank everyone that has come before from the bottom of our hearts. The steps that were forged through hardship and exploration. The steps that inside of were found laughter and love. The steps that may be forgotten by the land, but will never be forgotten by the people. The steps that if not taken, would have never shown others the path even existed. Because of and with the previous steps as building blocks and our foundation, we hope to together take that next step...