View Full Version : AT Troll Interview

01-23-2011, 18:45
My apologies if this interview was posted already, but in case it wasn't, here is the link:


01-23-2011, 19:00
I had not seen this article. Thanks for posting.

Congratulations, Troll.

01-23-2011, 19:19
Nice - reading the article now.

Rain Man
01-23-2011, 20:15
Nice to read, but that site is a pop-up jungle! My software had to fight hard to keep it under control. Not good.



walkin' wally
01-23-2011, 23:15
Congratulations and a great interview too.
Are you going to Skowhegan next month??

01-24-2011, 09:52
I enjoyed reading the interview, thanks for posting.

When Troll was asked about the cost of his hike he said he "saved" $11,000.00 for it. I'm thinking that figure it unusually high to actually spend even for 7 months. Is that a normal amount to need for a thru hike? I guess he's factoring in the cost of equipment?

max patch
01-24-2011, 10:11
When Troll was asked about the cost of his hike he said he "saved" $11,000.00 for it. I'm thinking that figure it unusually high to actually spend even for 7 months. Is that a normal amount to need for a thru hike? I guess he's factoring in the cost of equipment?

No, thats way more than you need to spend on a 7 month hike. Without having read the article, my guess would be that amount included any monthly financial obligations at home; mortagage, car payments, etc.

01-24-2011, 11:07
Nice to read, but that site is a pop-up jungle! My software had to fight hard to keep it under control. Not good.



Here is the text of the article in case you want to avoid the pop-up fight . . .

Owner of Whiteblaze.net Rick Towle completes thru hike of the AT
January 14th, 2011 1:57 pm ET

If you have ever been to the Appalachian Trail or been involved with online hiking communities there is no doubt you have heard of ATTroll and the online hikerís community known as Whiteblaze.net. In 2010 Troll was able to get to Amicalola Falls State Park, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and start a Northbound thru hike. With all the activity that you can see on WhiteBlaze you would think that Rick was too busy running the site for all the hikers that he wouldnít have time to hike.

But itís true about the hikerís spirit; nothing will ever stop us from getting back on the trail. This is an exclusive interview by the National Appalachian Trail Hiking Examiner of Mr. Rick Towle owner of Whiteblaze.net:

Examiner- Hello Mr. Towle how are you doing after youíre AT thru hike?

Rick- I am doing good, really missing the trail community and all the wonderful people I met this past year. They really became an extension to my family.

Examiner- Mr. Towle you are the owner of the online hikerís community known as Whiteblaze.net?

Rick- Yes.

Examiner: Mr. Towle how did you ever find time to do a thru hike of the AT and keep the site running for the hikers?

Rick- I would not have been able to do this thru hike without my other Administrator and friend Alligator. I donít want to leave out all the other moderators of the web site either because without them Alligator would have been pulling his hair out and he still might have been. Doctari, Ender, Farr Away, IceAge, JimSproul, Kerosene, Lilred, Mags, Marta, mountain squid, Quoddy, RITBlake, Sly, SteveJ, Tennessee Viking, the goat, TJ aka Teej, trailangelmary, Tramper Al, and wilconow. Without all these people it would not have been possible.

Examiner- Mr. Towle what would you like me to call you, by your trail name Troll or by either your first or last name?

Rick- I will answer to either Rick or Troll. On the trail I would rather be called Troll. In the community I would rather be called Rick unless you are in my community of extended hiker friends.

Examiner- I bet you have had this question asked hundreds of times, but how did you acquire your trail name AT Troll?

Rick- Yes, I have been asked that a few times. It all started when I was in the military. At one assignment an individual twisted my last name into Troll. Donít ask me how he did it but he did. Some people started calling me that. When it came time to sign onto the web I tried to use Troll but that name was already taken. I wanted to come up with a unique name and something that related to me. I was very much into the Appalachian Trail and I knew it was my destiny so I wanted a name that would relate me to the trail. The AT in front of Attroll stand for Appalachian Trail and the Troll stands for my trail name.

Examiner- When did you start preparing for your thru hike of the AT?

Rick- I believe it was in 2005 that I set the goal of hiking the AT in 2010. I needed to set a firm date so that I wouldnít keep putting it off. I created a separate bank account and set aside money from my weekly paycheck so that when 2010 arrived I would not have the excuse of not having the funds for the hike. Gear wise, I have been experimenting with different gear for over five years prior to my hike. As far as getting into physical shape I never really did anything to get into shape before my hike other then ride an exercise bike for a couple months.

The exercise bike was more for therapy for a knee injury that I obtained from my previous employer and not really for preparation for the hike. The only real preparation other than gear I did prior to my hike was research, reading and asking previous thru hikersí questions.

Examiner- I believe you hiked from Georgia to Maine, when did you start hiking north?

Rick- I started on 19 March 2010. I would have liked to have started a little later but I wanted to have some extra time just in case there were any setbacks during my hike. This way it would still give me enough time to make it to Katahdin before Baxter closed.

Examiner- How long did it take you to complete your thru hike?

Rick- With some setbacks it took just shy of seven months to complete the trail from Georgia to Maine.

Examiner- During your hike did you hike alone or did you have some hikers that traveled with you? What can you say about hiking alone or with your group?

Rick- I never really hike side by side with a particular hiking partner. There are a few individuals that I leap frogged with throughout my hike that became very close friends. I hiked alone throughout the day, most of the time. There were times like when stopping for lunch, taking a break, or enjoying a view that I would run into other hikers. Also at the end of the day it was great to socialize with hikers and share your day with them. That was the best part of the day in my opinion. There are really only two people I could consider hiking partners or that I stayed within range of the whole hike.

Examiner- Is this your first thru hike of the Appalachian Trail? If not when was your first through hike?

Rick- This was my first thru hike. I would like to do it again but hiking the trail it costs money and it took me a long time to save up for this hike.

Examiner- If you had to sum up your thru hike into one sentence, what would you have to say about it?

Rick- That is terribly hard to sum up into one sentence, it is really impossible but if I had to say it in one sentence it would be, hmmm. The best thing I have ever done so far in my lifetime, it was something I will never forget, the people and the experiences.

Examiner- Can you share with the readers what it was like to hike the entire length of the trail, it is understandably an experience you can never forget.

Rick- It was, as I said, an experience of a lifetime. It had its ups and downs. I experienced things like being homesick, lonely, physically exhausted, tired of doing the same thing every single day, pain, injuries, mental state of mind, and the list goes on. The one thing that pulled me through was the people on the trail. The people on the trail are the most remarkable people in the world. They all look out for one another and when someone is feeling down and out, we all do our best to help others out and bring their spirits up. We all do what needs to be done.

Examiner- Was there a dangerous or unforgettable event that took place while you did your thru hike? For some of us that have hiked the trail a few times, running into a large rattlesnake with only a few inches between us and him is always one of those moments we will always talk about.

Rick- I can honestly say, I never ran into or saw a rattlesnake or any bears while I was on the trail. I was really disappointed that I did not see any of these on the trail but in a way I was also glad. There was not a single experience that I can think of where I was in danger at any time. There was one occasion that I remember climbing up over Lehigh Gap in PA. It was a hand over hand climb up and over a rock overhang. I made the mistake of looking down and it was straight down and I lost it and got really nervous and thought to myself, ďI am all by myself and if I fall when will the next person come by to help me if I am still aliveĒ. Needless to say I got over it and am here today.

Examiner- What can you say about the gear that you took on this thru hike, there are a lot of hikers that are planning a thru hike this year according to Facebook groups and I am sure this will be for some, their first try. Everyone wonders about their gear if it will hold up etc.

Rick- Gear is the major factor in a hiker's hike. A lot of hikers get off the trail every year because they did no planning prior to their hike. Hikers need to consider a few things when choosing their gear. You always need to keep weight in the back of your mind but not to extreme. Here are questions you need to ask yourself. Will that piece of gear work for me? Can I find the same thing or something similar that will do the same job but lighter?

Always try to find a piece of gear that can do multiple things rather than having one piece of gear for each of your needs. If you have a piece of gear that can do two things for you then you have cut down the weight because you have eliminated carrying another piece of gear. Donít carry a ten pound tent when you can find a three pound tent that will work for you. Also the number one thing that hikers do when starting out is carry things that they never or rarely ever use.

Why carry the weight of a comb, wallet, extra flashlight, knives, books, extra shoe strings, deodorant, heavy coffee mug? These are things that you do not need and just add extra weight to you pack. You can access these things in town when you go into town. Remember when I said you always need to keep weight in the back of your mind; well also do not go overboard with going too lightweight. There is such a thing as going overboard and being unsafe.

An example is getting a really light sleeping bag and not actually trying it out to make sure it works for you. Just because one manufacture rates their sleeping bag at 20 degrees and it is two pounds lighter than the other manufacture, it does not mean the other manufactures sleeping bag is going to be just as warm, try it out first.

Examiner- What was the weather like most of the trip, recalling 2010 there were a lot of large rain storms that blanketed the east coast. I was hiking the trail in August and had more rain days than dry and the rain came down on us unlike we have ever experienced before.

Rick- There was a few rainstorms that stand out for me. One time I was doing a 20 mile slack pack. A couple hours after getting dropped off I could hear the storm coming from the distance. Half way through the hike it just came out of nowhere and it came down in buckets and I mean it really came down. I started out avoiding the puddles in the trail in an effort to keep my feet dry. The rain got so bad that the puddles disappeared and the whole trail turned into a very large stream.

By that time, my feet were soaked and there was no use in avoiding the water any longer. I just walked right down the middle of the trail. I passed a few hikers that had set their tents up and got out of the rain but I did not have that option because I was slack packing and did not have a tent with me. I had to make it to my destination where my ride would be waiting for me. To make a long story short the last ten miles of that day were probably the quickest I have hiked the whole trip.

If you have time for another rain experience, there is one more that comes to mind. When hiking over Mt. Greylock and going down the backside northbound. It was foggy and I took a wrong turn in the trail because it was not marked well. About a mile down the trail I reached a shelter that was defiantly not an AT shelter. I realized that I was no longer on the AT. About that time it started to rain, I turned back around to go back and find out where I missed my turn in the trail.

Coming back up the backside of Mt Greylock, the thunder and lightning rolled in. The thunder was so close, I swear a couple of times, I could have reached up and grabbed the thunder out of the sky, and it was so close. I found where I went wrong in missing the white blaze and continued back on the AT. It did not rain as hard this day but the thunder and lightning were an experience I will not forget.

Examiner- What types of foods did you carry on your through hike? This is a question that a lot of people always ask. Itís hard for some people to understand that you do not do without on the trail, in fact eating on the trail is in many ways healthier.

Rick- I am a very picky eater and I will say that thru hiking the AT has change me. I am not as picky of an eater as I use to be. The foods I carried, a lot of roman noodles, assorted dried noodle meals, tuna or chicken in the foil packets, peanut butter, tortilla wraps, candies, assorted snacks, slim jims, and powdered drink mixes. Out of town on the first day I would carry fruit and eat all the heavy stuff first. I am sure there are things I am forgetting right now.

Examiner- Did you use the AT Data book on your thru hike or is there some other method you used to keep track of where all the water points and other useful points were located?

Rick- I carried the 2009 edition of Appalachian Pages because it was the one I co-authored.

Examiner- In your mind what was the easiest and hardest part of the trail?

Rick- The easiest part of the trail was probably from Waynesboro, where the Shenandoah National Park started, all the way into PA, as I can remember it right now. The hardest part of the trail for me brings back one day in particular. That would be my hike coming down off Madison in the Whites into Pinkham Notch. That one really tore up my knees.

Examiner- How many changes of clothes did you bring and how many changes of hiking boots did you have to do through?

Rick- I brought the clothes I had on and one more set in my pack so my answer would probably be one change of clothes. I went through three sets of boots for this trip. Two sets of boots were defective. I might have gone through only two if it werenít for the defects but I will never know now.

Examiner- Where was your favorite place on this hike and what made it stand out above the other places?

Rick- The places that really come to mind right now was the day I hiked MacAfee Knob and along Tinker Cliffs in the same day. But there are so many other days to choose from too. The Whites were spectacular and so was all of Maine.

Examiner- How much money did you have to spend, minus the money you spent for gear which we all know is not going to be cheap?

Rick- I saved up $11,000 for my hike. As I stated previously, I wanted to make sure I did not have the excuse when 2010 rolled around that I did not have the funds.

Examiner- What is your preferred method of water purification, I personally like the Polar Pure system best?

Rick- Everyone has their personal opinion on water purification. Some people donít treat water and some of those people get off the trail because they get sick from not treating their water and some are very lucky. I personally do not like seeing things floating in my water when I drink it. I filtered my water the whole hike with a gravity filtration system. I liked this because I did not have to pump water or wait 20 minutes to a half hour for the pills to take effect before I could drink my water.

What I did was filled the water bag and let it filter while I made a snack, made lunch or dinner. It does not take very long to filter water in this manner and it leaves you free to do other things while filtering.

Examiner- If you could give this years through hikers some advice, what would be your best piece of advice for those going NOBO around the start of the hiking season?

Rick- Know your gear, research, be prepare, know what to expect, know about the ups and downs, get a good digital compact lightweight camera and take pictures and take some more pictures. You never take enough pictures. Make sure you take twice as many pictures of the people you see and meet; you will regret it later if you donít.

Examiner- Usually all hikers take one luxury item with them, did you take something with you, if so what did you choose and why?

Rick- I brought an iPod. I used this on the days when I was alone and feeling down and it brought my spirits up. I know a lot of people frown about listening to music while hiking. I did not do it constantly. I did it on the days I was miserable, depressed of just felt down. It is amazing how it can change your outlook on that day. Sometimes I think it save me from getting off the trail. Plus the ear buds from the iPod kept the bugs out of my ears.

Examiner- Thank you for taking part in this interview Mr. Towle, no doubt this information will be a big asset for this years through hikers. Is there anything that you would like to add before we wrap up the interview that I may have missed asking you? If not, thank you so much for your time and contribution that you have made to the Appalachian Trail community through your answers and through Whiteblaze.net.

Rick- If anyone is thinking of a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail, donít just think about it. Start putting the plan into action. Thinking about doing it is not going to make it happen. You only live once. Live life to its fullest and enjoy it while you can. A thru hike is something you will never forget.

01-24-2011, 12:11
No, thats way more than you need to spend on a 7 month hike. Without having read the article, my guess would be that amount included any monthly financial obligations at home; mortagage, car payments, etc.

Oh yeah, wasn't thinking about that stuff:-?

01-24-2011, 13:37
Plus, slack-packing gets pretty expensive.