Interview with a Thru-Hiker

Name: James Robert Todd
Hails From: Philadelphia (Last known address - La Paz, Bolivia)

Jim is animated and contemplative, quick to make obscure references, often impersonating and imitating, seldom pausing in his speech for long. He is quite thoughtful, often relating current circumstances to his past experiences. He is extremely culturally aware as a result of his extensive traveling. He offers a one- to two-word review of each country that he mentions - "OK," "quite nice", "good", "dangerous." He has a full, hearty laugh that he exercises often, in reaction to others' statements as well as his own.

On why he's hiking the Appalachian Trail:

I've wanted to do this for 20 years. If I don't do this now, I'll never do it! I've done portions over the years - a lot of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. I'll be out [on the AT] for 5 1/2, 6 1/2 months, regardless of where I end up.

On extent of planning for hiking the Appalachian Trail:

I didn't put that much into this. I'd thought about it or years, but I only had about a month to prepare. I called some old friends in Philly and they gave me some tips. I got back into the country around March 1st, and I did all of my planning after that.

On equipment he brought (or didn't) on the AT:

I would like better boots! My boots really suck. I need a better pack. It's 15 years old, one of the first generation internal frames. The only thing that I brought too much of is spices. I can work on that with my mail drops.

Random phrases picked up in conversation:

"Traveling is hard work. I haven't done much in the U.S." "This trail should be a lot safer than anything [in South America.]" "I wish I were in better safe. I'll be in shape in a month or this will kill me." "I'll either go back to work or I'll go to Bangkok."

He tells of his backpacking in Central and South America, his treks through Africa, of bandito attacks and muggings. He relates one experience where he left a Discotheque in Bogota at 4 in the morning and found himself being held up at knife point by four muggers. He gave them $15 and his watch, and they started to run. He chased them a few blocks, when they turned around and began to chase him. They repeated this cycle until Jim realized that it was a cheap watch, and he really didn't care.

Jim will certainly finish the Appalachian Trail.