Some people only dream of taking off on cross-country hikes. Quentin Tobey lives it. He spends half of the year working to raise travel money, and he spends the rest of the year trail hiking. In the last three years, Tobey’s walked over 8,000 miles!
While tackling trails like the Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest, the 26-year-old has encountered beautiful scenery and physical danger. Despite the difficulties, Tobey is driven to hike in exchange for the chance to escape the busyness of city life. “You can step back and breathe,” Tobey said. “There’s no rushing around. There’s no phone. You really get away from it all.”
For Tobey, hiking is simple. He carries one pair of clothes, a tarp, a sleeping bag, a cook stove, and some lightweight food. Every four or five days, he hitchhikes to a town to grab a meal and restock his stash of peanut butter, energy bars, and instant potatoes. Tobey also makes an occasional call to his family—who support his hiking lifestyle, but are still anxious to hear his voice.
“What my mom doesn’t know, though, is about the time I got caught in a rockslide,” Tobey said. I ran to the side to get out of the way, but I slipped and slammed into the ground. I was 100% sure I hadn’t made it out of the way. Luckily, I did.”
Tobey has also encountered his share of wildlife, from moose to bears. On the Appalachian Trail, he unknowingly got too close to a baby bear in the bushes. “Then mama bear stood up and started walking toward me. So I took some quick pictures and backed up!
Weather is another unpredictable factor that can make hiking challenging. Unless there’s lightning or hail, Tobey usually keeps walking through rainstorms, since “sitting in a wet shelter is just as miserable.” If it’s cold, he keeps moving to stay warm, and if it’s really hot–he pays close attention to his water supply.
So why put himself through these physical obstacles? According to Tobey, the scenery is breathtaking, with huge lakes, green pine trees, and rolling mountains. He also likes the challenge, stating that, “Most of the trail is a mental game. After the first few weeks, the physical elements are no longer an issue, because your muscles are built up and you know what you’re doing—but there’s a mental challenge of not letting the trail or the loneliness get to you.”
“Hiking has definitely made me more laid back,” Tobey said. “Out there, you have to accept what comes. When I’m back home and I’m feeling stressed, I remind myself, ‘Remember the shin splints? Remember the time you were in the desert and ran out of water?’ You just have to learn to roll with the trail you’re on and not let it get to you.”