Mike Hervey (trail name: Smooth Operator*) is about to take on the challenge of a lifetime: hiking the CDT. The journey will take him from New Mexico to the Canadian border; he will be on the trail for over 5 months. Since November, he’s been supporting Outdoor Outreach through a fundraising campaign, to bring attention to issues of outdoor access and conservation. He has raised over $20,000.
“I’m so grateful to all the people who donated to my page. It has made this experience even more exciting. I’m using this hike as a way to raise awareness; I’m really glad that I could pair up with people who can use it.”
Outdoor Outreach’s mission resonated with him because of the ripple effect it has on conservation efforts. In order to foster a sense of environmental stewardship among urban youth, we have to first provide reasons and opportunities for young people to find, appreciate, and care for nature. “Wild spaces can’t be preserved unless we actually use them”, says Hervey.
Mike has been preparing and training for the hike for over a year –he ran the Fourmidable 50k in February, and for the past month, has been doing “long-distance wandering” everyday around Mission Trails. “I’m trying to get as much time on my feet as I can; you have to be in shape and ready to go. Preparation is the best way to limit the risk of injury and sickness”.
This is Mike’s second thru-hike. He says he’s ready, but still nervous.
“As much as having experience makes me more confident, I also know what’s coming. I’m about to step away from an identity that belongs to city life, and step into a version of myself that only exists in the wild. It’s like returning home –getting in touch with that part of myself again. In the city, everything is designed for you. Out there, you are small, everything slows down. That vulnerability is what I’m looking forward to. You only have your abilities to fall back on, and you get to know your limits. You’re taking one step at a time, one challenge at a time. Sometimes, you’re so slow that you feel like you’re not making any progress; and sometimes, that’s actually true. It’s inevitable: I will get lost, I will have to change my route, I will have to adapt, backtrack. It’s never a straight shot, and that’s also what’s exciting. I’m ready to challenge myself.”
Mike won’t be alone. His friend Nick Zeitler (trail name: Moses) will be hiking with him. “We’ve already hiked 1,000 miles of the PCT together, from Southern Oregon to Canada. He’s a really good friend and an experienced hiker –he’s already done the PCT twice, including by himself. I know we’ll be talking the entire time. On a trail like this, you need that.”
While Mike is looking forward to the loneliness and freedom the trail provides, he’s also excited to meet people along the journey. “There’s a very strong network of hikers out there, but also of people who help hikers. The magnitude of the challenge inspires people. The impossibility of it makes people want to contribute –whether it’s by placing water along the trail, or opening their home to complete strangers for one night. I think what inspires them is the idea that we’re walking toward a goal; there’s a beginning and an end, and a sense of direction. People want to see it through with you. Hiking always restores my faith in people –strangers become friends in an instant.”
Mike says he’s excited to see Yellow Stone, the Bitterroot Mountains, and the Rockies. He’s also excited to see a grizzly bear (!). The two friends plan to start with 30-mile days –Mike’s pack’s base weight should be around 10lb, 30lb with food and water.
Mike’s journey is already inspiring many, and has had ripple effects throughout the organization. As 5 of Outdoor Outreach’s youth leaders are preparing to spend some time in the wild over the summer, Mike’s advice is to “go with the flow. Don’t have any expectations. It’ll blow your mind… Oh, and wear sunscreen.”
* In honor of a certain peanut butter that Mike once enjoyed under a bridge in the desert