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Sunday, April 14th, 2024

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Sunday, April 14th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

This Is Gonna Hurt: Ohioan takes on massive hike of more than 8,000 miles in one year

Brandon Weis, from northwest Ohio, hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Arizona Trail, all in a calendar year. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Weis)

Ottawa, Ohio — What started as the fleeting thought of a college student ended up taking Brandon Weis more than 8,000 miles across the country on the hike of a lifetime.

The adventure required Weis to through hike the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Arizona Trail, all in a calendar year.

The 2021 odyssey is all spelled out in Weis’ new book, This Is Gonna Hurt, which the Ottawa, Ohio, native recently self-published.

“I’m from northwest Ohio, what I believe is the flattest area of the whole country,” Weis told Ohio Outdoor News during an interview in January. “So, I never really camped, backpacked, or did anything, really.

‘I gotta get back out there’

My sophomore year in college at Ohio State, I sort of accidentally signed up for a backpacking trip out in the High Sierra in California. And, I just kind of fell in love with it out there.”

Brandon Weis didn’t set out to write a book about his 8,000-mile hiking adventure, but after experiencing the thrill of the quest he decided to put it into print. The result is the 305-page This Is Gonna Hurt, which is available now. (Photo courtesy Brandon Weis)

When Weis returned from California in 2018, he pondered whether that hike was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing or whether he wanted to pursue this whole backpacking thing further. But, it wasn’t until Weis watched the movie “Into the Wild” that he decided ultimately that this hiking adventure was something he wanted to pursue.

“I just thought, I gotta get back out there,” he said after watching the 2007 film.

From there, Weis completed three section hikes on the Appalachian Trail during breaks from his school work at Ohio State.

“I enjoyed those, so I knew I wanted to try something bigger,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do all of the triple crown trails, but obviously I didn’t think that would all be in a calendar year.”

But, that’s precisely what happened.

Weis was scheduled to start the odyssey on the Pacific Crest Trail after graduating from Ohio State in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, suggested otherwise.

“I made a deal with myself that I would read a book by another guy who did this (journey) and if it didn’t sound impossible I would go for it and try it,” he said. “I got the book, read it in a day, and said, ‘It doesn’t sound impossible.’”

An adventure worth writing about

As far as Weis knows through some research, only 10 other people have hiked all those trails in a single calendar year. So, he spent the next eight months after reading the book preparing for his trip. And then in 2021, he did it – 8,292 miles in all.

“When you’re on lockdown for a while (during COVID) you start to get these crazy ideas in your head,” said Weis, who’s now 26 years old.

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“I never really thought about writing a book until about halfway through the journey,” said Weis, who double-majored in finance and history at Ohio State. “But, I thought, wow there’s been so many things that have gone wrong in this journey and so many great individual stories.”

He wrote the book in 90 days on the number, which is ironic, he said, in that the Pacific Crest Trail also took 90 days to complete.

‘Probably the worst night of my life’

There was one night during the trip that Weis remembers vividly, what he calls “probably the worst night of my life.”

“I flew to New Mexico to start the Continental Divide Trail,” he said. “When I got there, my tent was delivered on time like it was supposed to be, but my trekking poles were late being delivered out west and they (doubled as tent stakes). I looked at the weather, and it wasn’t supposed to rain, so no big deal. It was the desert after all.”

The decision was made, Weis recalled, that he would just “cowboy camp” it and sleep under the stars, sans tent. So, he started out.

“So, I get my cowboy camp set up, my head hits the pillow, and within five seconds it starts raining,” he said. “So, I repacked my backpack and just kept on walking. I walked for about another 90 minutes and it stopped raining. I was exhausted, so I decided to try to bed down once more.”

He found a wind-protected gully to lie down again, but within minutes the pounding rain returned.

“I was so tired at that point, I just said, ‘I’m gonna deal with it. It can’t rain that long, it’s the desert.’”

But, then it rained steadily for the next six hours.

“I felt every single raindrop hit my forehead and cascade down my face,” he said. “It was cold, around 35 degrees, and the wind and the rain were just utterly miserable.”

Wildlife encounters

There were also two encounters with grizzly bears along the hikes that were memorable, to say the least, Weis said.

“I had a fairly close run-in with a grizzly bear in Idaho. That was definitely the most scared I’ve ever been in my life,” he said.

Then, there was a run-in with a mountain lion on the Arizona Trail.

“I was hiking at around dusk, trying to get my miles in, and I look up ahead and see this set of eyes,” he said. “I didn’t think it was unusual because you see cows along the trail all the time. But, this set of eyes were different. The head was really low to the ground, so I thought it was a little strange.”

As Weis’ eyes adjusted to the near darkness, he was able to make out the big cat’s short, powerful legs and a long tail.

“I thought, ‘Oh, boy,’” he said.

As luck would have it, though, when Weis took one step toward the animal, the mountain lion took off in the opposite direction.

“It was the fastest I’ve ever seen an animal move in my life,” he said. “He was gone in a split second.”

Weis still wasn’t all that comfortable, though, and he spent the next three hours carefully surveying his surroundings.

This Is Gonna Hurt is available now on Amazon in e-book, paperback, and hardback options ranging in price from $10 to $30. It runs 305 pages.

“I was very fortunate to realize I had the opportunity to do something this special at a young age before going off into a career,” Weis said. “I was happy I had the foresight of realizing the time to do something like this is when you are young. It is truly the most life-changing, powerful, exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

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