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Backpacker Magazine – June 2008

The Onion vs. Mr. Magoo

On your mark, get set ... hike. Inside a 5,600-mile footrace on the country's hardest trail.

by: Andrew Tilin, Photos by Timothy Archibald


Tattoo Joe. Trauma. One Gallon. Nimble Will.They're all top ultra-distance backpackers, and nobody's ever heard of them. Which is pretty much the way they want it. That's because the ultra-distance community–a fraternity of maybe a dozen folks who think of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike as a warm-up–typically prefer to walk 200 days straight, and then reenter civilization only long enough to mastermind a plan to leave again.

"Money is just a means to get to do the next trip," says 27-year-old Justin "Trauma" Lichter, who hiked 10,000 miles in 2006. "As for fame, why would I want that? It just complicates things."

Francis Tapon, on the other hand, hungers for attention. The Bay Area-based Tapon sought to become the first person to yo-yo the Continental Divide Trail–that is, thru-hike it and then double back to the start–for the adventure, but also to raise his profile. Tapon is an entrepreneur who hopes to parlay his hiking and travel into a series of self-help books, equal parts life-coaching and travelogue, and become a successful author.

Tapon, who has engaging hazel eyes and a celebrity's smile, released his first effort, Hike Your Own Hike, in 2006. It's based on his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail five years earlier. To this reviewer, the writing is uninspired and the advice often clichéd: The author doesn't need to tell us that exercise is good or that smoking is bad, or that we should find a job we love because life is short. But Tapon likes to think of his messages as timeless reminders. To him, backpacking and life should both be distilled to their essences.



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READERS COMMENTS

Francis Tapon
Jan 13, 2009

Ladridi's comment is understandable given the angle the writer took. Ladridi is correct that I took a job at a startup a few months after finishing the trail; however, it was a part-time, unpaid position, which I did more to help out a friend rather than to make money. If I'm a capitalist, I'm a lousy one.

I encourage those who came away with some negative feelings about the article to read my response to the article here:
http://francistapon.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=47

I appreciate that Backpacker Magazine was fair and printed my short letter after this article came out. Unfortunately, the letter is not on the web, please view that link if you'd like to hear my take on the article. Thank you!

Happy trails,

Francis Tapon

Buck Nelson
Oct 02, 2008

I finally had time to read this well-written article. I just finished the CDT and it's hard to believe any yo-yoed that trail! An amazing accomplishment and adventure for both of them.

ladridi
Aug 21, 2008

Quote:
"He had hit the trail for the reasons many of us seek wilderness: to quiet his mind and spirit. He had recently left the Mormon Church and had taken leave from a PhD program; he was troubled by unresolved feelings about God and his future. Magoo, likewise, was motivated by a higher quest: He was a successful MBA who had chucked the corporate world for a dream of turning hiking and adventure into money."

I may be the only one, but I don't think that a dream of turning hiking into money is a "higher quest". When you trade one money-making opportunity (corporate job) for another moneymaking opportunity (hiking/travel books), I fail to see the "higher" status of the latter. He is a capitalist, plain and simple, who simply decided he'd rather be his own boss and figured that notoriety was his currency. (Nevermind that he took a job from a startup after he finished the trip.) Calling that a higher quest is insulting to the people who actually view hiking as its own reward instead of a commodity to be mined and then spent. While I know that there are a number of distance hiking enthusiasts who have turned their passions into profits, I suspect that most if not all of them would view the hiking as the higher quest, not the business.

Lee
Aug 20, 2008

How do these ppl afford to do this? Don't they have mortgages and bills to pay?

Downunder Baz
Aug 20, 2008

How about that. When I read the article there were two negative comments directed at the writer and one positive which was directed at the hikers. Go the positive guy.

Dan
Aug 19, 2008

A well written article, very enjoyable.

One question, though. Does Backpacker online really need to simulate the epic journey by spreading this out over 14 pages?

Chance Glasford
Aug 18, 2008

The Onion is a stud! and just because he didn't do it first he did it the quicker and did it for the right reason, himself! Over all the artical was great and kudos on getting the word out and giving praise wear it's due!

thruhiker
Aug 13, 2008

Congrats to both hikers. Amazing.
A strong ethos in long distance hiking is "hike your own hike". For Tapon, this meant hike on the trail, and add some extra peak bagging. For the Onion, this meant hike any route in the general area of the Divide, including roads that shaved off elevation and distance. Both valid hikes, just different.

Jean Brodie
Jul 26, 2008

This article would have done better by celebrating both hikers success. "Don't count anyone your friend who tries to clip your wings."

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