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The Onion vs. Mr. Magoo

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

The unprecedented CDT yo-yo, he expected, would provide a fat scrapbook’s worth of memories, and also gain him some celebrity as an ultra-distance backpacker. Before leaving, he lined up 13 companies to supply him with his every on-trail need. Before he finished, local REI stores would commit to several post-hike speaking engagements.

He started last year in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on April 6, and cruised through the first month. In Colorado, where he endured 20 snowstorms in fewer than 30 days, he had plenty of unforgettable experiences. One day while in the skyscraping San Juans, Magoo bypassed a horribly long descent by pulling off an epic, seat-of-the-pants glissade in which he lost all his maps but came away unscathed. It was for moments like these that his friends once gave him the handle Mr. Magoo: Like the old cartoon character, Tapon seems to glide through life’s toughest moments.

At least for the most part. On another May afternoon, Magoo wasn’t so lucky. Trudging through the powder atop broad-shouldered, 13,300-foot James Peak, Magoo was persuaded by the partially blue skies to continue walking the ridge until nightfall. But as the sky darkened, he couldn’t find anywhere to camp. The light load he carried didn’t include a tent, and his paper-thin sleeping pad was complemented by an equally minimalist sleeping bag. Ultimately, he wedged himself between some rocks and shivered through two hours of sleep. It was an experience rough enough to make even the most determined backpacker nostalgic for cubicle life.

"It’s a lot of work and frustrating at times," Tapon wrote in an early email to the Onion, admitting that he’d spent days in the desolate and snowy San Juans screaming at the top of his lungs. "But I have all these sponsors that I can’t disappoint. That’s been keeping me motivated."

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