Published on October 6th, 2013 | by Phyl Newbeck
Adam Rudolph – Reader Athlete
Residence: West Barnet
Family: Girlfriend, Chaya Thanhauser; dog, Dory
Primary sport: Hiker/backpacker
Adam Rudolph discovered Vermont when he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005 and fell in love with the mountains. He parlayed that love into a vocation, working for the Green Mountain Club and at a state park in Groton. In addition to the AT, he has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and is looking forward to adding the Long Trail to his list.
VS: What do you like about backpacking?
AR: I like the sense of freedom. Being able to have what you need on your back is a big part of the joy for me. I like waking up and being flexible enough to choose where I’ll sleep that night. Covering ground on foot is a good feeling.
VS: When did you start backpacking?
AR: My first trip was with my dad, another friend, and his dad, when I was 16. We went to the White Mountains and did a three-day hike in the Presidentials, including a trip up Madison.
VS: What are some of the longest trips you’ve taken, and what did you like about them?
AR: I did the Appalachian Trail in 2005 and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. Those are the big trips. I loved the part of the AT that went through New England. I grew up in Connecticut, and I moved to Vermont after hiking the AT. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are great. Maine has rugged terrain and great views, and Mount Katahdin was the end of my hike. It was a bittersweet and climactic way to end the hike. The PCT is consistently beautiful. It coincides with the John Muir, which was absolutely amazing. It should be on any backpacker’s bucket list. I loved climbing Mount Whitney, and getting into the North Cascades was just beautiful.
VS: Did you do those hikes solo or with friends?
AR: I did the AT with my older brother. I was 22 and he was 25, and we were joined by a friend from college. My brother and I shared a tent, and the three of us stuck together the whole time. I did the PCT with an ex-girlfriend. We hiked together, but we had separate gear and tents, although we did cook together. In both cases, it was really fun to have company to share the experience. I enjoyed hiking with people I knew and trusted and could hike well together with and who were hiking for the same reasons.
I do want to add that even if you’re alone on a trail, you’re never really alone because of the people you meet along the way. There is a sense of camaraderie. Depending on where and when you start and finish and which direction you’re going, there is usually a pack of people on the same journey. A lot of people say it’s one of the unexpected joys of a through-hike that you meet people who are interesting and fun. On the AT, I spent two weeks with some folks in the south and then didn’t see them again until Maine. It was almost a family experience catching up with them again. People might be afraid to hike alone, but often you’ll meet someone who you’ll spend the next five months with. It’s a great community of people who take care of each other.
VS: Are you an ultra-light hiker or are you old school?
AR: I’m not an ultra-light-weight hiker, but when I buy things, I go as light as possible. I’m mindful of weight, and I try to shave down the pounds, but I don’t let it dictate the terms of the hike. For instance, my backpack has a frame, and I usually carry between 40 and 50 pounds for a five-day hike. I’m not one to whittle down my toothbrush. I use an alcohol stove and try to carry cheese and a lot of little snacks. My only guilty pleasure might be an occasional bottle of beer or flask of whiskey.
VS: Are you planning on doing the Long Trail?
AR: I’ve done the part of the Long Trail that runs along the Appalachian Trail but not the rest of it. It’s on the list. Every summer seems like the right summer to do it, but it just doesn’t happen.
VS: Do you ever do winter backpacking?
AR: I guess I’m a fair-weather hiker. I don’t go winter backpacking. Instead I do day ski trips.
VS: So you do other sports?
AR: I like to Nordic ski, swim, occasionally paddle, and do a lot of day hikes.
VS: Have you had any noteworthy animal encounters while backpacking?
AR: I’ve had bears visit the campsites at night, and I’ve had friends who brought sticks to the tent and banged pots and pans to keep them away from the dinner area. I’ve been fortunate that I don’t have any really crazy stories. My first moose siting was a mother and two young moose on the AT in Maine. It was great to have the luxury of being able to watch them eat dinner on a pond.
VS: You described yourself as a student. What are you studying?
AR: I’m going back to school for accounting. I’ve applied to UVM. I spent the last six years as an innkeeper at a state-run bed-and-breakfast in Groton, and I’ve also worked for the Green Mountain Club at Mount Abraham. Those were seasonal jobs, and although the seasonal lifestyle is great, it can wear on you a little bit. I’m looking for something more practical, but something that also lets me have time to do the things I want to do.
VS: Can you recommend any short? local backpacking trips?
AR: Honestly, I don’t do much weekend backpacking. I’ve been spoiled by the long trips. I do recommend the ridgeline from the Lincoln Gap to App Gap. It’s beautiful, and Mount Abraham is less crowded than Camel’s Hump or Mount Mansfield but still has a sense of northern Vermont rugged terrain. Since I worked there, it’s always fun to go back.
VS: Do you have any advice for a novice backpacker?
AR: I guess I’d tell people not to worry—just go out and do it. I met so many people on the AT with so much meticulous planning about things like what and where they’d eat. You should just start out and adapt as you go along. Don’t worry if things don’t work according to plan. On the AT, I learned not to expect anything but to try and allow things to happen, and enjoy the experience.