Episode 4 of the Out and Back podcast drops today with Blue Ridge Outdoors 2020 Hiker of the Year Daniel White. Known as the Blackalachian in the outdoor community, White tackled his first thru-hike in 2017 when he turned to the Appalachian Trail to get away from a bad break up and burn out at his job. Having never been hiking or camping before, White planned to walk for two months and return home to North Carolina. But when the time came to quit, White felt compelled to move forward and he finished the 2,190-mile trail in six months.
Along the way, White found peace and friendship. But as one of only two Black thru-hikers he saw on the trail that year, White also endured racism. In the end, the AT left White searching for a more culturally infused experience. The next year he learned everything about bike touring and set off on the Underground Railroad Trail — a 2,000-plus-mile journey retracing the secret route that led Black slaves to freedom in the early-to-mid 19th century.
In this episode, White recounts the ups and downs of his AT completion, opening up about a racist encounter at his camp near the Mason-Dixon line on the AT. He takes us through his “powerful” ride on the Underground Railroad Trail, and his trips to Europe last year, where he hiked across Scotland and completed the Camino Del Norte in Spain. Fueled by both adversity and kindness from the people he met along the way, White’s drive for solo adventure shines through in this interview.
Episode 4: Blue Ridge Outdoors Hiker of the Year, the Blackalachian
The first night Daniel White ever spent in his tent was on the first night of his 2,190-mile thru-hike of Appalachian Trail.
With brand new gear, heaps of YouTube knowledge and his new trail name, the Blackalachian, White steadily pushed north on the AT. The miles came easy. He learned that he could rely on his gear, hike farther each day than he planned, and that he was terrified of owls. Meeting all kinds of people along the way, White found a group of hikers that he clicked with and his trail family formed within days of starting the hike.
“It was love — instant,” White said of his AT experience.
But as he made his way north, White noticed that he was one of only two Black thru-hikers that he saw on the trail that year.
Just as in life back home, White endured racism on the trail. White encountered mostly micro-aggressions, the kind that White said he’s used to having to deal with on the regular. In one encounter, he felt physically threatened when a group of White men with dogs circled his camp near the Mason-Dixon line, forcing him and his hiking partner to break camp and walk through the night to safety.
“It only motivated me more, because I know you don’t want me here in this area and I’m not going anywhere,” White said. “I’m going to use that as fuel and fire to keep pushing.”
Finishing the AT only left White wanting more time outside, but he wasn’t about to pursue the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail, the obvious path of most dedicated thru-hikers. Instead, White searched for a historical and culturally significant experience. Since then he has kept his roster full of unique adventures, including bike touring from Alabama to Canada on the Underground Railroad Trail, hiking across Scotland, and trekking the Camino Del Norte, a pilgrimage route along the Northern Coast of Spain.
Never one to shy away from learning a new sport or entering unfamiliar terrain, the Blackalachian let’s us in on what fueled his AT trip, how he prepared for the journey, and why he bucked the trend and opted for a bike tour on the Underground Railroad instead of thru-hiking the triple crown. He talks about the dangers he’s encountered out in the world, including being hit by a car on his bicycle.
The Blackalachian gives his opinion on why Black people are underrepresented in the outdoors and what society can do to change the tide, making the outdoors more welcoming in the future. He reminds listeners that the outdoors are for everyone, and that the journey is best when shared with the friendly people you meet along the way.
You won’t want to miss this inspiring talk with White, who has become a powerful role model and inspiration to people everywhere, and especially to Black people and other under-represented groups in the outdoors. Plus find out what new sport the Blackalchian is training for right now. This one involves a boat. Also, you will never guess what his favorite piece of gear is. Listen in to find out.
Tap into the Blackalachian’s YouTube channel to learn more about his trips. Get exclusive content from the Blackalachian on Patreon. Follow the Blackalachian on Instagram and Facebook.
Highlights with the Blackalachian
7:08: White talks about what drove him to the Appalachian Trail.
9:06: How White prepared for the trail even though he had no backpacking or camping experience.
11:46: White describes his first days on the trail.
17:43 Learn why Maine was White’s favorite state on the AT.
19:23: White recounts meeting the only other Black thru-hiker during his trip.
21:08 White describes a racist encounter when group of White men with dogs surround White’s camp near the Mason-Dixon line, forcing him to pack up and hike through the night to safety,
23:36: White taps into adversity and uses it as fuel to accomplish his goals.
24:30: How White ended up taking up bicycle touring to pedal the Underground Railroad Trail.
26:03: Daniel describes the powerful experience of visiting places where slaves hid in their journey north to freedom in the early-to-mid 19th century.
29:48: White’s bike gets sideswiped on the highway, and the driver buys him a beer.
32:06: Communities along the Underground Railroad Trail were the best part of his trip.
33:43: White goes to Scotland, hikes across the country and meets the towns people.
36:05: White describes his trek on the Camino Del Norte in Spain and unexpectedly discovering a Black madonna in one of the villages along the route.
47:00: White gives his opinion on the reason why Black people are underrepresented in the outdoor community,
51:40: White points to a number of resource that BIPOC can reach out to for support and inspiration in getting started in the outdoors.
53:20: You will never guess what his favorite piece of gear is.
55:08: Daniel gives a shout out to all the people who are helping to keep the foot on the gas in this movement against racism.
Next Episode: Lifestyle Overland
In our next episode, meet Kevin, Sarah, and 7-year-old Caroline McCuiston, who have been living full-time out of their Toyota 4Runner on America’s rugged backroads. A friend introduced the McCuistons to the sport of overlanding, which Kevin describes as a kind of “marathon” version of off-road travel. Within a short time, the couple became overland obsessed, quitting their jobs to tour around America with their Toyota 4Runner named “Silver” and their overland trailer.
The McCuistons wanted to share their journey with family, so they filmed their travels and posted them on YouTube. To their surprise, their videos exploded in popularity and, without really trying, the McCuistons became Lifestyle Overland with thousands of dedicated followers. Now they manage their active Instagram page, YouTube channel and host a podcast on all things related to overlanding.
You won’t want to miss this episode with Kevin and Sarah as they discuss their transition from conventional life to full-tilt overlanding. They talk about the nearly 800-mile Enchanted Rockies Trail they created at the beginning of their overlanding career and their northern trip to Arctic Circle. Of course, they discuss their rig, why they chose the 4Runner instead of the vehicle they thought they wanted, and the concept of “airing down” or reducing tire pressure on trail. Sarah gives her tips for traveling with a tiny person, and Kevin talks about their favorite meal out on the road.
Follow the McCuistons at @LifestyleOverland on Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and join their Patreon for exclusive content.
Last Episode: Andrew Skurka
Check out Out and Back’s last episode with backcountry navigation expert Andrew Skurka. Widely known for making up his own unique and burly long-distance hiking adventures, Skurka recently turned his attention to developing shorter-distance off-trail routes in the Wind River Range, the Sierra, and the Colorado Rockies.
Author of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Tips to Hit the Trail, published by National Geographic, and host to one of the most comprehensive websites for backpacking gear and tips, Skurka has become the definitive authority on ultralight, off-trail hiking. You won’t want to miss Episode 3, as Skurka passes along his insights on backcountry navigation, how not to get lost, and his favorite maps and navigation tools for hiking off the beaten path.
Meet the Host: Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin
In 2019, host Andrew Baldwin completed a southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. After five months on the trail, Baldwin returned home to pursue a career in voice acting. A friend of the Gaia GPS company, Baldwin was a natural choice for hosting the Out and Back podcast.
In each Out and Back episode, Baldwin strives to bring you conversations with people who spend an extraordinary amount of time outdoors. Listen in as Shanty taps into each backcountry expert’s superpower so that you can take their knowledge and experience with you on your next adventure.