The Out and Back podcast drops its second episode today with thru-hiking legend the Real Hiking Viking. In this episode, meet free-spirited and fun-focused Thomas Gathman, who picked up the Viking trail name due to his Norse-like beard and his warrior status as a former Marine Scout Sniper. Viking served two combat tours in Iraq before coming home, selling all his possessions in 2013, and hiking more than 20,000 miles on America’s longest trails.
Tune in as host Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin goes beyond the iconic beard and unravels Viking’s often-overlooked journey from sniper to pro hiker. Viking shines a light on how he was first introduced to thru-hiking culture and what inspired him to step on the trail in 2013 and never look back.
Episode 2: the Real Hiking Viking on his Journey from Sniper to Pro Hiker
Fresh out of the Marine Corp in 2012, Thomas Gathman crossed paths with some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. They completely blew his mind.
“This Appalachian Trail thing isn’t just this idea of a trail, there are people walking from Georgia to Maine every year in this big, mobile community .. my brain exploded at the idea of it,” Gathman said of his first realization of what the thru-hiking community had to offer. “I was talking to these thru-hikers and, yeah, they were gross, they were dirty, they were stinky and I was, like, enamored by it.”
Nine months later, without any real backpacking experience, Gathman set out on his own Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Returning home to Pennsylvania with a trail name and a new direction in life, Gathman sold all his belongings and left town. Since then, one trail has led to another, taking Gathman to completions of the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and many more.
In this Out and Back episode, Gathman brings an honest account of trail life, recounting both successes and failures, including failed attempts at the Pacific Crest Trail, two winter bail outs of the Long Trail, and a botched try at the Hayduke Trail. Gathman reveals his easy-going, free-spirited approach to hiking, bouncing from mountain range to mountain range in search of the best conditions and most beautiful scenery. When the trail doesn’t pan out, Viking quickly and easily changes course, sometimes ending up at Burning Man.
Viking reveals the long list of places he will go as soon as quarantine lifts, what luxury item he always put in his pack, and which Triple Crown trail he can’t wait to revisit. Gregarious, spontaneous, and untethered to conventional life’s responsibilities, Viking reminds us why hiking is so much fun.
Follow the Real Hiking Viking on Instagram or look him up on his website.
Episode 2 Highlights with the Real Hiking Viking
- 2:00, Viking talks about his combat tours to Iraq, one as a Marine Scout Sniper
- 2:30, Viking explains the meaning of his trail name the Real Hiking Viking
- 5:30, Viking talks about his introduction to thru-hiking culture
- 12:12, Viking talks about why he’s chomping at the bit to get back to the Continental Divide Trail
- 14:45, Viking takes on the Appalachian Trail in winter, and how that trip was the pinnacle of danger for him
- 27:15: Viking touches on the visiting the Jordan Trail in the Middle East in early 2019
- 29:25: Learn why 2019 was a “train wreck” for Viking, felt like getting boxed by Mike Tyson
- 41:11, As soon as quarantine ends, Viking is headed to a whole bunch of trails, listen to which ones are on top of his list
- 46:60, Viking reveals the luxury item that he always takes with him
- 47:15, Viking tells us what kind of music motivates him on the trail
- 49:00, Find out the biggest town meal Viking ever ate
- 52:15, Shanty asks about Viking’s cinnamon-colored beard
Next Episode: Adventurer Andrew Skurka Talks Backcountry Navigation
In Out and Back’s next episode, Shanty catches up with backcountry navigation expert Andrew Skurka. Widely known for
making up his own unique and burly long-distance hiking adventures, Skurka has more 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.
Last Episode: Record-Setting Thru-Hiker Heather “Anish” Anderson
In case you missed it, go back and check out Out and Back’s debut episode, featuring record-setting thru-hiker Heather “Anish” Anderson.
Shanty dives deep with Anderson, who spells out the complex set of factors that drove her to accomplish speed records on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Arizona Trail, as well as become one of a handful of athletes to nab all three of America’s long trails, some 7,500+ miles of hiking, in a single calendar year.
Listen in to find out what drove Anderson, a self-described overweight and unathletic kid, to subject herself to unimaginable sufferfests, ultimately becoming one of the backcountry’s most celebrated athletes.
Meet the Host of the Out and Back Podcast: 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.