Who are some of the people in the outdoor community, either past or present who you either consider mentors, or from whom you have gained knowledge about the outdoors, or inspiration to get out there?
That would be a long list, but here are a few standouts.
- Colin Fletcher, author of the Compete Walker IV and the Man Who Walked Through Time whose books inspired me to start backpacking
- Christine Benton, an Appalachian Mountain Club leader who I’ve hiked a lot with in New York State
- Chris White, author of Hiking and Climbing in Japan who helped me get into winter hiking and backpacking
- Stephen Conlin, who was one of my teachers in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s leadership course
- Steve Smith, editor of the AMC’s White Mountain Guide, who got me interested in bushwhacking and off-trail travel
- Joe Comuzzi, who’s been teaching compass navigation and off-trail travel for the AMC for the past 30 years
- Ken Hodges, a friend I bushwhack with, who’s the best navigator I’ve ever hiked with
- Andrew Skurka, author of the Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, who I’ve guided trips with in the White Mountains
- Alex Nedzel and Michael Schwartz, two AMC leaders I hike year-round and do AMC committee work with
- Ross Gilmore and the Woodtrekker blog, which I read often about woodcraft
- there must be hundreds of others…
What is the typical duration of one of your trips, and how much distance do you tend to cover on such trips?
Most of my backpacking trips are under three days in length, but I also do a lot of day hikes too. I try to get out and do a 3 week trip every two-to-three years. I typically hike about 15 miles per day and up to 250 miles on my longer trips, but I’ve never been that interested in doing a long distance thru-hike and consider myself much more of a destination hiker.
What is your favorite instructional book about the outdoors?
Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels. It’s a book about how to recognize the natural and human impacts that have affected the history and evolution of a forest. It’s a mesmerizing blend of history and conservation ecology that will change the way you look at a forest forever.
What is your vision of the woodsman, or the outdoorsman, at least as related to you and what you hope to achieve?
Good question. I think my goal as an outdoorsman is to be self-reliant in the wilderness, while constantly challenging myself to acquire new skills. I really enjoy learning new things, and I’m constantly expanding the breadth of my practical knowledge by applying what I learn on the trips I take.
Do you hunt, and if so, how do you incorporate that into your trips? If not, is there a specific reason?
I don’t hunt, but it’s something I looked into recently because it uses so-many off trail navigation skills. But, I think I’m going to be concentrating on small stream trout fishing instead over the next few years. Fishing has a lower barrier to entry. and I like the idea of bushwhacking to streams in Northern New England that are “inconvenient” to access any other way. Of course, fishing is hunting in a way.
How much was your pack base weight on your last overnight trip?
I have no idea. Probably 15-16 pounds. I’ve had to switch to a more durable backpack (the Unaweep from Paradox Packs) because many of my trips now include an off-trail, bushwhacking segment that rips through ultralight backpacks like butter. I also don’t really have a fixed gear list anymore. I like to take different gear on different trips depending on the terrain and objectives I have during a hike.
Have you been offered the opportunity to film any TV shows related to your outdoor pursuits? If yes, have you thought of accepting them? If no, would you be interested in such an offer?
No I haven’t been offered. Yes, I’d be delighted to, but I doubt there much audience demand to watch a mid-aged guy with little hair on his head putter about in the woods and mountains.
What is your preferred shelter system for winter trips?
A freestanding, single wall Black Diamond Firstlight Tent which weighs under 3 pounds and is really fast to set up.
Are you a member of any outdoor organizations whether they be hunting, backpacking, etc?
I lead about a dozen hiking and backpacking trips every year as a 4 season leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club and I’m the treasurer of the Boston Chapter’s Hiking and Backpacking Committee which oversees the activities of 400 volunteer leaders. I also belong to an old ski club in the White Mountains that provides me with very inexpensive lodging year-round when I’m not camping out up north.
Have you ever found yourself in a survival or emergency situation while in the woods, and if so, how did you cope?
I guess that depends on what you mean by survival or emergency situations. I’ve been involved in quite a few incidents as a Samaritan care provider, although most were not truly life threatening. Except for one time when I came across a guy who’d had a cardiac arrest while climbing Mt Washington. I stopped and helped a group of other hikers passing by (all trained in emergency care or wilderness first aid) apply CPR and assisted breathing to keep him alive until he could be evacuated. Unfortunately, when search and rescue arrived (we were less than two miles from a popular trail head). they pronounced him dead on the scene. It was really heart-wrenching because he died in front of his two daughters. Incidentally, I’m re-certifying for CPR/AED this week with the Red Cross.
Why do you blog?
There are many reasons, so I’ll cover the main ones here. I find that writing about something, a new skill or a trip I’ve taken, helps to cement the memories in my mind forever. There’s something about telling the story that helps me remember the experience, the sensations, and the thoughts I was having during it. I also thrive on the comments that people leave in reaction to my posts and the community of hikers and backpackers that’s developed around SectionHiker.com over the past 7 years. I’ve learned so much from the people who visit my web site. Many are like family.
About Ross Gilmore
Ross Gilmore is the author of Woodtrekker, a blog about axes, knives, axe use, woodworking, bushcraft, wilderness survival, camping, and hiking. Ross gave Philip the Liebster award last year, and this interview contains Philip’s responses to the Liebster interview questions.