Backpacker

HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE

The Family Man

Will “Akuna” Robinson, NOBO, 2018

Before he was “Akuna,” before he’d hiked a single mile, Will Robinson was a U.S. Army veteran with a chronic wrist injury from the Iraq War, a PTSD diagnosis, and a 12-year streak of self-medicating to release himself from both. He was isolated, alone, and didn’t know how to help himself. Then, by chance, he came across the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s PCT memoir Wild on TV and felt a spark. Three weeks later, he was standing at the PCT’s southern marker outside Campo, California with the desert stretched out before him and a head full of doubt. He hiked 1,600 miles, walking off the war in the tradition of Earl Schaffer, the AT’s first thru-hiker, until he dislocated his knee on Mt. Whitney in California—another remnant injury from the war. But the man who returned to his home in Louisiana wasn’t the same man who left. He had found his purpose and community. The next year, in 2017, he thru-hiked the PCT. The year after, the AT, but he came with a new mission: To help those who needed it, to dispense advice and encouragement, and to be a trail mentor. In 2019, he became the first recorded African American man to become a Triple Crowner.

1. Anxious at the Outset

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

The shuttle had just dropped me I told myself. I wanted to somehow give back to the hiking community that had given me a new life, and I wanted to overcome the PTSD-fueled anxiety I still felt around big groups of people. This would be a different kind of test for me.

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