Q&A with The Hike Guy

One hundred hikes in 240 days. It’s quite a lofty goal.

Yet it was one Kolby Kirk set out and achieved in 2009. Since that time, he has continued to satiate his voracious appetite for all things outdoors. To further explore how he took to the trails and lost 25 pounds, Mr. Kirk shares his story of goal-setting, blogging and sheer perseverance.

What made you decide to hike 100 times in 2009?

In May, I was out of shape and not willing to spend time in boring, sterilized gyms. I was stuck in a pattern of working, vegging on the couch, then repeating the cycle. I’d have moments of strenuous activity from time to time but nothing on a regular basis. I also wanted to agree to a resolution that would be tough but still doable if I dedicated myself to it. A resolution that would take a lot of time and effort throughout the year.

So on May 4, after thinking about it for a couple of days, I came up with the goal to hike 100 times before the end of the year. I created a website to post updates. It didn’t take long to realize that this goal meant hiking every 60 hours for the rest of the year, so I got on the trail the next day, May 5. For the next 240 days, I was either hiking or thinking about hiking. I became quite obsessed, really. I stuck to a schedule as much as possible, but there were some rough times as well, like hiking in the rain or really early in the morning before work because I had to get another hike in. I’m lucky to have some good friends that helped me along the way, motivating me to continue. Some even joined me on the trail.

I also stuck to a set of rules I created: a hike was considered more than two miles and off pavement. I never considered setting an upper limit, so some of my hikes were backpacking trips of over 10 to 15 miles. Through thick and thin, I was able to complete my 2009 goal on Dec. 30 with a group of thirty friends, many of whom I had met on hikes through the year.

What did you do in 2010?

For 2010, I took what I learned from the 100 Hikes project, and instead of trying to complete a certain number of hikes, I aimed to complete 500 trail miles. With a new goal came a new site: thehikeguy.com. I also wanted to introduce others to the wonders of hiking, so I resolved to get 150 people onto the trail with me, using my site to promote the great outdoors. Throughout 2009, my hiking goals took me to locations I had never thought I’d ever visit, and 2010 had even more surprises.

When I think back on what I’ve seen in the past 12 months, I feel so lucky to have seen so many amazing natural wonders. I’m continually amazed on the extraordinary natural beauty the world has to offer. And so after hiking throughout California, Utah and Oregon, my journey to complete 500 miles took me across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. That’s where I hiked my 500th mile on the famous Routeburn Track in early December—the day before my 35th birthday.

What’s your goal for 2011?

You know, it was only last week that I started to think about what I should do next year. I’m considering a goal to publish a coffee-table book of my hiking photos. Since May of 2009, I took well over 35,000 photos on about 930 miles of trails.

If you could suggest one hike, where would it be and why?

That’s a very good question and a very difficult one to answer! The place that immediately pops to mind is Buckskin Gulch in southern Utah. It is reported as being the longest slot canyon in the world, and every turn of the 18+ mile canyon is stunningly beautiful. Although you can see just a small slit of sky through most of the canyon, the sunlight plays with the fire-like colors of the canyon walls like nowhere else I’ve seen.

For two days, my friends and I only met five other souls on the entire backpacking trip. I loved the hike as much for its beauty as I did for its challenges. Waist-deep mud puddles, Class 3 bouldering and a lot of river hiking. I even found myself stuck up to the waist in quicksand at one point. Backpacker Magazine calls Buckskin Gulch one of the most dangerous hikes in America.

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you on a hike?

The strangest thing has to be the time someone recognized me on the trail. My 100 Hikes project brought me to Onion Valley in the John Muir Wilderness, which is 250 miles from home. On the trail towards Kearsarge Pass, a backpacker stopped me and asked me which hike number I was on! He said he was following my progress on the site.

If you could hike anywhere tomorrow, where would it be and why?

I’d love to hike in Patagonia. The Torres del Paine Circuit looks extraordinary and to see the incredible and iconic landscape with my own eyes would be a dream come true.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to go on 100 hikes next year?

If it’s a specific number of hikes or a certain number of miles you want to accomplish, write down your goals before you start. Keeping written resolutions helps to affirm your goals and hold you to them. Posting them online like I did at 100hikes.com and thehikeguy.com helps you to stick with them as well. It’s amazing what a little fear of failure and/or embarrassment will help you to accomplish!

What hiking boots do you wear and why?

I wear a pair of Lowa Renegade GTX. Why? Simply because they fit. Wearing a size 15 makes my boot selection slim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.