Connor is 24 years old, graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2014. Five days after graduation, he began his successful thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Originally from New Orleans, Connor moved all over the country throughout his childhood but after completing PCT he moved to Portland, Oregon. Although he doesn't think he will be leaving the beautiful PNW any time soon, he could certainly see himself in a few Colorado trail towns, like Salida, Lake City or Pagosa Springs.
How did you get your trail name?
I got the name Bard for a few different reasons. I’ve always been a storyteller and I’d just received a degree in English with a focus on writing. I’d often sing while hiking, especially in the beginning of the PCT, and I carried a small guitar strapped to my backpack.
How did you become interested in completing long distance trails?
I was raised in the suburbs of various major cities. I’ve never once been camping with my family. As I got older my favorite writers led me to immerse myself in nature. As college was winding to a close, I had no concrete plans, so I figured embarking on a long-distance trail would allow me the space and solitude to better understand myself and to determine the direction I wanted to steer my life. It seemed a very romantic endeavor.
Who did you travel with on the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail?
On the PCT, I hiked with Don Creosote the whole way to Canada. Don and I played in a band together in college, but hadn’t been all that close of friends before the trail. When I decided I was going thru, I made a post on Facebook asking whether anyone wanted to join in. A lot of people said yes, but only DC actually pulled the trigger.
On the CDT, I started at Chief Mountain with three other PCT Class of ’14 alumni – Laugh Track, Top Shelf and Anchor. By the Bob Marshall Wilderness, we had linked up with Quick Ham and Recon. A few sections later, Smokey (’14) caught up with us. We all stuck together for the first thousand miles, which I don’t think any of us expected. The rest of the way I fluctuated between hiking solo and hiking with any combination of those delightful pieces of hikertrash.
What did you enjoy most about meeting people on the trail?
Meeting other thru hikers is one of the greatest joys in life. Long trails are equalizers – on trail there is no status of any kind, no race or gender, etc. There is an immediate kinship with those who are likewise suffering along a journey of which the destination isn’t the purpose.
You meet a lot more people than other hikers, though, especially on the CDT (because there aren’t many of us). A thru-hike will land you in situations with people you otherwise likely wouldn’t have ever met. It’s so fulfilling to get out of one’s little bubble of like-mindedness. I live in Portland, Oregon. Without my thru hikes under my belt, I might have told you that I had little to nothing in common with a coal miner from Wyoming. On a thru hike, though, you default to finding the common ground you share with any given person.
What was more exciting: the start or the finish and why?
The beginning was definitely more exciting than the end. I’m all too familiar with the feelings and aftermath of finishing a thru-hike. Reintegrating to civilization is a tough process for most hikers. Sure, reaching Mexico felt like a great accomplishment, and I was relieved to not have to carry my stinky pack or eat dehydrated food, but the freedom and lightness that the thru-hiking life brings are beyond comparison.
If you had to summarize the CDT in 5 words, what would they be?
Sublime, humbling, empowering, home & …cows.
Why did you choose SOBO (southbound)?
The timeframe of going south worked for me, whereas NoBo wouldn’t have. That being said, I’d choose going SoBo on the CDT ten times out of ten. The weather is just on your side, so long as you get through Colorado in time.
What was your favorite meal? Worst meal?
Up until the very last week, I was always excited to eat pasta with red sauce, veggies and Field Roast vegan sausage. I got sick of cous cous real quickly, though. It’s just too hard to eat enough cous cous to meet caloric needs.
Breakfast hot or cold?
I mostly ate bars for breakfast. Never oatmeal. Tried grits, lasted a week.
Do you have a favorite bar? The chewing kind.
I can’t say I really enjoy any bars anymore haha the one snack I don’t think I’d ever tire of is Mesquite Lime flavored Primal Vegan Jerky.
What is your favorite pub in Portland….I’m often down that way?
Now that is a tough question – there are so many amazing establishments. I suppose my two most heavily trafficked joints to grab a pint are Breakside Brewery in the Woodlawn neighborhood and the Hungry Tiger down on SE 12th and Ash.
What are the craziest questions you have been asked asked?
People love to ask whether I carry a gun (I don’t – and I’ve only ever met one thru-hiker who does). I’ve been asked if I hunt and forage for all my food, and if I’ve ever had to fight a bear…
What did you learn most from the CDT specifically?
No challenge is insurmountable. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re capable of. There’s no shame in bailing off a mountain in sketchy conditions – it’ll still be there when the weather clears. Solo hiking can foster the most growth, but community and love are the best things in life.
What did you miss most while on trail?
The people I love back home.
What inspired you while out on the trail?
I was constantly inspired by the folks I met up with who are taking risks and working on bold climate action in their communities.
What was your biggest challenge looking back?
The biggest challenges were being away from loved ones for so long and trying to balance a thru-hike with conducting Hike the Divide: setting up interviews, filming, blogging, etc. It’s tough to stay present when constantly trying to develop content and filling up “zero days” with work.
What is next for you? AT? C2C?
I have no idea, honestly. After the PCT I said I was done thru-hiking… so much for that. I do feel drawn to the Hayduke and Pacific Northwest Trails, as well as the Te Araroa in New Zealand. I don’t expect I’ll be thru-hiking anything in 2017.
What does Hike The Divide represent?
Hike the Divide is all about fostering community, kindling hope and overcoming ideological differences in the effort to ensure a livable future for ourselves, future generations and the biosphere at large. We’re inundated with bad news these days, so Hike the Divide aims to provide stories of positive change.
What inspired you to make climate change awareness your mission?
I see myself as an empathic person. I see the many struggles going on in our country and across the world, from women’s rights to racism to poverty, and I feel compelled to fight for justice. The thing is, global climate change will only exacerbate these problems. Think of xenophobia and the ongoing refugee crises: what will happen when global sea level rises even by a single meter and the entire population of Bangladesh, among others, will be displaced?
Furthermore, climate science is indicating that we have a limited window
of time to keep the effects manageable. While of course it’d be ideal to address all our issues right away, most will still be solvable fifteen years from now, whereas what scientists deem “catastrophic” global average temperature rise will be irreversible by then. The good news is that most justice issues are tied up in the same factors that are holding us back from enacting meaningful climate action, so we can knock out a few birds with one stone.
What else would you like included related to climate change awareness?
Awareness is only the first step. Most of us accept the science on climate change, yet we don’t take steps to tackle this challenge. We need to recognize that we are the people we’ve been waiting for – only we the people can ensure that we, as a society, make the necessary changes. That’s a good thing, because all we have to do to utilize our power is recognize that we hold it. The easiest thing you can do is to talk about these issues with the people around you: your loved ones, your neighbors, people in your community you don’t know well. Talk about the reality and dangers of climate change, but more importantly, talk about what you envision for the future and how you might go about securing that future.
Yes, cutting down on fossil fuel consumption and installing efficient lightbulbs are good practices, but personal habits are only the tip of the iceberg. We have to transition to renewable energy systems and sustainable practices across the board, and we must demand these changes of our representatives. Even going vegan won’t make as much a difference as demanding that your representatives prioritize climate action (though it does help a whole lot). Otro Mundo es Posible – another world is possible.