Jolly Green Giant (JGG) is an avid outdoorsman and tenured vocal lightweight backpacking blogger. Residing in central Virginia within mere minutes from the Appalachian Trail and some of the oldest mountains in the contiguous United States, JGG escapes to the trail year-round. A former Boy Scout and backpacker since 8 years old, JGG has hiked the over 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park (most multiple times), over 80% of the trails in Virginia, as well as trails in North Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and California. He is an active member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy with plans to be a leader in the Boy Scout community once his two sons (ages 3 & 5) reach eligible ages for participation. His kit generally ranges from 8 to 12 pounds which he finds suitable for all weather situations and embraces tarps, tents and hammocks as well as frameless and framed cuben, silnylon and dyneema packs. His stove of choice is a titanium caldera cone with esbit or alcohol, he uses one of several quilts and he is more than happy to entertain job or gear testing offers in support of the outdoor community.
JGG nearly “fell” into lightweight backpacking in approximately 1998 after a severe windstorm almost toppled his tent off the top of a waterfall while he was sleeping inside. At the time, he was hauling a 60 pound kit which included a four person tent, a 1970’s sleeping pad which was believed to be a sleeping bag prior to unrolling it for the night, a miners light, a Coleman two burner stove (sans fuel) and nearly every piece of camping gear he could borrow or buy. He even had a deck of cards despite hiking solo. This abundance of gear (and senselessness) did nothing but hurt his knees, back and spirit while winning a gold medal for sweat, discomfort and misery. The one piece of gear he lacked was a 1.5 liter water bottle which apparently fell off in the parking lot at the onset of the trip leaving JGG waterless until the following day. Despite his Darwin-award winning planning and implementation, he was able to stumble his way for an unimpressive 7 miles before nightfall and exhaustion, but not before failing to recognize the dangers associated with pitching a tent at the top of the largest waterfall in the park – literally only 3 feet from the edge. In the middle of the night, an unexpected severe wind and rain storm caused the tent to stand on its side leaving JGG sprawled out like a starfish not knowing which way he needed to lean towards safety. When the winds died down shortly before sunrise, he packed up his gear, photographed the poor site choice to ensure evidence of his foolishness, and headed back towards the car. Dehydrated, exhausted, wet and likely hypothermic, JGG failed to see a bear cub about 7 feet up on a passing tree. Instead of smartly giving it space, he took out his camera and began taking pictures approximately 5 feet from the bruin apparently ready to put the bear in a shoebox to take home for show and tell. It was only after hearing a huff did he realize he also hadn’t seen the cubs’ mother who was standing behind a row of rhododendron bushes just 20 feet away off the trail. By the raised hair on her back and aggressive huffing and muscle tensing, it was clear the sow wasn’t all too happy and was in deep contemplation of a hiker kabob. The sow charged causing JGG to ditch his pack and run up the trail while simultaneously testing the fortitude of his colon. Returning a short time later both for his pack and car keys, JGG found his pack completely untouched and the area without bears, but his convenience store 35mm camera had been torn to shreds destroying any evidence of the evening and bear encounter. JGG did not backpack for the next two years and instead invested heavily in common sense, gear and technique study, and long overdue prayer time for sparing his life from being found in bear scat or at the bottom of a waterfall, for keeping his story out of the papers, and for not forcing his family to change their names to avoid association. Consequently, he now has a related library of books, videos podcasts and a lifetime of experiences to ensure he doesn’t need to take out an insurance policy each time he hits the trail and can generally offer solid tested advice.
Why “Jolly Green Giant”? The good-humored JGG is 6’5” and almost all of his gear is (unintentionally) green, although the name Jolly Green Giant has long since been assigned from childhood to adulthood by many even without having knowledge of his trail name simply because of his height and propensity to elicit for a good laugh.
Home: Troy, VA
Outdoor Organization Involvement: Appalachian Trail Conservancy | Member at Appalachian Mountain Club | Member at Nature Conservancy Sierra Club
Favorite Training Ground: The Blue Ridge Mountains can be viewed from his doorstep and Shenandoah National Park is a mere 30 minute drive. Arguably western scenes are more robust, but there is such tremendous history in Appalachia and an abundance of wildlife that it is a tough to beat this destination for a quick escape while maintaining a decent career. Most of the rocks that form the Blue Ridge Mountains are ancient granitic charnockites, metamorphosed volcanic formations, and sedimentary limestones which began forming over 400 million years ago…older than the Rockies or Himalayas, and boasts the highest summits in the eastern United States. There are over 125 peaks exceeding 5,000 feet. In all his outings throughout this area regardless of duration, he has never once been unable to see a black bear, coyote, fox, possum, raccoon, wild turkey, song bird, or whitetail deer with wild boar and grouse being a little less common.
Current Plans: First and foremost, his current plans are to raise two wonderful sons who have no choice but to listen to their dad babble on incessantly about all things backpacking and outdoors while making stick teepees and practicing with different fire-making implements in the backyard. In the next year, he plans to solo hike the 105 miles of Shenandoah National Park in one outing followed by the Long Trail in Vermont and John Muir Trail. He hopes to hike one or all three initially or again with his two sons once they are able to shoulder a pack and hike for an extended period. Multiday outings in Maine, Montana and Idaho are on the radar.