New Hampshire native and Point6 Ambassador, Whitney "Allgood" La Ruffa has seen his fair share of trails. We got the chance to catch up with him and get his advice for aspiring thru-hikers. Enjoy!
“Allgood” crossing over the outflow of borax lake in the Alvord Desert along the Oregon Desert Trail, Photo by Katie “Swept Away” Pickett
Is there a story behind it?
My first long-distance hike (thru-hike) was the Appalachian trail in 1996, whenever we were faced with bad weather, or an adverse situation my response was generally “it’s allgood”, and after walking days in a blizzard and always responding to each mishap with “it’s allgood”, the name was give to me. I do feel that it embodies who I am in many ways, I tend to be very positive, optimistic, and roll with the punches while I’m out on the trail.
What inspired you to start thru-hiking?
My time in Boy Scouts in New Hampshire inspired me to start thru-hiking. At age 10 ½ I climbed Mt Chocorua in NH. This isn’t a peak on the AT but that day as I sat atop the summit my scout master, Jim Walker, told me about the Appalachian Trail, which was a continuous footpath from Georgia to Maine. From that day on I started dreaming of one day hiking the trail, I was a big fan of the book “My Side of the Mountain” and I thought that hiking the AT would be like living in that story.
At age 14 I tried to convince my parents to let me go thru-hike the AT but they made me stay in school and instead made a deal with me. If I could figure out a way to graduate high school early, pay my own way on the trail for 6 months, and still attend college on time that fall, then I could go. They figured I would never pull it off. Boy, did I ever show them.
These CDT socks have kept “Allgood’s” feet nice and warm every night while on the trail since 2016, Photo by Whitney “Allgood” La Ruffa
Allgood is all smiles with warm feet in camp along the CDT in 2016. Phot by Moni “Princess Cheezy” Nierholz
Astral TR1 Junction or the TR1 Merge based terrain. The soles on these shoes are amazingly grippy. The toe box has ample room for my feet. They last me at least 500 -700 miles, and best of all is the company does all it can to make a highly sustainable line of products and their ethos line up great with mine.
Best trail magic you’ve ever eaten?
A home-made ice-cold lemon bar from a cooler in the middle of the New Mexico desert.
The best trail magic ever! That soft blue lunch bag cooler held the most amazing homemade lemon bars one has ever eaten on a hot day in the desert. Photo by Unknown Trail Angel
What trails have you tackled?
Appalachian Trail, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, Tahoe Rime Trail, Chinook Trail (first ever thru-hike of this trail), Sierra High Route, Continental Divide Trail, Trans San Diego County Trail, and the Oregon Desert Trail. I have also sectioned hiked a few other lesser known trails and major sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Most recent thru-hike?
Oregon Desert Trail, this was one of my favorite hikes because it required long stretches of off trail navigation, is located in the lowest population density in the lower 48 states, has stars like no other, required me to push myself harder than before, and was an awesome way to see the state I have the pleasure of calling home.
“Allgood” and a large tumble weed along the Oregon Desert Trail, Photo by Katie “Salty” Gerber
Right now I am planning to thru-hike the Arizona Trail in the fall of 2020. Working in the outdoor industry has shifted my hiking season into the fall when business is slower, so I am planning more desert thru-hikes over the next decade.
What would surprise us most about what’s in your pack?
My tiny hand, it goes on every hike with me and helps lighten up the mood at times.
What’s in your backpack? “Butter Cup” (left) carried a small penguin the entire length of the CDT and “Allgood” (center) carried his beloved tiny hand, “Princess Cheezy” (Right) only had room for more snacks. Photo by Unknown Day Hiker
Allgood’s tiny hand kept him entertained while hiking along the trail. Photo by Whitney “Allgood” La Ruffa
Favorite trail town? Why?
Lima, MT (CDT), in my opinion it’s the perfect trail town. The owner at Mount View Motel gives you a free ride to and from the trail which is along hitch along I-15 - hooray I don’t have to hitch for hours! The town is tiny with everything a hiker needs within a two block radius. The gas station has a good resupply selection of hiker food including freeze-dried meals, the Post Office has incoming and outgoing mail for resupply and bounce boxes, and Jan’s Café has good food. Make sure to get the Ham Steak at breakfast, it’s the size of a dinner plate and awesome! The town bar, Peat Hotel & Steakhouse is legendary on the CDT as it’s home to cook-your-own-steak and includes a salad, potato and all the fixings to make their hand-cut-to-order steaks just the way you like them.
In 2016 I took a zero day in Lima, MT and it was perfect! I resupplied in about an hour including going to the PO, ate until I was stuffed, did my laundry and loafed around watching the summer Olympics for an entire day. The compact size of the town made for one of the most hassle free zero days of my life and allowed me to truly rest and relax.
Grilling your own steak in Lima, MT is a long-time thru-hiker tradition Phot by Whitney “Allgood” La Ruffa
Advice to aspiring thru-hikers: How did you prepare for your first thru-hike?
Back in the 1990’s there weren’t trail journals, Facebook groups, or other online forums to help one plan and learn about the hike. Instead I got a mailing list form the Appalachian Trail Conference of past thru-hikers who were willing to help new hikers. I was pen pals with a few thru-hiker alums who helped me do some planning. I also read Earl Schaeffer’s book ,Walking with Spring, about 12 times prior to going. I stayed in good shape by walking daily with my pack on to get my legs strong enough to go, and I planned out every mail drop I thought I needed.
What one mistake do you wish you could take back from your first hike?
Don’t over-plan and over-buy food for your mail drops! After about 45 days of eating the same food, I was ready for change, but I had bought food for months and months. The result was having to re-buy food and ditch whatever I couldn’t stomach anymore. Besides costing me lots of money, it was also very wasteful. Luckily the hikers behind me benefited by getting what I didn’t want out of the hiker box?
“Allgood” was the king of chocolate along the Sierra High Route in 2015, Phot by Liz “Snorkel” Thomas
What trail do you recommend starting with?
I would recommend starting with a shorter thru-hike if possible to make sure you really will enjoy being out there for an extended period of time before you make radical life changes like leaving a job. The top 3 I would recommend to start out with would be the Wonderland Trail, the Tahoe Rim Trail and if you can get the permit, the John Muir Trail.
Final words of wisdom?
Whether you can afford the time and money to take off for months at time on a thru-hike or can only manage to get away for a weekend, at the end of the day the most important thing is to get outside in our natural world. We all benefit physical and mentally from time spent outside in nature and I truly believe the world would be a better place if everyone took a hike from time to time and enjoyed the world at the speed of humankind (roughly 2.5-3mph).