Joshua Ebert

Trail Runner | Misadventurist | Storyteller

Category: Adventure (page 2 of 3)

Have you ever read a book that changed your worldview? For me, it was “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Paul Abbey. This first book that I read by Abbey spawned a love for the man and the myth of “Cactus Ed,” sending me down a dozen different paths of topics of interest. So I thought I would tell you about my three favorite Abbey books from those that I’ve read so far.


I was turned on to the Monkey Wrench Gang when I was 18 or 19 years old, a very impressionable time in life. The book focuses on four individuals who come together to wage war against the destruction of the wilderness. Ultimately it culminates in them attempting to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam, something that Abbey actively campaigned against. The book is most notable for inspiring many acts of eco-sabotage since then.

What this book did for me was help me realize the importance of protecting wild areas. I loved being in wild places, but I never thought about protecting them and the wildlife that occupied them. Abbey, who was originally from Pennsylvania, fell in love with the wide expanses of wilderness provided by the American Southwest. He was afraid that the west would become crowded and overdeveloped like the East Coast and fought tirelessly to preserve it.

Next, I read “Desert Solitaire.” In this book, he flexes his philosophical muscle as he recounts his time as a backcountry ranger at then Arches National Monument. Abbey had a master’s degree in Philosophy, so he would often observe and remark upon environmentalism and society through unique philosophical lenses. This is where I was first exposed to the ideas of anarchism. I’m not talking about smashing something while drunk and listening to the “Dead Kennedys” yelling anarchy! I am talking about a more self-reliant, small community version of anarchy, which is really just an extreme version of libertarianism where governance is reduced to local government.

Edward Abbey as an anarchist did not trust the government and has some great quotes about that stance. This has led to people like Cliven Bundy and his militiamen to misuse some of his anarchist quotes. Similar to the Bundy family, Abbey too had a beef (pun intended) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Ironically, the Bundy’s anger with the BLM was how they thought that they should be allowed to graze their cattle on public lands for free, while Abbey was angry with the BLM for allowing ranchers and other industries to destroy these lands.

“The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chainsaws. It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it. Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” – Edward Abbey


Since those first two books, I have read several others. “The Brave Cowboy,” which was turned into a great Kirk Douglas film called “Lonely Are the Brave,” and “Hayduke Lives” the sequel to “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” This brings me to my third favorite book so far, “The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel.” This book is semi-autobiographical in nature as the main character’s life shares more than a passing resemblance to the author’s. The reader follows Henry Lightcap as he decides to return to his family home in West Virginia after his wife leaves him. Leaving Arizona on this journey, the reader is treated to memories of past romances and adventures that lead up to the current point in Lightcap’s life.

Throughout “The Fool’s Progress,” Abbey is a bit of a curmudgeon as he argues against technological progress and how society has forgotten its wild nature. One of the more memorable moments in the book is when Lightcap’s father lays out an argument against America’s involvement in the Second World War. Until then, I had never heard about people being against us joining WWII since our involvement is typically lauded and our cultural narrative is that we came in and were the heroes of the war (Note: To my readers from places other than America, I realize that the story of WWII is much more complicated than that and heroic actions are not just limited to America’s actions in the war).

Also memorable in the book is a funny bit in the beginning where Lightcap calls the nearby Air Force base’s commander to complain about fighter jets flying over his house. He identifies himself as being the rank of “Private First Class retired” and demands all honors and respect that rank deserves. As someone who served in the U.S. military, this cracked me up since Private First Class is one of the lower ranks in the rank system.

I think I identified with this book since I also grew up in rural Appalachia and longed to experience the Rocky Mountains or the Southwestern desert. For my younger self, there was a lot of hero worship of this man who was an anarchist cowboy, a rogue, and an adventurer. He did not fear to be alone in the wilderness, but instead reveled in it.

A final note: Part of growing up is realizing that your heroes are human and that you should incorporate what was good about them into your life while leaving their flaws behind. The picture that Abbey presented of himself was not entirely accurate, as he cultivated a mythology around himself. An example is that he claimed to live in rural Oracle, Arizona, when really he lived in the more urban area of Tuscan. He also advocated that people use direct action methods to preserve the wilderness but there is no evidence that he himself participated in such. The truth is that Edward Abbey was an alcoholic and a philanderer. He died in 1989 of esophageal hemorrhaging connected to his drinking and lifestyle while married to his 5th wife. Those who were close to him often had tumultuous relationships with him, as was most famously the case with Douglas Peacock. Peacock is most often cited as the inspiration for Abbey’s most famous character, George W. Hayduke. Both the character and the man were Green Berets in Vietnam who returned to the American West suffering from addiction and PTSD, angered that it was not the wild place they had left. Peacock did not like that Abbey had hijacked his story and made him an eco-warrior icon. In the end, Peacock was at Abbey’s side when he died and went on to be one of the few involved in his illegal burial.

Arches - Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey opened my eyes to see the world in a different way. The spirit of his works continues to influence the decisions I make and the lifestyle I choose to lead. That said, I do not agree with him 100-percent. For instance, I am not a radical eco-warrior nor do I agree with all their tactics. I instead believe in the democratic process and do not attempt to physically destroy public or private property. I work to advocate and educate others on why wilderness should be preserved. I am not an anarchist. I believe in society and think that a central government is necessary.

Wow! As I review this post, I realize it went long and got sort of political. This was not my intention when I started the post, but writing about Abbey and his ideas drew me back in. I continue to find him very relevant to my thinking about current issues. Also, you got to learn a bit more about what I believe.

So these are my favorite books by Abbey, what are yours? Or, is there an author that inspired your life and maybe changed how you saw the world? Please share your thoughts and comments below. Thank you for reading.

jungle & river trails

Currently I am in the planning stages of introducing my wife to backpacking. She loves hiking but has never been camping. So now I’m attempting to devise the perfect backpacking trip as an introduction. A trip where everything goes exactly right is basically impossible, especially since the definition of adventure is “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Looking at my last backpacking trip, what stands out in those memories beyond the time spent with my friends, is the scene of thunderheads coming up river towards our camp and being driven from my hammock to spend the night snuggled up with my dog in an attempt to stay warm and dry.


Most people have recommended that I start with a simple car camping trip, but that is like comparing riding Splash Mountain to running the Colorado River. The real experience is walking in, setting up, and making do with what you carried in on your back. So picking somewhere where I think I can control the variables is important.

For that reason I’m going with somewhere I’m fairly familiar with, Uwharrie National Forest. I have previously run Uwharrie Mountain Run there twice along with a few training runs so I feel fairly comfortable there. I know there are several great spots along streams that are flat and provide great campsites.

All that I am waiting for is a weekend where we are not busy and the weather cooperates. Then the adventure is on! Now I do not want it to come across as if my wife is high maintenance, which is far from the truth. In reality, it is my own neuroticism that wants it to be perfect. It’s like when you show someone your favorite movie and you keep looking at their face to see if they are enjoying it for the same reasons you love it. I think this is a common feeling as you attempt to share a passion with someone. I think part of it is an attempt to relive that first time again vicariously through your partner.

Hopefully this all works out as I want to start planning bigger backpacking trips for us so we can start exploring our National Parks. Whenever this introductory trip happens I will be sure to share the trip report here.

Have you introduced a partner to one of your passions? How did it go? What suggestions do you have? Please comment below, and any advice would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: Paul’s Boots has started their journey on the Appalachian Trail!



Happy Birthday

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, “Our National Parks”

In 1916, the United States Congress created the National Park Service (NPS) with the mission of protecting our National Parks for future generations. One hundred years later they continue their mission of preserving our countries most important places.

When people think of the NPS often it is of places like Yosemite or Yellowstone, but in reality, they protect so much more. Their mission has grown to include protecting our sacred places such as Pearl Harbor, the Gettysburg Battlefield, Valley Forge, and sites of the Civil Rights Movement. They are truly tasked with maintaining our history.

The men and women of the NPS are not just passionate curators our history, but also, they are rescuers, law enforcement officers, and educators. There are not many jobs with the description of teaching children about owls to apprehending armed criminals to scaling El Cap to bring home a stranded climbing party. In their storied 100-year history 32 Rangers have lost their lives on the job.

In 2015 alone over 307 million people visited a NPS location. Truly the men and women of the NPS have a monumental task at hand as they continue to maintain and educate visitors about these places.

So what can you do to help celebrate their centennial birthday? You can take the time to remind your representatives in Congress how much you appreciate our National Parks and that they too should endeavor to protect them. Second, and most important, visit the National Parks!

REI has teamed up with the NPS to help make it easier. Download the REI National Parks App, pick up a visitor’s pass and get out there and explore!

What is your favorite National Park and why? Share your stories. Please comment below.

Socks & Underwear

I thought it might be fun to talk about two important things that we all use but probably do not think about much. As someone who takes their gear seriously, I do a lot of research on what should be the best for me. So that means I have dedicated a fair amount of time to thinking about and researching who makes the best underwear and socks. So here are my current favorites.

Socks: They can make you or betray you!

To runners and backpackers, socks are important so for them, this is probably a no-brainer. As I forayed into running and taking my adventures to new heights, I came to realize that sheep would be your best friend. Merino wool by far makes the best socks! I started out buying a few pairs for running but eventually realized that all my socks needed to be merino wool.

I first bought a pair of SmartWool PhDs that I wore during an adventure race. Over the course of the race my team went from mountain biking to paddling down a river to a 14-mile trek to the finish. After coming out of the river, I paused to wring out my socks, put them back on and continued with my race. With wet feet and miles to cover I was a prime candidate for blisters, but the socks worked so well that I experienced none of these.

Since then I have bought merino wool socks from several different manufacturers, which have all worked equally well, but because SmartWool’s were my first, they hold a special place in my heart.

Underwear: A bad pair can ruin your life (well at least your trip)!

For years I mindlessly bought your standard cotton underwear without ever thinking, is there something better than this? Cotton has this great ability to hold in moisture and become like steel wool between your thighs. Also, during those years, I also continued to struggle with an incurable case of jock itch. Nothing worked, then one day I decided to try a pair of these fancy Under Armour underwear. This was the best decision I ever made–what I needed was proper moisture management and these did the trick.

For years, I wore Under Armour until a friend pointed me to the ExOfficio Give-and-Go underwear. This underwear was designed for the adventurer. They have an antimicrobial treatment to prevent bacteria from colonizing and can be washed in a sink. This makes them versatile enough that you only have to carry a couple pair on your adventure as long as you have time to wash and dry them on the fly.

So what do you think? Do you have any stories about the time your socks or underwear ruined your adventure? Please comment or share your stories below.

…But Are You Hearing Your Adventure?

But Are You

Popping in earbuds and going for a run seem to go hand in hand. A great up-tempo playlist will keep you cranking out the miles at a solid pace. I know that I really enjoy bombing down a technical hill while listening to the bombastic melodies of The Shell Corporation or Billy Talent, but on those runs am I really connecting with the natural world?

In the running community, the headphones debate will rage on for all eternity (or until implants replace headphones). I definitely see the merits of both sides of this debate because I have rules for whether or not a run is a headphones run. For me if I am running somewhere new, then I will definitely not wear headphones. Not only does it help me feel as if I am truly experiencing a place, but also it makes me more receptive to what is going on around me.

When I was visiting Portland, Oregon a few months ago I went for a short pre-dawn run (Like 4 a.m. pre-dawn) and started to enter an unlit park. As I started winding up a hill I started hearing voices and laughter coming from ahead of me. I stopped and moved into the shadows of some trees and waited. The laughter continued, like in a horror movie, but I could not exactly pinpoint where it was coming from ahead of me. Ultimately, I could not decide if those ahead of me were a threat or not so I turned and silently jogged back towards the lighted city streets. If I had been listening to my headphones I would have probably ran right into whoever was out there ahead of me.

I do listen to music though when I run around my neighborhood or when I’m alone in Umstead State Park. These places are familiar to me and I relatively know what to expect around each turn. For me these are the times when I experience the music the most, my mind focuses on the lyrics and the arrangements. It is during these runs that I use the music to tune out the monotony of a run I have repeated so many times (or road running).

One place I do not believe headphones should be is in trail races. I know, “run your own race”, but to me, it’s skipping out of a part of the race. The toughest battle you face on a run is in your head and music is tuning that out. I am not putting music in the same category as PEDs, but in my opinion, you are not facing the entirety of the run.

Another thing is you are shutting yourself out from meeting new and interesting people. The one thing I tell people about the trail and ultra community is that it is made up of some of the best people. I know one of my favorite parts of racing is getting to meet the people you are pacing with. I like hearing where people are from, why they run, and how they got here. I see us as a small interconnected community, so I value when I get to meet people of my same tribe. This is also the place where I can talk about my passion for ultra running without coming off as a bragging or getting asked the typical mental health screening questions that non-runners like to ask.

Finally, I’ve seen people blow through aid stations with their headphones on and “forget” to thank the race volunteers. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON! The volunteers having given up their weekend to support us and if you cannot be bothered to thank the volunteers then you don’t need to be out there. These people are as bad as those who blast music from a Bluetooth speaker as they run, go run a Rock & Roll Marathon you’ll fit in better there.

Sorry, it turned into a bit of a rant but I guess I have some strong opinions on this topic. Also after reading one of Mid-Pack Zach’s rants I was kind of inspired (he has a great running blog). Thank you for reading and feel free to comment with your opinion.


Your Sick Adventure

I have been dealing with a self-induced case of the Noravirus over the last two days and it has been awful! It is also a bit timely, as I have been planning on doing a rundown of some diseases and ailments that you can encounter on your adventures in the wilderness.

Giardia: What do I do now that I’ve read through all my Outside magazines?

Giardia is a waterborne parasite that comes from fecal matter. Giardia is fairly resilient which makes it more dangerous. The parasite does well in cold weather and is resistant to many disinfectants. For this reason, water filtration is always a better choice than chemical treatment. Once Giardia is consumed and enters your body it begins to multiply. The infection often causes diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. The disease takes 7-10 days for incubation and can typically last for 3-4 days. If you believe you may have contracted Giardia you need to contact your healthcare provider.

Lyme Disease: Is there a target on my back?

Lyme disease is a bacteria spread through tick bites. The first symptoms can appear anywhere between 3 to 32 days after the bite. These first symptoms include feeling tired and body aches, so feeling old and worn out from your adventure. The biggest telltale sign of Lyme disease is if you develop the Target Logo on our body in the form of a rash. The disease can be treated but the longer treatment is delayed the more severe the disease can become, leading to cardiac anomalies, joint pain, and neurological symptoms.

Botulism Poisoning: What I was poisoned by cosmetics?

Botulism poisoning is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum (it is related to Botox, but they are not the same thing). The reason that this disease is relevant is because it is prevalent in canned and packaged foods. It can easily be prevented by bringing the food up to boiling temperatures. Botulism has a short incubation period from 12 to 36 hours. The symptoms start as blurred vision and then go on to cause paralysis throughout the body. Botulism must be treated with an antitoxin so immediate medical treatment should be sought. The more rapidly the symptoms onset is the higher the potential for being fatal.

Salmonella: Does this mean I’m at a greater threat of being eaten by a bear?

Salmonella is one of the more common food poisonings and people across the world are affected by it every day. Salmonella commonly presents as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramping. Often times a healthy person is able to fight off the infection after a few days, but sometimes antibiotics are required. The reason I mention this is because when traveling in the backcountry it can be hard to maintain optimal cleanliness and hygiene. For these reasons, you should make sure to thoroughly cook your food and boil your water. The backcountry is not the best place to try making Chicken Tartare.

Did I get anything wrong? Is there a disease that I should have covered that I didn’t? Let me know in the comments section. Thank you.

books title

When you are passionate about something you tend to collect everything said or written on the topic. Here I have compiled my top four books that cover a variety of fields that an adventure seeker should be familiar with.


The Complete Walker IV: When I was 18 or 19 years old I was a student at Penn State Mont Alto, which is right next to the Appalachian Trail. It did not take long for me to become infatuated with the trail and the people who walk it. So as I began to obsess over it, a mentor of mine, Rodney, made sure to put this book in my hands. He explained that it was the bible for backpackers and would tell me everything I need to know. The book, which is written by experienced outdoorsmen Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, breaks down almost every aspect of backpacking. Some might be surprised that it takes 864 pages to explain putting your stuff in a bag and then putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, but the authors do not want their readers to be uninformed.


Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills: If you could earn a college degree in standing atop the world, then this would be your textbook. Unlike many textbooks, this one is not some overpriced scam but a well-written textbook with excellent illustrations. This book condenses the knowledge of some of the most experienced mountain men and gives it to you in an easily digestible content. Even if you do not plan to summit Aconcagua, this book has valuable information for all those who enter the realm of mountains. Knowing how to read the terrain, weather and conditions are really important because, in the mountains, dangers are amplified.


Relentless Forward Progress: Before I met my friend Ben, who became my ultra running go-to guy for questions, there was this book. Bryon Powell is the founder and editor of the website I Run Far and has made a career out of running ultras and covering ultra races. He is also an excellent example of someone who has made what they love into a career as he went from being an attorney to a running coach and journalist. In this book, he breaks down the science of running and includes essays from elite ultra runners in what works for them. He also outlines great training plans for a multitude of distances. I myself used his training plan when I ran the Leatherwood Ultra 50-miler.


The Ranger Medic Handbook: This is the most expensive book on the list but also the most valuable in my opinion. This book is densely packed with lifesaving information. While it is geared towards a highly trained Army Ranger Medic, it is laid out in if-then-style flowcharts on how to evaluate and treat a casualty. While I hope your adventure does not include injuries caused by bullets or landmines, it also has practical information on how to treat fractures, concussions and variety of ailments you can encounter in the backcountry. Not only does it tell you the hands-on treatments for them, but also the correct medications and dosages for these injuries and diseases. Note: A few years ago there was a fake version of this book in the Kindle store and had bad information in it. Amazon has several versions of this book in different formats. I have included the link to the North American Rescue Products version, which is the version issued by the U.S. Army. The fact that this version is spiral bound and printed on more durable paper means it can stand up to the hardships of your adventure.

So those are the four books I recommend the most when asked about adventure. Did I miss any? Do you have any suggestions for future reading? Please comment if you do.

This past Sunday my wife and I dedicated the day to fun and adventure. After eating breakfast, we loaded our kayaks into the truck and drove to the Eno River Boat Ramp in Durham, North Carolina. It was a beautiful morning with a light chill in the air so the boat ramp was busy with fishermen putting their boats into the river.

We unloaded our kayaks and slipped into the river. At first, I found the scenery a bit dull as we have had a lot of rain this winter, which caused the river to spill across the floodplain and washed the surrounding vegetation in mud. As we paddled past the fishermen in their boats we found ourselves drifting into more solitude. We began picking out unique looking trees and 100-year-old oak trees as we toured a small section of the river.


Following our 6-mile round trip paddle, we drove to the town of Hillsborough for some beers and barbecue. We saddled up to the bar at Mystery Brewing Public House to begin sampling their tasty gluten sodas and ordered lunch from Hillsborough BBQ Company. This is one of the best combinations in the Triangle and I recommend if anyone happens to be out around Hillsborough to check both out.


After stuffing ourselves with barbecue, we headed out to Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area for a hike. We pulled into the small, overflowing parking lot only to be greeted by raindrops. While another couple turned back from the trailhead we figured we would march on and hope the rain would quickly pass. Fortunately, the rain only lasted for 10-15 minutes, just doing enough to make the air humid. It was a nice loop that went down along the Eno River then climbed up an old rock quarry to give us a great view of Hillsborough.


After the hike, we finished the day with a stop at YesterYears Brewery in Carrboro. Then we headed home to unload the truck and feed the dogs.


The thing is while our adventure was nothing groundbreaking it was a nice day outside. It was a day where my significant other and I got to connect and spend the day seeing new places. An adventure does not have to be a speed ascent of Denali or paddling a source to sea on the Amazon. It is important to make these small adventures part of our busy lives. If you are outside, experiencing things for the first time or in a new way then you are having an adventure. What is better than making new stories with friends or loved ones? Not much in the grand scheme of this singular life.


The air begins to cool as the sun begins to go down and you are not exactly sure about where you are. Maybe the mental note of ‘turn left at the downed tree with the squirrel on it’ was not your best moment. Now you are starting to even question whether it was a grey, red or one of those mutant black squirrels (seriously look it up). Now you shiver and you regret leaving that hoodie in the car. It is right about here you first ask yourself the question, “Am I lost?”

You probably are not, you just need to take a moment to calm down and figure out where you are. This is the time to sit down and take a moment and think rationally about it. This will help prevent you from doing something to get yourself into real trouble.

According to Boy’s Life Magazine (the Foo Fighter’s least favorite magazine), you should follow the acronym S.T.O.P.

  • Stop: Just stop moving, getting more lost will not make it easier to get found.
  • Think: Take a moment to think back on how you got to this point and look at the map if you have one.
  • Observe: Look around and assess if anything is familiar. Maybe you can see the parking lot from there.
  • Plan: Come up with a plan. If you want to look over the next hill to see if you find something you recognize, make easily distinguishable markers to at least get you back to where you are now. Do not keep wandering around hoping to find your way out.

So now that you have admitted that you are lost it is time to figure out your next steps. You are at a critical point where you must decide what you do next. Does someone expect you back? Will they notify help if you do not return tonight? Do you have the resources to spend the night? Approximately how much daylight do you have left? Do you have food and water?

If you know someone is expecting you back at a certain time and you know they will notify the authorities, then you need to hunker down. You need to face the possibility of being out there the entire night. That means get out of the wind, build a shelter that helps keep body heat in, and conserve what remaining resources you have.

Do not drink unfiltered water unless it is a life or death situation.

Do not camouflage yourself and your equipment (unless you are being hunted by a predator).

Attempt to remain in your current location through the night and as long as possible into the next day. If you have to move or choose to move make sure to mark the route with obvious signs that rescuers can follow. Arrange rocks into arrows, break fresh tree branches or arrange things in a way that will tell people that someone recently passed through the area.

Ultimately the best thing to do is wait for help, moving around only makes it harder for rescuers to find you.

And as always, remember the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”


As of lately I have been working on building and improving my Instagram presence. A big piece of this is being more active and taking the time to photograph my runs and hikes. Taking pictures expressly for social media is nothing new for me, but now it definitely feels less like I am recording an event and more like I am competing for “Likes”.

So I decided to make a list of Pros and Cons and see if I may find some revelation on the good or evil of Instagram.

Look how much fun my friend Terry is having with my Instagram habit


  • My desire to find interesting photographs or a unique way to frame the sunrise has made me much more aware of my surroundings. I have been running the same trails for years now but I’m starting to appreciate different features, textures and patterns that I have previously run past over and over.
  • I am always looking for somewhere new to go. This is not something new for me, but now I am focusing on the photos I will take.
  • Hopefully, my pictures are inspiring people to get out and explore the world around them. Whether it is planning an epic trip to a national park or just walking around the forest behind their house.


  • I’m not as present with my running partners in conversation. As my mind begins to focus on finding a great shot, I lose touch with the conversation.
  • The trip becomes more about the photo documentation than the experience. I am not saying that I lose everything about the experience but taking an epic picture is beginning to dominate the experience.
  • My trips are losing spontaneity as I become more focused on getting to the perfect photo opportunity. While this is not the worst thing it is curbing my chance at self-discovery.

So is Instagram good or bad. It’s neither, like a finely crafted beer, it is something that should be enjoyed with moderation. Some days I probably obsess over it too much, while others I hardly notice it. Going forward, I should endeavour to be more present in the moment while also appreciating the beauty around me.

For some more fun information on Instagram, check out this video “Instagram Husbands

I’ve also recently wrote about putting mileage into context on my running blog “The Distance and the Pain”, so check that out.

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