Backpacker Radio 86 | Nathan Hankes

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Nathan Hankes.  Nathan is an army veteran, having served a tour in Iraq as a drone operator for the United States Army in the aftermath of 9/11.  Upon returning from his tour, Nathan turned to the Appalachian Trail to sort out the residual anger and anxiety he was dealing with as a result of his time serving overseas.  We go deep on Nathan’s experience in Iraq, how that affected his political outlook, how the Appalachian Trail helped him heal after his tour, and learn more about the process of his writing, “Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood, and the Pursuit of Truth“, a memoir about his hike.

We have a triple crown of tips to lighten your pack, a one minute gear review (including some gear for the pups), and tackle some hard hitting listener questions.


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Interview with Nathan Hankes

  • Get a signed copy of Nathan book: Waking Up on the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood and the Pursuit of Truth on his website
    • Use code: BPR for free shipping (so he can compete with Jeff Bezos).
    • Half of the proceeds from the book go to helping four combat veterans write a book.
  • Find him on social media @nbhankes

00:04:30 – QOTD: How has the trail healed you?

00:08:00 – Trail Correspondents will happen again next year!

00:08:40 – Intro to Nathan Hankes

00:08:56 – Can you give us a quick bio of yourself?

00:09:55 – Where in the midwest are you from?

00:10:32 – What was your interest in the military?

00:11:44 – What do you attribute the naivety you had (re: joining the military) to?

00:12:39 – How old were you when you joined the military?

00:13:47 – What is the ASVAB?

00:14:49 – How big are military drones?

00:15:47 – Which branch of the military did you serve in?

00:15:59 – What were you expecting when you were deployed and what was the reality of the situation?

00:18:12 – What happens if you change your mind while you are in the army?

00:19:53 – Was the sense of dissent among your peers the overarching feeling or was it just a few people? And was that natural skepticism or reality?

00:21:50 – Did any of it feel like the movie Jarhead? 

00:23:50 – Did you ever think about leaving? 

00:24:37 – Did you think you would thru-hike before you were in Iraq? 

00:26:04 – Did you have any near-death experiences? 

00:27:56 – How are you supposed to respond when you hear a mortar attack? 

00:28:49 – Did that experience alter how you felt the rest of the time you were in Iraq?

00:30:19 – What are the mortars hitting?

00:32:11 – Knowing that you were defending Iraqi civilians you still felt the U.S. presence was wrong? 

00:32:55 – Can you ask about the real reason you are there or do you have to keep it to yourself? 

00:34:10 – How do you feel about the military now? 

00:35:20 – Has your service altered your politics?

00:36:17 – What did the person you hiked with bring up (as far as politics)?

00:37:17 – Which book on the top 100 adventure stories did you like the most? 

00:41:41 – What kind of things did you have to get permission from the pentagon for? 

00:44:03 – Did you self-publish?

00:44:15 – How did you get endorsements (from people like Christopher Ryan)? 

00:45:37 – Would you describe what you experienced as PTSD?

00:46:50 – Were you having trouble sleeping?

00:47:22 – Were there any downsides to going from the military to the trail? Was it weird going from one extreme to the other?

00:49:53 – What is the specific healing you were looking for in your AT experience? 

00:52:35 – Did your anger ever manifest in unhealthy ways?

00:53:34 – Did the fear you came back with filter over to the trail at all?

00:55:09 – Did you keep in close contact with your platoon mates? Do you still?

00:57:09 – Were you hoping to maintain that sense of community on trail?

00:58:51 – When you are deployed are people around your same age? Or is it people in all different age groups like the trail?

01:00:16 – Can you compare your platoon mates and your tramily?

01:02:35 – Can you talk about why you liked hiking with Dylan?

01:04:14 – Are you playing with fire if you ask about the merits of war with someone who has served? 

01:06:07 – How did your brother interact with Dylan (knowing you came from a conservative family)?

01:07:29 – What do you think helped your enlightenment on your AT journey? 

01:09:50 – Can you talk more about your spiritual awakening? 

01:13:40 – Is thru-hiking a good tool for veterans? Do you have any general advice for veterans listening? 

01:16:27 – How would someone describe the differences in your personality post-Iraq vs. post-trail? 

01:20:29 – Can you tell us about the dog sled training in Alaska? 

01:23:00 – Do you stand on the back of a sled?

01:23:37 – How fast do you go? Does it feel like skiing?

01:25:28 – Did you ever see a grizzly? 

01:27:47 – Where do we get the book? Nathan website




The Thru-Hiker’s Guide to Tyvek by Jesse Metzger 

A Thru-Hiker’s Guide to the AMC Hut System by Jesse Metzger

Triple Crown of Tips To Lighten Your Pack 

Ask Reddit: What’s something small that happens and ignites an uncontrollable rage in you? 

1-Minute Gear Review 

Patent Pending: Zoom Contacts

Pupdate (Stoned Harper Pics) 

Mini-Mail Bag / Insta Q’s 

5-Star Reviews 

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