The Blackalachian: First Gold-Mouth Rapper to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail
In April of 2017, Daniel White of Charlotte NC, Aka the rapper known as Logo, was dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park to embark on a two-month section hike that would inevitably turn into a complete thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He would become, as it says in his YouTube video series, “The first gold-mouth rapper/hiker on the Appalachian Trail.” The majority of this story is obtained through the watching of his videos.
He leaves an unsatisfying life to go on a life-changing adventure on the AT
At the ripe old age of 31, Daniel White found his life going nowhere. As an electrician, he would go out and do the same thing, day in and day out. He felt like he wasn’t living—in his words, “Just waiting to die.”
For a long time, he yearned to go out in the woods and live off the land. One day, while posting his feelings about living in the wilderness on Facebook, his cousin suggested he hike the Appalachian Trail. The thought of hiking over 2,000 miles intrigued him. The more he thought about it, the more he came to believe that this was just what he needed.
Initially he planned only to hike for 2 months, until his 32 birthday, but events were soon going to transpire which would see to it that he hiked every step of the trail.
So, after a lot of planning and preparation, he set off for the adventure of his life….
Pre-Hike Message to Black People
In his pre-hike video, the Blackalachian, his gear spread all over the floor of his apartment (by the looks of it, enough weight to break a camel’s back), described one of the reasons for his hike, saying “you know black people don’t do this type of thing—long distance hiking—that’s what we’ve been told. That’s what we’ve been taught. Black people don’t hike; black people don’t seek therapists. I’m trying to change the narrative; black people… we’re just like white people… for the most part. I just want to show y’all we don’t have to live the stereotypical way that we’ve always been taught.”
By hiking the trail, the Blackalachian said he wanted to show people that there’s a different way to live; “Not necessarily as black or white, but as human beings period”
He also wanted to show that people can live off the grid, although he admits to enjoying all the comforts of the grid.
The Blackalachian: Black Man on a White Trail
From the moment he set foot on the trail, looking a little wild, with his erratic locks and gold smile, the thin, 6 foot 3 inch Blackalachian took to the physical challenges very well, logging around 16 miles the first day.
In his videos, it was clear that he was very comfortable with hiking as well as using his gear. His videos were fairly well organized, describing the trail in meticulous detail, from the geography; the elevation gains and losses, to the interesting plant and animal life, to the weather and, his favorite parts–the breathtaking views–he seemed to live for those.
It wasn’t long however before he began to get noticed for his different color. On his second day, he said he passed an older man, a trail maintainer. who told him, “You know, I appreciate you coming out here. You’re a rarity out here”. The Blackalachian said in his video, “I’m glad he said it simple and plain like that.”
Then he went on to tell his viewers, “Young brown, black, just poor kids in general, we gotta see stuff like this (motioning to the forest around him). “In my ‘hood… black people, you only know how to make it off about three different things—that’s what they glorify anyway. That’s a dope dealer, an athlete, or a musician, a rapper, singer or whatever…”
He explained how, on the trail, there are doctors, lawyers; all kinds of professionals and he appealed to the kids in the ‘hoods and their parents to, “Do something else”, to find something they’re good at and then get out and do it. He told parents to support them to make something of themselves.
Further down the trail, he met Frank, who told him, “You’re the first black fellow I’ve ever seen on the trail.” The Blakalachian used this to lead into a teachable moment: “People of color—we’ve got to do better! We’ve got to try something different. We’ve got to get back to the earth.” Daniel expressed his concern for people of color, saying he’d like them to get out of the house instead of just sitting around not doing exercise and dying of heart disease and diabetes.
Throughout his journey, The Blackalachian’s desire was that he would no longer be viewed as a black hiker, but just a hiker. To the credit of many hikers, they did just that.
Evolution of a Hiker: Newbie to Hiker Trash
As The Blackalachian posted video after video, faithfully recording his daily experiences, it is instructive to see how he evolved from a hiker who had issues with “going dookie” in the woods, to a smelly, always-hungry, seasoned hiker who lost most of his inhibitions.
Somewhere along the way he stopped being as concerned about his appearance, not worrying what people thought about him.
Once, while at Carvers Gap on Roan Mountain, he sought refuge from the cold, blowing rain inside a modern state park outhouse. While perched atop the closed seat of the commode in this smelly room, he tells of eating from a jar of peanut butter, scooping it out with a Snickers bar! Only true hiker trash would do that.
From Trials to Triumph
For the rest of The Blackalachian’s videos, he goes through so many of the usual things as other hikers, sees the same natural beauty, lives the ups and downs of trail life, that it’s hard to encapsulate it all in a single article. One of his experiences when he reached the beautiful Whites sums it up best.
It was atop a beautiful mountain when he stopped and filmed the magnificent clouds covering the valley down below and, while standing in the brilliant sunshine of a perfectly blue-sky day, in gratitude said, “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve all this. I don’t have anything–not a house, not a car–all I have in the world is what I have on my back, yet I feel like the richest man in the world”.
The Blackalachian, feeling the time crunch to get to Katahdin before it closed, ended up making the tough decision to do a flip-flop when he reached Gorham NH.
Still, he did walk every step of the way and will be forever known (statistically) as one, in a tiny group of people, who can proudly call himself an Appalachian Trail through hiker.
After the Hike: Interview with The Blackalachian
Recently, on a chilly November day, I drove over three hours to meet with Daniel White, AKA The Blackalachian, to a recreation area near his home in Charlotte.
Having watched all of his hundreds of YouTube videos, I had a few questions that I wanted to ask Daniel that weren’t covered in his videos.
Historic Latta Plantation, a formerly slave-worked southern plantation, was fitting place to sit with Daniel and discuss matters of race, and life in general, on the Appalachian Trail.
From the moment I saw this tall, thin young man walking toward me, I was struck by how much of a mild mannered, soft spoken person he was; a diminutive version of the flamboyant Blackalachian personality embodied in his YouTube videos.
We sat down at a picnic table and began talking about one of his (and my) favorite subjects: The Appalachian Trail.
The first thing I wanted to know was why the name Blackalachian? He responded, “I decided, let’s get the black thing out of the way so we can move on. If they laugh, we can have a conversation; if not, I’ll move on.”
When we moved on to the subject of his origins, he told me that he grew up in a drug infested neighborhood in Asheville, NC. “Everybody I grew up with still’s standing right there, selling drugs to this day,” Though his life was affected by this environment, Daniel yearned to walk a different path.
For the last six years that Daniel has been living in Charlotte, he felt like he was destined for something bigger. His job as an electrician wasn’t satisfying. He told me how he couldn’t see himself working that job, day after day, for the rest of his life. The thought of that depressed him.
I asked, “Why, of all the things you could do, did you choose to hike the AT?” Daniel told me that for a long time he yearned to go to the wilderness and live off the land. One day while posting this sentiment on Facebook, a cousin suggested he hike the AT–Simple as that.
With an unsatisfying job/life, it didn’t take Daniel very long to make the decision to drop everything and hike the trail.
Eager to get started, Daniel researched all he could, watching YouTube videos on A.T. hikers, especially Early_Riser_71, to get prepared for the long journey. But getting educated on hiking the trail wasn’t the only hurdle he had to overcome.
Right from the start, not only did he have come to grips with all his own fears and uncertainties of living in the woods, as well as the expected racism, but he also had to deal with all the naysayers in his community. Many of his friends thought he was crazy to do such an ambitious thing and they couldn’t understand what motivated him to do it. Even with all this negativity, Daniel was determined to follow his dreams.
Racism on the Trail
Daniel told me that once on the trail, “I didn’t allow myself to worry about racism. I knew I had to learn more about white culture than they did about me (black culture). I had to be careful not to react to racial stupidity so I wouldn’t appear like the angry black guy.” Suddenly an idea came to me and I asked, “To reduce the likelihood that you’d encounter racism, why not shave your beard and get a short, conservative haircut?” Seeming to wince at the question, Daniel shook his head and said, “It wouldn’t have made any difference; all they have to see is my color and that’s enough.”
Continuing on the subject of racism on the trail, he said it was not only in the south; it was evident all the way up to Maine, where he encountered a sign that read, “Welcome to Trump’s America: if you don’t like it, you can climb the wall.”
He said that there was this other black dude on the trail, ‘Botany,’ who was accused of stealing from other hikers and using their credit cards. Many times hikers he met would stop and ask, “Are you Botany”? This got old after a while. I asked, “So, it’s sort of like the cliché, ‘you all look alike?'” He nodded.
When looking through Daniel’s Instagram and Facebook pages, I saw instances of where he experienced many forms of racism that he didn’t speak about in his videos. Apparently he worked really hard to suppress this and to keep his videos positive.
Dealing with Trolls
I pointed out to Daniel about the many critics of his videos who were trolling him hard in the comments. In particular, they gave him a hard time in two areas: his creating a GoFundMe campaign and his bad diet.
As for the GoFundMe campaign, Daniel said it started like this: “I was only going to hike two months till my birthday in June. People kept asking me if they could send me care packages along the way but this was not practical, so I told them the easiest way they could help me was to donate to GoFundMe”. He went on to explain that he was only asking for enough money to help him hike for two months, but when the money greatly exceeded his asking amount, he thought he had enough money to hike the whole trail and that he owed it to them to continue. Even with all the financial help, he said, “I still had to borrow money from my mom, do work for stays at hostels, and eat junk food from Dollar General stores, just to afford to hike the trail.” No matter, the trolls still rode him hard about not deserving to hike the trail if he couldn’t afford it.
As for his diet, the trolls cut him no slack there either. Daniel said that he didn’t have enough money to pay for food at more expensive stores so his diet consisted mainly of ramen noodles and summer sausage, although he said he began adding more tuna fish and other protein to his diet later on in the hike to get his nutrition up. He did, however, admit to a penchant for tubs of cake frosting early on in his hike.
Relationships with Other Hikers
After asking him how he got along with other hikers, he said for the most part they were cool but that, everywhere he went, there were also plenty of macho hikers who were always trying to compete. He kept getting the same kinds of questions: “How many miles are you averaging? How many pounds is your pack? Why are you using that kind of gear?” For this reason, he tried keeping to himself a lot. I reminded him of his use of the word extrovert to describe them and asked, “Do you think of yourself as more of an introvert?” He said, “I’m an ambivert.”
How has Hiking the AT Changed You?
Daniel said he’s a different person now than he was before hiking the trail. He said he was more angry before and is a lot calmer now. He said now he’s more calculated about his movements and has more self confidence. Hiking the trail has given him a different outlook on people; he wants to help people now. He said it gives him a good feeling to help others.
After asking him his future plans, Daniel said he’s considering a few options. Maybe long distance biking, maybe another long distance trail. Right now he’s trying to get back on his feet financially and working to get sponsors. I asked, “If money was not an issue, would you consider doing the PCT next season”? He told me that it would definitely be more of a possibility. For the time being, Daniel is missing the wilderness and he is planning to hike the Foothills Trail, a 3 day hike spanning 76 miles of wilderness from South Carolina to North Carolina, leaving on what day? But of course, Black Friday!
So, if you’re ever out hiking and you happen to run up on a gold-mouthed rapper, know this: behind that mouth of gold is a heart of gold.
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Ive been thinking of maybe hiking the AT
Good idea. There is a schlarship you can apply for online at the Appalachian conservancy website. Have to ask google. Hope it is as good a blessing as god intended it to be for you.
I love this story ! This guy has such a real and beautiful soul!
Beautiful story! Beautiful soul!
Awesome guy known him for many years proud of his accomplishment I’m proud to be his friend shout out to the author well written story
If you get to Washington and do the PCT give me a call.
In short–awe inspiring! He is inspirational!
This story made my day. Thanks for sharing it.
I followed Daniel’s vlogs after hearing about him on Early Riser’s videos and watched them all the way through. He was fun, upbeat and offered a unique perspective on the trail Glad to see you again! I know he’ll enjoy the Foothills Trail as well.
The Blackalachian has been an inspiration to me. He is the reason I will hike the AT, PCT, and CDT when I retire….
Come on up to Powell River Canada we have a trail for you. http://sunshinecoast-trail.com/
So glad you did this. Loved following his journey.
Loved your story! I plan in hiking the AT myself someday!
Heroic. To take on something unknown, realizing the dangers of facing racists alone and to do it with humility and calm – really heroic.
Trolled for GoFundMe? What right does anyone have to declare it wrong for me to donate my money in anyway I choose to anyone I choose for any reason I choose? It demonstrates how pathetically desperate racists are.
You, Sir, are an inspiration! Your’s is a voice which needs to be heard and, yes, racists are pathetically desperate…and obscenely ignorant! Pay them no mind!
Great article about Daniel/Logo/The Blackalachian!! He is an inspiration.
I have to say tho that your suggestion that he cut his hair and shave his beard to help thwart racism is cringe-worthy. Racism is not a result of someone’s choice of hair and beard sttke.
NCC: Thank you so much for pointing that out. When that question (which wasn’t on my list of prepared questions) popped into my head, I suspected it was a touchy thing to ask. However, I thought to myself, “If you thought it, chances are, many others will think something like it”. So I took a chance and asked it, risking getting berated for it, because, as it taught me something important about racism and prejudice, it is my hope that it will also teach others.
Thanks for sharing that! I appreciate the article.
What people should know other hikers have gofundme pages for their thru-hikes. Trolls will troll, and haters will hate.
Thanks for sharing Logo’s experience with us.
Great to see this story! I followed the Blackalachian and Early_Riser_71 on their 2017 AT treks. When I stumbled upon his videos last spring I was happy to finally see a person of color on the trail breaking unspoken A.T. stereotypes. Hike on, Daniel.
Oh stop it with the GoFundMe complaints. I can’t tell you how many spoiled little white girls with good paying jobs had GoFundMe pages for the PCT/AT and then not only raked it thousands of dollars, but then preceded to not even finish the hike! (WanderlustTravelNurse)
I enjoyed this article, and have really enjoyed watching the Daniel’s videos. His perspective is unique as a POC, and his positive attitude has me rooting for him in all his future adventures. Way to go BLACKALACHIAN!
Careful. If blacks start hiking these trails in numbers, they will trash these areas just like anything else.
Why has this comment not been deleted?!