Backpacker Radio #235 | Nicole “ShotGun” Kulovitz on Thru-Hiking as a Lifestyle, Wildland Firefighting, and Losing a $2,500 Twisted Tea Bet

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Nicole “ShotGun” Kulovitz. Nicole only recently began long distance backpacking, but in just the last few years, has thru-hiked the CDT, Arizona Trail, Florida Trail, Hayduke, Pacific Northwest Trail, Oregon Desert Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Long Trail, Timberline Trail, Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, and the Low to High Trail. In other words, she somehow has packed a lifetime of miles into a four year span. We learn all about her instant infatuation with backpacking, learning lessons from a failed thru-hike attempt, how she financially is able to make long distance backpacking a lifestyle, her experiences as a wildland firefighter, some epic stories of degeneracy, and more. This is a fun chat, good news for the sort of person who’s into fun.

We wrap the show with some standout winter thru-hikes for those who hate snow, our go-to Taco Bell orders, a triple crown of undesirable camp chores, and a fun pee story courtesy of a listener.

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Interview with Nicole “ShotGun” Kulovitz

Time stamps & Questions

00:07:12 – Reminders: Apply to be a blogger or a BPR intern and support us on Patreon for exclusive content!

00:12:20 – Introducing Nicole

00:15:09 – What’s your trail name origin story?

00:18:07 – Tell us about being a wildland firefighter

00:21:57 – How does the end of a day as a firefighter compare to the end of a day hiking?

00:23:05 – How did you become a wildland firefighter?

00:25:33 – Discussion about firefighting tasks, housing, and scheduling

00:29:04 – Is there a high burnout rate for firefighters?

00:31:49 – Do you look at trees differently now?

00:33:17 – How is the pay and what is your cost of living like?

00:38:40 – At what point did backpacking become your lifestyle?

00:41:27 – Tell us about hiking the PCT in a high snow year

00:47:30 – What’s the drama in Kennedy Meadows?

00:51:14 – Which portion of the trail did you hike last year?

00:51:35 – Why do you hate California?

00:53:08 – Take us from there to your first successful thru-hike

00:58:16 – How did you transition from the desert trails to the Long Trail?

01:00:37 – What were your best fun activities on trail?

01:07:41 – What does your average drinking night look like?

01:11:16 – Tell us about hiking the Long Trail

01:14:14 – What kind of hiking schedule do you keep?

01:18:00 – Discussion about rain gear

01:20:05 – How does the AZT compare to the Long Trail in difficulty?

01:23:35 – How many miles have you gotten out of your shoes?

01:25:43 – Tell us about the Hayduke

01:29:55 – How did you develop routefinding skills?

01:34:01 – How many miles do you do on average per day?

01:38:32 – Was the Florida Trail boring compared to the Hayduke?

01:41:54 – Did the dogs make you want to skip the road walks?

01:42:50 – Tell us about the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

01:48:46 – Tell us about the Pacific Northwest Trail

01:52:45 – How did routefinding on the PNT compare to the Hayduke?

01:54:10 – Did you have any standout experiences on the Oregon Desert Trail?

01:56:23 – Would you recommend the Oregon Desert Trail to newer thru-hikers?

01:57:14 – Tell us about the Grand Enchantment Trail

01:59:02 – What are some of Brett Tucker’s other routes?

02:01:00 – Discussion about optimal trail lengths

02:02:55 – What do you do to make ends meet during the off season?

02:13:10 – How did you like the CDT if you normally prefer shorter trails?

02:20:28 – Where can people follow you?


Trek Propaganda: 10 Awesome Snow-Free Winter Thru-Hikes by Diane Duffard

QOTD: What is your Taco Bell order?

Triple Crown of camp chores you hate

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