Backpacker Radio 69 | Will “Akuna” Robinson

In episode 69, we are joined by Will Robinson, AKA Akuna. Akuna is an army veteran, the first known African-American male to complete the Triple Crown, and an all around awesome guy. We talk about his experiences in managing chronic pain, how hiking interfaced with his PTSD, what it’s like hiking through rural America as a black man with dreadlocks, and some of the highlights and lowlights of each of his thru-hikes.

We also have some listener emails, we learn how people are keeping busy during the apocalypse, and introduce a new segment, Backcountry Matchmaking- our new on-air dating service. Giggity.

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00:04:30 – Meet Will “Akuna” Robinson and learn how he got started in hiking

00:05:44 – How he ended up on the PCT

00:06:30 – The closest long trail to Akuna in Louisiana

00:07:11 – How did growing up in New Orleans make you resilient? 

00:08:42 – How did you end up in the military? 

00:11:18 – Did your academic achievements have any bearing on your military experience? 

00:12:40 – His Job in the Military (and how that became an electrical engineering degree)

00:14:00 – What was it like coming home from the military?

00:15:30 – Was PTSD treatment helpful?

00:16:20 – What are your injuries from the military? And how does that affect your backpacking? 

00:19:00 – Healing through thru-hiking

00:24:50 – Why doesn’t the military talk more about mental health? 

00:26:40 – Barriers to unorthodox treatments 

00:27:37 – People thinking of long-distance backpacking with chronic pain

00:32:45 – Did you have to deal with withdrawals? 

00:33:57 – Does backpacking alleviate pain? Or distract from it? 

00:34:51 – Having flashbacks on trail

00:38:16 – Does your hiking family know about your flashbacks? Can they help in any way? What is the right way to help? 

00:41:45 – How the thru-hiking community deals with mental health issues

00:45:00 – How Akuna Ended up on the PCT

00:49:00 – Tell us about your first PCT hike

00:51:00 – Akuna dislocates his knee on Mt.Whitney

00:54:00 – What was 2017 like on the PCT?

00:56:35 – Triple digit temperatures are no problem for Akuna

00:57:50 – How did you get your trail name on the PCT? 

00:59:30 – Tell us about your 2017 Sierra experience

01:06:01 – Do you crave life-fearing moments?

01:10:00 – Akuna Hated the AT (at first) 

01:15:19 – What is it like hiking the AT as an African American? 

01:22:23 – Did you notice a difference in the way you were treated between the AT, PCT, and CDT? 

01:26:00 – How does your trail family react when people are racist?

01:30:30 – Do you have any advice for Afircan Americans thinking about thru-hiking?

01:31:15 – Any advice for how the hiking community can help make thru-hiking more welcoming and inclusive?

01:32:00 – Notable AT moments

01:37:40 – Akuna’s AT Merrel Film & Akuna’s CDT Merrel Film

01:41:30 – Akuna’s CDT Hike

01:46:40 – The brutality of the CDT 

01:48:15 – Gnarly weather on the CDT, PCT, and AT

01:50:25 – Falling in the Gila River on the CDT

01:55:05 – Akuna and Undecided almost get arrested

02:00:00 – How does it feel to be the first African American man known to finish the triple crown?

02:04:00 – Akuna’s postponed North Country Trail thru-hike

02:11:30 – Any plans for later this year if things clear up?

02:15:30 – Where to find Akuna: @AkunaHikes

02:17:11 – NZ borders closed for an entire year.



02:18:10 – The Trek Propaganda: Clay Bonnyman Evans reviews Chaunce’s Book

02:19:00 – Mail Bag! 

02:20:00 – Things people are doing to stay sane during quarantine

02:26:30 – Akuna weighs in on if Carol Baskin killed her husband

02:28:07 – Pupdates from Chuance: Harper is Getting Crate Trained 

02:36:38 – Five Star Reviews: Poop Stories and Horse Facts (& Impromptu Gear Reviews)

02:45:00 – Backcountry Matchmaking: Zach “Beta” Terpstra, Emily Mydlowski, Erica “Spitfire”

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Comments 7

  • Clay Bonnyman Evans aka Pony : May 1st

    Great to hear from Akuna. I interviewed him awhile back for a story that got untracked due to coronavirus, but it should show up soon.

    I laughed when I heard him talking about the ASVAB test. I started the recruiting process for the U.S. Navy in 1986 with that test. Honestly, I felt like a fairly bright 5th grader should basically ace the thing. When my scores came back, my recruiter was practically out of his mind, claiming that with my scores, I could do literally any MOS I wanted in the Navy, up to and including “nucular” engineering.

    Thing was, I didn’t think the test was hard at all and was not surprised I did well. I also knew damn well that I was not cut out to be any kind of “nucular” engineer, and was absolutely not interested in serving on a nuclear submarine, as my cousin did. And that realization, along with an overzealous recruiter, actually moved me away from what was once a firm plan to go into the Navy.

    Akuna, keep on it, man. You’re a fantastic spokesperson for the hiker-trash community!


  • Karl "Papa Bear" Banks : May 4th

    History in the Making
    Good Day Backpacker Radio,

    Thank you very much for episode 69. I really appreciate how you two have handled discussion regarding minorities on trial. As an African American male, it’s annoying being the only minority in the backcountry. I have no one to relate to. Hearing this episode gave me pride and hope for future generations. So, I say it loud, “I am a Black Hiker and I am Proud.” I’ve experienced discrimination on trial as well . I’ve even left the trail for an overnight trip because I had a gut feeling about an individual I met at the trailhead in New York. What is most disheartening is that within the Black community is that our lack of education, culture, and history by default exempts from experiencing the outdoors. Hell, I’ve had people in my race look at me as a pink elephant with white Polka dots wearing a tutu walking on a high wire. Several have told me that I was crazy for being in the woods. Or they ask if have I carry a gun. Despite the negative feedback from most, I’ve inspired others. I also follow the Blackalachain and August Cervont. They are the only African American Thru-Hikers on Youtube. Their boldness to break through the glass ceiling regarding outdoors inspired me to 1), start my own outdoor Youtube Channel call Epic Adventures LLC and 2) partake in thru-hike the triple crowns in several years upon retiring. Zac, you and Juliana have done an excellent job with this podcast. Keep up the good work. By the way, you should interview August Cervont, Frozen, Sintax 77, Dixie, and Early Riser 71. Looking forward to more episodes.

  • Chris : May 4th

    Thanks for another great episode! And thanks for talking about the NCT, longest of the National Scenic Trails–my local trail–a rugged and beautiful route through the Porcupines, Hurons and Hiawatha NF, Pictured Rocks NL, and more, in the unique and remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was looking forward to hearing about Akuna’s adventures on the trail this season, especially since only a handful have ever thru-hiked it! Keep up the good work, and thanks again for finding a way to mention a great trail that isn’t the AT, PCT, or CDT. Cheers!

  • Clay Bonnyman Evans : May 5th

    Oh, a quick comment on dog poop vs. horse poop:

    The Leave No Take rule for dog poop is, bury it as you would human poop, or pack it out.

    The reason horse poop is not considered a particular concern (beyond the problem of excreting seeds from non-native plants; some places require that hay fed to horses in the backcountry be bought locally) is that horses are exclusive herbivores, whereas dogs are omnivores. Horses and humans share few pathogens, but dogs and humans share many — for example, giardia, bordatella, leptospira and others.

    From an evolutionary standpoint, this is almost certainly why humans are much more grossed out by dog poop than, say, horse or cow poop. At least this human is. I used to work on ranches and, with the exception of calves with a hideous gastro-intestinal infection we called “scours,” I became almost inured to cow and horse poop.



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