[Book Giveaway] “Free Outside,” Jeff Garmire’s Account of His Calendar Year Triple Crown

Jeff “Legend” Garmire was living the fast-paced life of a successful young professional when he gave it up to attempt a Calendar Year Triple Crown (CYTC). In 2016, Garmire became the fifth person to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in a single calendar year. The 8,000 miles would be an adventure of a lifetime, riddled with inclement weather, shady characters, wildlife attacks, and injuries. Along the way, Jeff swam frozen rivers, encountered wildfires, and battled his own mind. Hiking through some of the most remote areas in America, Jeff is continually overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of strangers. Free Outside is the story of his journey along the national historic trails that define wild America.

We got some background from Jeff on his hiking career, what inspired him to chronicle his Calendar Year Triple Crown, and an excerpt from Free Outside.

Plus, we’re giving away two signed copies of Free Outside, details at the bottom of this post.

Give us a brief rundown on your thru-hiking career.

The thrill of adventure first spurred me to take a term off college and hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011. Since then I have hiked over 22,000 miles on eight thru-hikes ranging from 200 to 8,000 miles. I have been charged by grizzly bears, attacked by moose, swam frozen rivers, and sprinted through lightning storms. The simplicity of living out of a backpack, being self-sufficient, and covering every mile on foot is the allure. After my first thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011 I have gone on to complete the Pacific Northwest Trail (2014), Calendar Year Triple Crown (2016), Great Western Loop (2018), Arizona Trail (2019), Pinhoti Trail (2019), John Muir Trail (2019), and the Long Trail (2019).

When you’re not hiking, what are you doing?

I grew up in Vancouver, Washington, with a brother, sister, and very supportive parents. I have perfected the art of juggling and enjoy reading and writing when I am not on a trail. On every adventure, I keep a daily blog and it eventually spurred the most difficult challenge yet: writing a book. Continually balancing work to fund my adventures and my love of the mountains is something I’m working on perfecting.

Beyond long thru-hikes, I enjoy mountaineering, backcountry skiing, running, and competition. In 2015, while working full time, I climbed the 58 peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado, along with Mount Rainier in Washington. It was also the year I completed my first backcountry ski race and developed a love of moving in the mountains.

What have you been up to since the CYTC?

By 2018 I was ready for another giant adventure. I settled on the Great Western Loop. The loop connects the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Arizona Trail, and a cross-country 700-mile route through the Sonoran and Colorado deserts. I became the second person to complete the 7,000-mile route—Andrew Skurka was the first. At the conclusion of the hike I was ready for shorter, faster hikes, and began attempting Fastest Known Times (FKTs, or Speed Records).

I got my first taste of moving fast when I attempted Nolan’s 14 as part of the Great Western Loop. Nolan’s links 14 different 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado on a 100-mile route consisting of bushwhacking and rugged trail. I was able to complete the challenge in 59 hours before finishing out the last 2,000 miles of the loop. With the joy of fast movement cemented in my mind, in 2019 I set off to break trail speed records. I started by breaking the Arizona Trail FKT, followed by the Pinhoti Trail and then the Long Trail. This was a completely different experience than I had ever had but I learned “Fast is Fun.”

What is Free Outside about?

In Free Outside I tell the story of my 2016 Calendar Year Triple Crown. I quit my job in February and traveled to Atlanta with the dream of completing the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail all in the same year. It had only been done four other times and I had no idea what I was in for. It was a race to fit 8,000 miles of hiking into one year. I was faced with blizzards, frozen rivers, wildlife encounters, shady characters, and numerous injuries. It was the true adventure and adversity I was looking for.

There are a few reasons I wrote this book, and one of the biggest ones is to show all the little stories that make up even the largest adventures that people complete. It was not a 252-day, 7,700-mile adventure, but 252 days of little adventures that got slowly woven into a the big picture after the fact. The other reason is to start to shed some light on the way that difficult goals, nature, and especially thru-hiking saved my life.

Excerpt from Free Outside

I was not comfortable with the incline, but I was too deep into the route to change it. Pushing out into the snow, I committed. I dug out the next step, kicking a hole in the snow to rest my foot. The slow process of cutting steps continued. Suddenly, my vision went blurry and my balance grew wobbly. My mind had a hiccup, everything was fuzzy. I leaned into the slope, digging my hands in. I didn’t trust my mind to choreograph the final movements. The feeling dissipated but the insecurity stuck with me. I wasn’t sure what had occurred but I was worried. What had just happened to my brain? This wasn’t the time to think about it and I continued across the slope.

The route had undershot the pass. I needed to climb four feet up and over a cornice. Turning my body to face the slope, my right foot sank into the snow, making a small foothold in the wall. In one movement I pushed my toes into the hold, lunged forward with all my momentum and pulled with my bare fingertips on top of the pass. I pulled my legs up with the strength of my arms and rolled over the lip to safety. I stood up and looked back toward where I had come in a moment of reflection and then turned my gaze forward in anticipation.

The trip down Mather Pass was quick. It was a steep slope that gradually flattened, perfect for plopping down and pushing off. The slide ended at Palisade Lakes where the real fun began. The east side of the upper lake received enough sunlight that the ground was exposed. It was exhilarating to see the bare trail. It meant I had found my way through countless miles and four high passes. And, I was still on route! Turning west, it was apparent the peak snowmelt was in full effect. The exposed granite footsteps were an ankle-deep stream. The staircase set in the stone, called the golden staircase, was flooded with freshly melted snow. My feet would seldom be dry today despite the cloudless sky overhead. Slogging through the water, I lost all the elevation I had worked so hard to gain, only to climb again. Starting from 8,000 feet, Muir Pass was the next target at 11,955 feet.

Traveling along a snowless ground, I thought about what had happened on Mather Pass. Was the dizziness caused by altitude? A calorie deficiency? An unknown problem with vertigo? I had questions but no answers. Hopefully, it was a one-time occurrence. It was not.

The trail was clear up to Pete Meadow. But the remnants of winter soon started to reappear. The snow was patchy at first but quickly blanketed the ground as the sky darkened. It would not be the perfect sunny day I witnessed on Mather Pass. During the long, gradual ascent thunder rang out in the distance. “This could get interesting,” I thought. Muir Pass is the longest and most exposed of the high passes. It is so exposed that the Sierra Club built a hut on top for shelter during inclement weather.

The thunderheads moved over Le Conte Canyon as I climbed up. It was too close for comfort. The canyon walls did not rise high enough to provide ample protection and I sought refuge, crawling under a large rock slab hanging off a stack of boulders. While hiding underneath, I reassessed the safety of my predicament, deciding that sitting under a giant precariously balanced chunk of granite could be hazardous in the event of a lightning strike. Panicked, I quickly moved and found a less hospitable hole in the boulders to sit and watch the storm progress. What I saw was not good. The mountains across the valley slowly began to fade from view as the clouds thickened and dropped snowflakes. I was in a snow and lightning storm.

When the lightning faded, I crawled out and assessed the sky. The weather was poor, but it was safe. I made a beeline for the top. Past multiple small lakes on the Middle Fork of the Kings River, I was running out of time and places to escape the storm. Then suddenly, the water disappeared. The river flowed under a thick sheet of ice. All I saw was white. The snow and fog were too dense to see the cliffs of the canyon. I was walking in a whiteout, only able to follow the outline of the river and the banks of the lakes. I hiked alongside Helen Lake and looked ahead, unable to distinguish between the snow-clad ground and the clouds.

Visibility was zero. I was in no man’s land, committed to the pass. Climbing up what I thought was the final climb, it happened again. My vision went blurry and dizziness washed over me. “No!” I screamed. It was the same spell I had on Mather Pass. I shook it off, tried to force down water and pressed on. Navigating by a sense of direction, I arrived at the hut. I opened the door and saw my first humans in days. Two women had their things set up inside. I was exhausted and did not want to deal with other people. So, after giving the hikers water, I decided to sleep at a lower elevation. Maybe altitude was the cause of my dizziness? I should have stayed at Muir Hut. There was a break in the storm when I made my decision and I was too optimistic about the good weather continuing. Starting downhill toward Evolution Valley, I immediately regretted my choice. Two hundred yards after leaving the hut, post holing began.

There was nothing to do except keep walking and descend as quickly as possible. It was getting dark and I had over six miles before the ground would be clear enough to camp. It was too exposed to sleep at altitude regardless of the snow. Darkness and the storm grew thicker. I kept hiking. I tried to keep a straight path, following the valley floor toward my destination, but when the canyon widened, the walls disappeared into the fog and I hiked by intuition.

My foot landed on something strange. Thinking it was a rock; I took another step and felt the same thing. Now I was curious. I carefully took my left foot and wiped away a layer of snow, looking down. My stomach dropped. I was gazing into the depths of a lake. I moved slowly, turning around to survey where I had come from and deducing where I needed to go. It would be a catastrophe if I fell through the ice. No one would be passing by for hours, and there was not a soul within shouting distance.

Despite knowing the correct decision would be to retrace my steps, I opted for the quickest route off the lake. A rock was poking out of the snow 50 feet to my left and I slowly slid across the ice toward it. I moved slowly, barely raising my feet with each step to put as little pressure as possible on my lifeline. Fifty equally cautious steps later I crawled onto the rock and let out a breath. It was pitch black but I was wide awake. Post holing was a welcome alternative to tedious ice walking and I continued down to 10,000 feet. Below the alpine zone, I was able to find an acceptable spot to camp. It was a race to set up my tent and avoid bearing the wrath of the storm. When home was constructed, I crawled in and passed out, exhausted.

Want to Win a Copy of Free Outside?

Comment below telling us what would possibly possess you to attempt a Calendar Year Triple Crown. We’ll let Jeff pick the two winners by EOB on Tuesday 10/1.

 

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Comments 45

  • Max Alpert : Sep 23rd

    As an excuse to wear a tiger face hoodie for months

    Reply
  • Chris Lewis : Sep 23rd

    If it meant that I could redeem these damn Badger points!

    Reply
  • Keith Bassett : Sep 23rd

    So that I could play the AT drinking game with Badger!

    Reply
  • Tony Bell : Sep 23rd

    To challenge myself and the accomplishment of a dream goal of mine. Getting it all tackled in a single year would be the icing on the cake, leaving the remainder of my life calendar to go after other challenges or to revisit the trails of the TC again in the future.

    Reply
    • Kelly : Sep 24th

      If I ever attempted that, it would be soley to test my mental abilities. I’ve been working hard on how to keep my mind out of the negatives and something like that would be a huge test of strength.

      Reply
  • Tony Caldara : Sep 23rd

    Because it will take 8000 miles to walk off what I have going on in my head.

    Reply
  • Zach Terpstra : Sep 23rd

    Because the trails are always there and I’m only here for a small amount of time!

    Reply
    • Dani : Sep 25th

      I have been planning my AT thru-hike since I was in 8th grade and went on my first overnight backpacking trip with my dad on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have a sneaking suspicion that once I am out on the AT and contemplating what to do after I reach Mt. Katahdin, attempting a Calendar Year Triple Crown would have a good chance of making it onto my bucket list!

      Reply
  • Sonia : Sep 23rd

    I’ve been daydreaming about hiking the AT for years since reading barefoot sisters. I have a feeling this book may expand that dream even farther. The escape from the Florida insanity and office mundanity sounds exceptional

    Reply
  • Anthony Gariano : Sep 23rd

    At 50 years old, I’m not getting any younger. I’m in the best shape of my life getting in shape for section and shorter hikes. A Calendar year triple would be awsom.

    Reply
  • Angela : Sep 23rd

    I am a amateur hiker and have been helping my best friend section hike the AT. (Some parts I’ve done and others I’m the “trail boss”. After following some amazing hikers on You Tube, reading different books, and being out on the trail… I realized completing the 8,000 miles of nature’s awesomeness is something I need to finally do for myself. Getting a chance to read Jeff’s book will give me the insight to accept the triple challenge.

    Reply
  • Kelly Sarkis : Sep 23rd

    Because why not.

    Reply
  • Michael Jimenez : Sep 23rd

    To push myself beyond anything I have ever done before and to see the world in a whole new perspective. To push my mind and body harder and farther then I ever dreamed capable. And to share the trails with those I encounter would be amazing.

    Reply
  • Tim Goodman : Sep 23rd

    20 years ago I hiked the AT (“Duke” – 1999) as a 60 year-old. Before and after that I led several hikes (50- Milers) with Boy Scouts. As an octogenarian with COPD, I am limited to short trails to meet 8 – 10 Scouts at their daily target camp. I’d like to read sections of Free Outside to Scouts circled around a campfire.

    Reply
    • Megan : Sep 24th

      Living outside has always been a reset for me. I bet if I read a well written book about hiking that might just push me over the edge to complete a long trail.

      Reply
  • Friend of Smokey : Sep 24th

    i’d like a signed book to read to others on the AT…happy to pay for it and one for Tim Goodman (thanks for the idea, Tim!). FoS

    Reply
  • Mike Simmons : Sep 24th

    The challenge of accomplishing an incredible goal and seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in our country.

    Reply
  • Jess : Sep 24th

    What would possess me to attempt a Triple Crown? Three times the enjoyment for three times the journey. And the coolness factor.

    Reply
  • Samuel Cutshall : Sep 24th

    To find the edge of my physical and mental limits and then to push them a little further.

    Reply
  • John : Sep 24th

    After spending the last 45 years working and raising a family I’ve been dreaming about doing a thru hike and living free without the day to day stresses of everyday life. Doing a triple in a calendar year, would be a lifetime adventure to cherish.

    Reply
  • Reno : Sep 24th

    After finishing my first thru hike this year, the AT(drink) I’ve been bitten by the bug. I’m ready for more long trails a week after getting home! Bring on a calandra year triple crown!

    Reply
  • Scot : Sep 24th

    After a scary wake up call last year I was able to lose a significant amount of weight this year. My reward to myself was a long (for me) hike that reignited my passion for hiking and being outside in the wilderness. Since then I’ve started my quest for the ADK46 and other smaller hiking challenges and started to wonder what I am really capable of. A CYTC? Maybe… inspire me!

    Reply
  • Gregg : Sep 24th

    Because I had a friend tell me once that when your on your deathbed you will not look back at all the great times you had at work.

    Reply
  • TheeMattSmith : Sep 24th

    I would literally have to be “Possessed” by Legend himself to attempt such a feat. He would have to enter my void of a soul and rehike the whole thing in my Dad Bod.

    Reply
  • Charlie Lockwood : Sep 24th

    I would like a free copy of “Free Outside”

    Thanks

    C Lockwood

    Reply
  • Steve : Sep 24th

    To see the world through John Muir’s eyes & heart.

    Reply
  • Perry : Sep 24th

    Finding a house sitter, a support person, and perhaps someone to handle a few personal responsibilities would do it for me to keep on hiking.

    Reply
  • Jen in TX : Sep 24th

    Can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 50th year!

    Reply
  • Ron Boman : Sep 25th

    Why would I attempt a Triple Crown? Because as Jeff knows, every day on a long trail is sunny, warm and dry. Every meal is a banquet. There are no mosquitoes, spiders, snakes…water crossings are easy and there’s trail magic at every road crossing. What more could a thru hiker want?

    Reply
  • Tanya : Sep 25th

    Because my job no longer brings me joy and I know 8000 miles would!

    Reply
  • gen : Sep 26th

    i need definitely more courage and resilience… to follow my dreams !

    Reply
  • Tyler : Sep 27th

    I have always been attracted to crazy adventures and this would be the ultimate crazy adventure. As incredibly challenging as I know a trip like this would be, the thought of being able to push myself mentally and physically to the extreme is super appealing.

    Reply
  • JP : Sep 27th

    While nothing more than a remote pipe dream, doing a calendar year triple crown is still a dream that many (including myself) harbor quietly. It is quiet because so many would think it rediculous or perhaps even lunacy. The opportunity to exchange the struggles and worries of work-a-day life for the entirely different struggles and worries of the challenge of the trail(s) has a draw that can’t truly be put into words.

    To wake up each morning knowing you have a singular goal, a solitary purpose and task. To once again boil down life to the bare essentials in both possessions and concerns. To test oneself physically, mentally, emotionally. To most of all, have the opportunity to stand in the wilds, the open spaces, the amazing lands that these trails ecompass and experience the greatness that has been given us.

    Reply
  • Lance Smith : Sep 27th

    You have to have something a little bit wrong with you to want to accept the challenge of hiking that far in one year. Have you seen the people that have done it-“There not right” but “Not Right” is the view of the world and not the individual who sets out to take the first step into the unknown and challenge themselves and change their lives for the better! People who do these things are not swayed by what the WORLD thinks-they follow their Hearts and DO big things and take on the next challenge, even when they know there is a great chance they might fail. I want to continue being that type of person, so that is why I would at least give it a try.

    Reply
  • Tom : Sep 27th

    I would want to know that I could do it. There’s this feeling I get when I am a few days out on trail as I am beginning to settle into the hike where I know that if circumstances were to -click- that I could just go and keep going every day all day, just hiking. I’ve never been able to put in the kind of miles that Legend averaged to make the calendar triple happen but that doesn’t stop me from feeling the tug of the trail. I’ve been sidelined from doing more than a couple of overnighters for the past couple of years but with some things put behind me now I’m starting to get my trail act back together and have my comfortable base weight down to about 11.5 pounds and am running stoveless on my upcoming SHT thruhike in a couple of weeks.

    I listened to the podcasts with Legend and I think it’s pretty fantastic how his trail name came about yet has turned out to be such a label for all the things he’s managed to do. The fact that he finished the Great(est) Western Loop in the same number of days as Skurka – Legendary.

    Reply
  • Linda "eArThworm" Patton : Sep 27th

    I’m 81 years old, so it’s not possible for me. BUT…I’m the librarian for the A.T. Museum’s Research Library and we’d love to have a copy of this great book for the Library.

    Reply
  • Monica Aguilar : Sep 27th

    To embrace full hiker funk and so I can eat ALL the town food from all the cool trail towns 🙂

    Reply
  • Monica Aguilar : Sep 27th

    I would hike the CYTC to fully embrace the hiker funk and to eat ALL of the town food 🙂

    Reply
  • Donald Sico : Sep 27th

    I would have to actually be possessed to attempt it. Some of us are too old, or too hurt or too tied to everyday living to do it, but we can “live it” through accounts like these and would love to have the book.

    Reply
  • Emma Stuart : Sep 27th

    Because the greatest gifts I have been given are the beauty and freedom of the natural world and the legs with which I can explore it.
    As a modern society, it is so easy to take a lot of things in life for granted. For me, constantly moving forward on the trails, and being at the mercy of the elements in spring, summer, autumn and winter always make me appreciate the comforts of daily life all the more.

    As an ultrarunner, my motto is “Gradatim”… Or “One foot in front of the other”
    It serves me well when things get tough.

    Reply
  • Zebra : Sep 27th

    The only thing that would possibly possess me to attempt a Calendar Year Triple Crown would be the inspiration that once I finish I could write a book about it and get away with posting naked pics online with said book. Oh, and to have really gross feet.

    Reply
  • Jacob : Sep 27th

    I would do it to challenge myself, get outside and to experience the vast wilderness of America . It would be great to reset and get a break from the real world while learning and finding myself.

    Reply
  • Holly Hoffman : Sep 30th

    Honestly, I just want to read his book! I love the craziness of doing a 8,ooo mile or CYTC hike! And honestly, I personally would be crazy to even think I could do that! I admire you for doing it and all the wild adventures you have. For now my crazy adventure is going to be taking my lovely daughter with multiple disabilities and medical issues out car and hammock camping for 2 nights. It’s a start. I’m looking forward to possibly reading “Free Outside” and dreaming of the future when she is healed so that we can hike together.

    Reply
  • Philip Banker : Oct 1st

    Because literally all I do is sit in a cubicle, accumulate PTO hours, and take one vacation a year so I can go as far away from said desk as possible (this year it was through the Winds). People like Jeff are an inspiration to all of us who want to say “to hell with it” and just live the life we want to live.

    Reply
  • James T. : Oct 8th

    A triple crown seems nearly impossible but if I was to attempt such a feat It would be because I had trained long and hard and happened to be sitting on a surplus of CLIFF bars set to expire within a year.

    Reply

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