Meet Shawn Mahoney, aka Log Man: The Thru-Hiker Who Carried a Log on the AT and PCT
What keeps you going? The hot sun is beating down on you. You refuse to think about how many more miles there are until you are able to fall into your sleeping bag. And every time you look up after wiping the burning sweat out of your eyes, there’s…well…more UP.
We’ve all seen the thru-hiking reels and memes on social media and had ourselves a chuckle. For some thru-hikers and peakbaggers we follow on social media, we are able to enjoy their posts and pics. We connect and relate to these people because they are out there for similar reasons that we are. However, once in a while, we cross paths with someone who is out there for reasons beyond seeing the forest through the trees. Anyone lucky enough to have met the man carrying a twenty-pound log on his shoulder will know what I mean.
This is Shawn Mahoney, aka Log Man
Meet Log Man, who goes by Shawn Mahoney off-trail. A resident of New Hampshire, and Iraq veteran, Shawn has completed thru-hikes of the AT and PCT, among other hiking challenges, all the while carrying a five-foot log on his shoulder. At this point, he is used to hikers asking, “So I gotta ask…why the log?”
I personally had the privilege of meeting Shawn in the White Mountains in September of 2022, and even though he had been questioned many times before about his log, he happily answered mine. He even warmly agreed to have my friend take photos of him with his log.
The story of the log began when Shawn was discharged from active duty with the United States Air Force, where he was trained as a medic. He served six years of active duty while he was stationed at Lakenheath Air Force Base in England. In 2009, Shawn was assigned to Balad, Iraq for security detail. During his time serving in the Air Force, Shawn witnessed and assisted wounded soldiers, and this has remained a cause he feels very passionately about, being a veteran now himself.
Want to Get Strong? Grab a Log
Once discharged from active duty, Shawn wanted to remain physically fit, and so in July 2021, he signed up for a 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder, which is a military-style obstacle course. He began running again to prepare for this competition and used the log as part of his training. What gives a man an edge when training the World’s Toughest Mudder? Bringing a twenty-pound, five-foot log along sure does!
While training, Shawn’s cousin asked him to hike one of the NH48, the 48 mountains in New Hampshire over 4,000 feet. Agreeing to the adventure, Shawn decided to take the log with him hiking. His shoulders haven’t been bare since; Shawn was hooked. He went on to hike all of the NH48 high peaks that year. Yes, with his log. In five weeks.
He then set his sights on the NE111. While hiking the 115 highest mountains in New England with his log, Shawn was able to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. This charity helps veterans injured during active duty by providing housing and benefits to those with the greatest need. Even with the log in tow, Shawn completed the NE 111 in only 13 weeks.
At this point, he had gained recognition for being “the guy who hikes with a log”, and WMUR, a local news station in Manchester, New Hampshire, reached out to him for an interview. Shawn happily obliged, and when asked, “What’s next?” without hesitation Shawn replied, “The Appalachian Trail.”
Meet Larry the Log
Shawn’s log picked up its name when they were still hiking in New Hampshire. He started posting on Facebook’s NH 4000 Footer page and became accustomed to group members asking him about his log. “What type of wood? How much does it weigh?” However, it was the question “What’s its name?” that got him thinking.
One member suggested naming the log Larry. That had a nice ring to it. Hence, Larry the Log was on the scene. When Shawn signed into trail registers, he now included his trail name, Log Man, but you can’t forget about his trusty companion! He also would sign in his log, Larry.
Shawn and Larry Hike the Appalachian Trail
In 2022, Shawn completed the Appalachian Trail in only four months. He hiked 2,200 miles with Larry over his shoulder while also raising $10,000 for veteran charities. And incredibly, this was Shawn’s first time ever backpacking trip! So, as you can imagine, the AT was a learning process. But it wasn’t just about surviving on the trail. Shawn also learned that there were many veterans out there hiking the AT as well, and he welcomed their stories. Not only that, but a lot of hikers believed in his cause.
Shawn met several people on the AT with stories that resonated with him. One memorable and heart-wrenching moment was when Shawn met a woman in New York who was out for a day hike. Like most hikers, she was excited and perplexed when she saw Shawn with Larry. After hearing his story, she asked to sign the log. As she signed, he heard her sniffing. Brought to tears as she wrote her husband’s name, she shared that he was on borrowed time. He was a veteran as well, and returned from war a different man.
And this wasn’t an isolated incident. Shawn met another hiker who carried his brother’s ashes in a vase, pouring some in every state. Quickly it became clear that raising money for the Wounded Warriors Project didn’t solely benefit physical injuries and needs of wounded veterans. It was also helping many families and friends of veterans heal emotional scars.
Pacific Crest Trail: The Log’s Head West
This past year, Shawn and Larry completed the PCT in six and a half months. With the record-breaking snowpack, Shawn was forced to modify his hike, flipping north after encountering deep snow in the Sierra. Then, after another flip, Shawn was done with northern California and hiked northbound across Oregon and Washington.
Even with the flipping, there was no way to completely escape the snow. At times it was necessary to not only carry his 30-pound fully loaded Hyperlite backpack, but he also added an ice axe, crampons, snowshoes, and microspikes. And because Larry already held claim to his shoulder space, most of this stuff dangled on the outside of his pack. What was once 50 pounds of gear, food, and log was now much bulkier and heavier.
And let’s not forget the bear canister that was required for a lot of the trail. Yup, you guessed it. That went on the outside of his pack, too. Shawn did make sure his Rubik’s Cube was always in his pack, though. It kept him entertained, especially during the one-month stretch when he didn’t meet a single soul on the PCT.
The AT and PCT. Not Tough Enough?
During the PCT, Shawn stopped in San Bernardino to complete yet another Tough Mudder. Why not? What had started as training for the original Tough Mudder years before was now second nature. Besides, there was already precedence for this. While on the AT, Shawn had already proven that he could handle it. This was a 12-hour endurance event, and of course, he did it. Larry, it seemed, just made Shawn stronger.
But It’s All About the Community
During his thru-hikes, Shawn was surprised by how many people wanted to help him and other thru-hikers. Not only did he get rides to town, food, and drink, but one person even let Shawn borrow their car! Other people opened their homes when the weather turned nasty. And throughout all of this, he shared his story which seemed to resonate with the people he met. The fundraiser for veterans on the AT was a success, due in large part to Larry the Log.
On the PCT, Shawn raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He met many hikers who had lost children to illness and their stories strengthened his purpose. They were his “why”. It was the connections with other hikers that were the most memorable moments, and they kept him going when the going got tough.
Up Next: The Continental Divide Trail
So what’s next for Shawn and Larry the Log? Simple, the Triple Crown! Shawn plans to hike the CDT next year while raising money for Alzheimer’s Disease care, support, and research. Seeing first-hand how debilitating and heartbreaking the disease can be after his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Shawn plans to hike in her memory.
And following tradition, Shawn plans to participate in another Tough Mudder while on the CDT. Conveniently, there is an eight-hour endurance Tough Mudder on Shawn’s birthday!
Forming a Log Squad
What will happen to the logs (all from New Hampshire, by the way) that Shawn has carried? Each is covered in the trail names of the hikers that he encountered along the way and is a priceless memento. The logs are also tagged with the relevant charity, amount raised, and hike completion date. So no, they’re not firewood. He plans on displaying his “Log Squad” on his mantle.
In the meantime, you may run into Shawn in the White Mountains of his native New Hampshire, where he enjoys day hikes and being outdoors in general. So if you’re lucky, you’ll have the chance to be inspired in person. If Larry the Log is there, then they’ll be hard to miss! If there’s one luxury item you should keep in your pack from now on, double-check that you have a Sharpie! Larry will thank you.
You can follow Shawn Mahoney (Log Man) and Larry the Log on Instagram @larry.the.log.
Featured Image: A Shawn Mahoney photo.
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That is such a awesome story and good luck to Shawn and Larry the Log in hiking the CDT.
Met him on mount Mansfield, VT end of September on a bright Saturday. We thought: “Wow, here comes Jesus!”
Great story, very moving. I would never imagined that Shawn was that great a hicker and a philantrope!
I typically start to read an article on my phone, but will soon lose interest. I read this one all the way through. This hiker has a life mission and this author brings it to light. Looking forward to more from them both.