I’d like to introduce you to Boomerang, an 11-year-old going for his Triple Crown on the PCT this year. Also, he’s my second-born.
An unusual childhood
Zane has spent his entire life growing up in Chad, Africa, with some annual vacations to America thrown in. As such, he can get by in French and knows a smattering of other languages. He’s perfectly comfortable spending the day building his own shelter outdoors, fabricating whatever pleases him from mud, dirt, clay, water, sticks, and is in general a pretty inventive fella. He’s the family tinkerer. He loves to take things apart to see how they work. Putting them back together… well… nobody’s perfect, are they? Zane is most of the reason my toolbox is empty, as tools often head into the yard and never make it back inside again. He is quite the inventor and comes up with wild (and exhausting) ‘what ifs’ he loves to pose to any adult nearby willing to feign attention.
The boy has also matured quite a bit as a student. As one might guess, our homeschool regimen is a bit non-traditional. Zane started kindergarten at age six and would sit down and do thirty lessons of math homework straight. It was easy for him, and he loved to be able to do a lot quickly. However, when things became more challenging, he just did a lot, didn’t really matter if he understood or was correct. Outside was more exciting than school, and that was where he wanted to be. So we shaved off spelling and handwriting for years, and he could excel in his other subjects and still spend considerable time getting muddy daily. His showers every evening are pretty well-earned.
Zane hits the AT
Zane’s academic excellence (or at least adequateness!), as well as that of his older brother, allowed us to take seven months away from more formal studies in order to hike the Appalachian Trail when Zane was age 8/9. Zane proved himself to be a highly-capable hiker. He didn’t care to carry a lot of weight, but he could carry whatever was necessary.
Boomerang is Born!
Zane developed and displayed a few dominant traits as we went along. First, he rejected hundreds of trail names and wanted to go simply by ‘Zane,’ a thru-hiking faux pas at best, cardinal sin at worst. We wanted to name him ‘Alpha,’ as the child could never tolerate not being at the front of the pack. We also thought about ‘Sheepdog,’ since he was always quite eager to keep the family herder geographically close to one another, and stressed significantly any time his little sisters came near a cliff edge or any other hazard. A very properly protective big brother.
He eventually decided to humbly acquiesce to the name ‘Boomerang’ after he threw a stick into the woods, it bounced off a tree and whacked him comically (once we made sure he was ok, it was comical) in the head. We invented other purposes for the moniker, including the fact he would Boomerang back and forth from the fore of our family train to ensure we were still all, in fact, moving along in the same direction, with no party members lost to the forest.
The comfy kid
His other dominant trait was his desire for comfort, kinda odd for a kid who sleeps half the year in a tent and enjoys mucking around with the pigs. But he could feel any little thing poking him in the back through his backpack. It wasn’t unusual to round a corner and see the boy jumping on his pack to try to smash out whatever microscopic item was perturbing him. Same goes for clothes. They must be comfortable, and even more importantly, they must be green. When we came back from Africa and only had a brief moment to order our Xero shoes and our Chicken Tramper backpacks, it was a serious roll of the dice to see if they would be sufficiently-comfy for our picky son. Luckily, Goldilocks was satisfied. (‘Goldilocks’ was another floated trail name, which he rejected, as was ‘Princess and the Pea’.)
Boomerang tackles the CDT
Two years later, on the Continental Divide Trail, Zane took on more and more responsibilities, helping Blaze with bear hangs, learning to set up the tents (it only took one evening of frustrated tears and then he was a Zpacks master), filtering water, only slightly begrudgingly caring for his baby sister when needed, cheering up other hikers and so on. Boomerang is also our resident pyromaniac, willing and eager to start fires anywhere. As opposed to the AT, the CDT (and the PCT) require significantly more responsibility when fire-making, and Boomerang proved himself just that.
He still had the Alpha in him, but unfortunately for him, his big brother Blaze has a growth spurt in the intervening years between the AT and the CDT. Boomerang had a challenge keeping up with Blaze’s newly-discovered long legs. It would lead to amusing informal competitions as they would leapfrog each other, quietly trying to lead the pack. However, Blaze’s physical plateau at age 13 surpassed Boomerang’s at age 11, and by the end of the trail, it was no longer a contest. Something tells me, however, it’s game on and redemption time for Boomerang this year on the PCT.
Back to Chad 🇹🇩
Currently back home in Africa, Zane is re-attending to his studies, with a rough re-initiation into sixth grade. After the first couple months of failing spelling and more, this father is immensely proud to say the boy regularly aces his tests and is on track to finish sixth grade in under six months, this time skipping nothing. And he still has plenty of time to water his garden and build his forts.
It has been so much fun to watch Zane grow in so many ways.
It was exciting to see him tag that Canadian border and break the record for youngest kid to ever hike from Crazy Cook to Waterton along the CDT in a single year. (Smashing his brother’s record too.) Yeah, we didn’t hike the redline and younger kids have done it over two years, but it’s a bit of a record for himself. Well, he held that record for a brief few minutes, because hot on his heels came his sister…
Bring on the PCT!
Zane, Boomerang, it has been an absolute pleasure to walk nearly 5000 miles with you, to camp with you, to homeschool you, to play with you, to eat with you, to be your daddy. I’m so looking forward to another 2650 miles this year with you on the PCT.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
What Do You Think?