Introducing “The Attempt” Podcast | Episode 1: “I’m attempting it. I’m attempting it.”
If you’re a fan of Backpacker Radio and/or Trail Correspondents, we have good news. If you’re not, it’s also still quite possibly that this news will be received well.
The Trek, in partnership with Bad Cat Media, is proud to unveil its newest podcast, called The Attempt.
The Attempt follows Benjamin Drachman during his attempted southbound (SOBO) thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. The show is produced by Julia Drachman—and no, that last name is not a coincidence. Julia is Ben’s older sister. What may shock you about this show is its production value. And by that, we mean, it has production value.
In a nutshell, if This American Life and Trail Correspondents had a baby, that baby would be The Attempt.
It’s July 2019 and Benjamin Drachman is gearing up to attempt to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. As his sister–and a professional storyteller–I can’t help but ask: Can we make a podcast about it?
The Attempt is sponsored by Gossamer Gear, manufacturers of functional ultralight backpacking gear, designed by hikers.
Benjamin: (Heavy breathing) Hey, what’s up? It’s Ben Drachman. I am doing, I guess, my first audio update. It’s 4 weeks today until I start the PCT southbound from Hart’s Pass, Washington to the US-Mexico border. So right now, I threw my pack on, put what I think is a reasonable amount of weight in it, and I’m testing out how it feels around my neighborhood in Seattle. It’s pretty hilly. So, having fun!
This is my brother, Benjamin. Other people call him Ben, but I always say Benjamin. I’m his big sister, Julia. It goes me, then Benjamin, then our sister, Rebecca. And of the three of us, no one is surprised that he’s the one who’s about to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Next week–on July 15, 2019–I’m planning to drop him off at the trailhead and his goal will be to reach the Mexican border by Thanksgiving. It’s 2,653 miles of trail. He’s done a lot of hiking and camping, but he’s never done anything this big before.
And here I am, a podcaster, and a storyteller. So of course, I couldn’t help but ask: Can I make a podcast about this? He was a little hesitant at first. I’m basically asking him to keep an audio diary, and then share it with me, his sister, and then let me share it with the world. But after a little arm-twisting, Benjamin says yes. He even agrees to sit down for a little pre-trip interview.
Julia: Let’s just talk logistics first. What’s going to go in your bag and how heavy is it going to be?
Benjamin: Hopefully it’s gonna be 35 pounds. I have a 65 liter Deuter–a German company–backpack. It’s going to have in it sleeping bag, sleeping pad, couple changes of clothes, toiletries, down jacket, ice axe, obviously my cell phone, stove, pot, raincoat, extra socks, isobutene, flip flops, paper maps, headlamp, batteries, solar charger, beacon, bear box for areas where there are grizzly bears, rope, microspikes for hiking over snow, ice axes, hiking poles, little notebook to write. I think that’s it.
Julia: Wow. And you didn’t say tent.
Benjamin: Oh. Tent! (Laughing) No, that’s important: tent. A one-person tent. I tested it and it can fit one person and one dog.
For the record, this is true. In all his preparation for the PCT, Benjamin has gone on a bunch of training trips. And on one, he brought our parents’ 85-pound Bernese mix, Romio–who, of course, insisted on swimming in the lake right before bedtime. Actually, let me just play you the clip:
Benjamin: Oh my goodness. Romio. Oh my god. This is so much worse than I thought it would be. Oh my god. (Dog panting.) Sit. Please, sit, Romio! Please sit. Please just sit. Oh my god.
Julia: But you’re not bringing a dog.
Benjamin: I’m not bringing a dog. There are too many places where dogs are not allowed. And despite how lovely our family’s puppy is, first of all, my dad would never let me take him, but second of all, he’s high maintenance. It would be hard.
Julia: What are you going to eat every day?
Benjamin: A lot of candy bars. Candy bars, granola bars, dried fruit, turkey jerky, salmon jerky, macaroni and cheese, beans and rice, noodles, nuts. I did some portioning out of food to see calorie intake, I think I should be doing 3,000-4,000 calories a day and then every eight days or so you resupply. So you either buy new food or you, you know, someone meets up with you near the trail and supplies you with a box you sent to them. It’s a lot of logistics, so that’s part of what I’m working on in this week before. Just making sure all the logistics are set.
Julia: You couldn’t do this trail necessarily at any time in your life. You’re kind of just old enough now that mom would even let you.
Julia: Does it feel like you’re taking advantage of being in this age? Or, how do you think about that?
Benjamin: Yeah, it does. Totally, I’m young, pretty healthy. I totally feel fortunate. It feels kinda weird because this idea started germinating a couple years ago and I kinda laid out this whole, what wound up being, a seven-year plan: two years at a job, do this gap year with a long hike, and then go to law school. And so far, things have fallen into place. And I trade off between being like, “Oh, perfect, things are going according to this rough plan I laid out” and feeling grateful and lucky for that, and being like, “Oh, shit, did I plan things too far out? And just because I planned this so far out, do I still want to do this?” And I think I do, but it’s just good to keep asking myself that.
Julia: Yeah. Um, what are you most looking forward to in terms of both places and also types of experiences?
Benjamin: To answer both of your questions in one, I’m excited to get to the top of a ridgeline in the North Cascades, which happens soon, happens early, because Washington is the first state. And you know, getting to the top of a ridgeline, dropping your bag, taking a sec. That little moment right there is just like… it’s always impossible to photograph or record or even really describe, but there’s always this moment that’s like holy shit… this is perfect. It’s just perfect. So that’s what I’m excited for.
Julia: When you’re walking, do you play any games in your head? Or like… what do you do?
Benjamin: All sorts of things. I write dumb poetry. I sometimes count my steps for a short stretch–I think that’s a dangerous game. I plan the next day. Sometimes I just look out at what I’m walking past. I try to remember old things. I just kind of… it’s definitely not mediation, but just letting my mind do its thing. Some people listen to podcasts. Um, some people listen to music. I’m a little nervous that if I listen to music one day while hiking, I’m going to need to listen to it every day. You know, it’s kinda like when I first realized I like running with music, now running without music feels really tough. So I’ve been trying to do that this last month, go on runs just to get used to it. So we’ll see. I’ll bring headphones but we’ll see. Who knows? There’s a lot of things you think about, so hopefully that’ll keep me going. OK, where am I going to camp? Do I have enough time? What’s my pace? It’s not like driving a stick shift car, but it kinda feels like that sometimes. Where’s my next water, how much water do I have, do I have enough food to make it to the next stop? When am I gonna get cell service so I can shoot a message to someone? Is my beacon working? And if I get bored I get bored. There are worse things in life than being bored.
Julia: What do you hope it adds to who you are? What do you hope to be coming away from it with in your life?
Benjamin: That’s a really good question… what do I hope to be coming away from it with in my life? I just… I mean, the word that jumps to mind is toughness. Not that that’s a good answer, but it’s the best answer I can give. Toughness. People kind of say, “Are you excited to do this?” And I say, “I’m excited to attempt it.” There are so many things that could go wrong and I–this podcast, for example—I don’t want it to be two episodes long. If I twisted my ankle and couldn’t do it. Or if I realized I hate doing this. Or whatever happens. And so I correct people and I say, “I’m attempting it. I’m attempting it, I’m attempting it.” Maybe that’s about working in a prosecutor’s office for two years–being really careful with words. And not saying something that you don’t 100% mean. But I 100% mean that I’m going to attempt to do it. What do you think we should call this?
Julia: Oh yeah. What if it had something to do with attempting?
Benjamin: Yeah, I like that.
Julia: Ben’s Attempt.
Benjamin: The Attempt. Um, it’s important to me that it’s an attempt. It kinda frames the goal. It’s not about success or failure. From step one, I will have succeeded at attempting it. Literally, if I fall off a cliff and break my legs on my first step, I will have attempted it. And I will not have succeeded in hiking it, but I will have succeeded in attempting it. It’s about getting to the start.
Julia: I like that. So if we’re solidifying The Attempt, can you give me one good, “You’re listening to The Attempt, I’m Ben Drachman” or something like that?
Julia: NO?! What about just, “This is The Attempt”?
Benjamin: No. You’ll have to splice it together.
Julia: What about, “This is Ben Drachman.”
Julia: What about, “You’re listening to a podcast my sister makes.”
Benjamin: You’re listening to a podcast my sister makes.
Julia: It’s called “The Attempt.” This is…
Benjamin: I see what you’re trying to do!
Julia: (Laughing) Fine, I’ll just say it. Or we don’t have to say it at all.
Benjamin: You’re listening to… The Attempt.
So that’s it for this episode.
You’ve been listening to The Attempt, produced by me, Julia Drachman, with help from Doug Beyers. We are a production of Bad Cat media, created in partnership with The Trek–a media company dedicated to thru-hiking and long-distance backpacking enthusiasts. Find all the episodes of The Attempt at thetrek.co/the-attempt. You can find more information about Bad Cat Media–our games and other podcasts–at badcat.media. Or you can follow us @badcat_media on Instagram and Twitter. The music you heard in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions. The next two episodes are available now! Thank you so much for listening.
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