Jerry “CrampPa” Tillman 2024 PCT Thru-Hiker Contestant!

“Please Allow me to Introduce Myself…” Rolling Stones

Hi, my trail name is CrampPa and this post is a snapshot of who I am…

Success- It Starts With the Approach

I am, what most would say, a competitive individual.  Whether it is playing sports, grinding at work, playing in the outdoors, or learning new skills, I play to win! 

So as I prepare to hike the PCT this year, I have been pouring over my equipment, absconding my wife’s kitchen scale, reading Blog after Blog, sorting through the various Logistic scenarios, and reviewing my “head tapes” of the good, bad, and ugly of my many previous backpack trips.  However, 42 days out until I take step number one out of Campo, and I am wracking my brain out over what should be my Walk Up Song on my earbuds as I step up to the monument! After all, it starts with the approach……  Now the cool kids are recommending the current Walk Up favorites: “Jump Around” by House of Pain and “Hell Yeah” by SoFaygo ft. Ken Carson.  Well considering I’m walking 2,600+ miles with 25-30 lbs. on my back, the first option has me feeling the pain already and the second one sounds a little like I’m taunting the Trail…. While its Bold and Brash, I need to Represent my generation.  So as a 68-year-old Grandpa, I’m debating between “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin or “California Dreaming” by The Mamas & The Papas.  

Could You be in Denial or Are You Just Nuts?

Thanks for asking…. Yes and Yes again! But so far it has served me well in life.  When I have passion or love doing something;  I can do amazing things.  One example:  I was a scrawny little kid growing up but I LOVED playing football. (maybe a few to many knocks to the head accounts for the nuts part) Almost everyone told me I was never going to play, much less succeed, in even high school football.  I ended up playing through college and even started on a National Championship Team.  While the experience was awesome, it is yesterdays news, and I don’t want to actually live my life in Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”  So I chose to string together new experiences to immerse myself in throughout my life.

Background on Why Hike the PCT at 68 Years Old

I LOVE being in the outdoors and grounding myself in Nature.  I believe the experiences we have interacting with nature can be humbling, restorative, and help us grow in gratitude for the blessings we have.  It also opens our hearts and stirs the mind to DREAM BIG. During one of my backpacking trips in Arizona, while sitting around a campfire and gazing at a star filled night, a seed was planted as we made the bold decision to go hike the Appalachian Trail.  After college and before we bogged down in the “business of a responsible life” we were going to be bold explorers and do what few had done.  That was in 1972 and we were 17 years old and ready to strut.   As it turns out, life takes many twists and turns; and while I still have had a life full of wonderful blessings, I never followed up on that bucket list item……

However, my wife (Mary) and I, made the outdoors a key part of our lives as we raised our four kids.  We took EPIC two-week ROAD TRIP vacations all around the country, and hiking and camping were always a big part of that experience.  I love that our kids embrace the outdoors and are choosing to being active in the outdoors in their adult lives.  Our eldest “Steady Eddy” has actually completed thru-hiking the AT, PCT, and the Te Araroa Trails and our daughter (she won’t disclose her trail name) has completed a thru-hike of the JMT.  So in the years of vicariously celebrating in their EPIC treks, and doing my own hiking/backpacking with my wife (and sometimes with the kids), I have kept the tether to the bucket list dream intact.  My wife in her wisdom, could see the itch…..getting itchier.

Retirement has opened some doors

While preparing for Retirement, our Tax/Finance guy sent us an invite to a seminar about “Are You Ready For Retirement?”  It had NOTHING to do with money/taxes.  It presented the concept that it was imperative that the attendees explore and connect to the things that  we were passionate about and leverage that to drive a purposeful life with actions that enhanced the lives of others around us.  The research showed that people who did so tended to live much longer and happier lives in retirement.

As a family, we have decompressed and rejuvenated ourselves by taking to the many trails, both long and short, around the country.  My wife and I decided to give back by volunteering on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota.  This past year we put in over 100 hours in on trail clearing, tread repairing, and erosion mitigation projects.  It has been a very meaningful experience for us …but the itch got even more itchier for me….

So we decided that I could have 23 days up on the Superior Hiking Trail for me to assess if I thought I had the drive, determination, and the physical ability to realistically follow that dream of a 17 year old star gazing teenager a nutty 51 years later…… Now I itch all over!

Conclusion

I think I can do it. We all know the odds are against me making it the whole way, but the journey no matter how far I get, will be rich and full of wonderful nutty people like myself…..and certainly EPIC…

I don’t know where Jelly Roll got the quote but I think it fits at this stage of my life more than ever:  “The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. Because what’s in front of you is so much more important than what’s behind you.”

Thanks for reading along.  Help someone smile today because they are worth it

Peace Out

Jerry “CrampPa”

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 11

  • Susan Kenworthy : Mar 8th

    Hello to a fellow Medicare-eligible Bruce fan. I’m not a hiker, but I wish you well!

    Reply
    • Jerry Tillman : Mar 9th

      Hi Susan, Thanks for the support.

      Reply
  • Emily : Mar 15th

    Can’t wait to follow your adventure, Jerry! You got this!

    Reply
    • Jerry CrampPa Tillman : Mar 17th

      Thanks Emily!

      Reply
  • Joyce Tillman Lazar : Mar 17th

    Looking forward to following your adventures!

    Reply
  • Tony L. Lee : Mar 18th

    Wow! I just heard about you at The Refrigeration School, INC. in Phoenix, Arizona. Instructor Michael Tillman told us about you and I would like to track you. Stay safe and take plenty pictures for us.

    Reply
  • Your favorite son in law : Mar 19th

    Go make us proud old man!!! You got this!!!

    Reply
  • The Weis Fam : Apr 6th

    We can’t wait to follow along with your epic adventure! You have us dreaming of planning our own thru hike one day.
    Love you Uncle Jerry!
    Emily

    Reply
    • Jerry CrampPa Tillman : Apr 6th

      Thanks Emily. Good seeing you and the Fam last month! Enjoy Spring on the new Homestead!

      Reply
  • The O'Connells : Apr 6th

    This is truly the adventure of a lifetime! We are so proud of you!! We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers throughout your journey!

    Here’s sending our love,

    Annie Bananie

    Reply
    • Jerry CrampPa Tillman : Apr 6th

      Thanks Annie!

      Reply

What Do You Think?