Remembering Chris “Rafiki” Roma: Hikers Pay Tribute to Triple Crowner

Two weeks ago, Christopher “Rafiki” Roma tragically died while hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Rafiki was an experienced thru-hiker and a personal friend to many in the long-distance hiking community.

The Thornton, NH native was a Triple Crowner and an avid explorer of the White Mountains. He completed the PCT in 2016 and 2020, the CDT in 2017, and the AT in 2018. He is survived by his two-year-old son, Solomon.

The thru-hiking community is small and tight-knit; losing such an experienced member is shocking and sad, even for those of us who didn’t know Rafiki personally. For his loved ones, including the many hikers he befriended throughout his years on the trail, the loss is grievous.

Below you’ll find some words and photos celebrating Rafiki’s life, all of which were shared with The Trek by readers and reproduced here with permission. Some responses were lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

If you knew Rafiki and would like to share your own tribute to him, please submit it via this form.

Finally, friends of Rafiki set up a GoFundMe to defray the cost of his memorial service and support his son. If you’re looking for an additional way to honor Rafiki’s memory, consider donating.

Photo: Published to by Chris Roma in October 2023

“Rafiki took my call when I was looking for someone to shuttle me 60 miles for my section hike last summer. He texted me before he picked me up, asking me what kind of Gatorade I liked and if I wanted a snack.

It’s tough to find shuttle drivers willing to go that distance, let alone ones that know that you’ll be so grateful for a cold drink. But that was him. A seasoned thru-hiker that loved the trail and being a part of its community

We spent the whole ride talking about the our hikes, favorite memories from the trail, and how hiking is a salve for the soul. I was so saddened to hear of his passing. A true loss of such a bright and beautiful spirit. My thoughts are with his family and friends and his young child. Rest in peace, friend 🤍” — Kill Jar

Photo: Chris Templeton

“I’ve hiked small sections of the PCT for most of my life now. In 2020, I decided to plan my longest trip so far: a thru-hike of the Oregon section. It was the perfect year to go be (mostly) alone in the wilderness, and it deepened my wanderlust so much that last year I completed a full thru-hike.

Being only a section hiker meant that I was getting passed by trail-hardened thru-hikers constantly, their sun-darkened calves glistening in the sun. This came with the unforeseen blessing that the constant stream of flavorful adventurers never left me alone for long.

It took me nearly 30 minutes to get a hitch in the waning purple and orange of the summer afternoon. The sketchy white economy van and its driver gave me pause, but I figured ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and hopped in anyway, stepping around the mattress in the back of the van. The somewhat spooky atmosphere made me wish there was another hiker with me for safety in numbers.

That’s why I nearly shouted, ‘Hey, maybe this guy needs a ride’ the moment I first saw Rafiki thumbing for a hitch just ahead. The driver pulled over and took us to Sisters , where he and I split a motel. We had a grand old time that night; I remember I had too much beer and threw up on the lawn out back while Rafiki laughed and talked me through it.

I couldn’t keep up with him and his group for more than the couple of days it took us to reach Olallie Lake, but out of all the folks I met during my three-week journey, Rafiki stands out.

Even today, to me a Triple Crowner is an awe-inducing individual — a dream-chasing mobile philosopher in the way of adventure. Rafiki was that, through and through. Generous, tireless, unique, and joyful. I wish I’d kept up with him in the years following. He was like something out of a movie, and a major inspiration to me taking the leap to thru-hike in 2023. I’m so glad I was lucky enough to meet and interact with the guy. The hiking community lost a great one.”

— Chris “Joker” Templeton

Photo: Outro

“Your bright smile and incredible spirit will forever be remembered.

The photo is from Shadowcliff Hostel in Grand Lake, CO when we were hiking the CDT in 2017 SOBO. I will always remember knowing he was around by the tread of his Salomon Speedcross Pros since we were the only four SOBOs in our own little bubble together. A truly amazing spirit.” — Outro

Photo: Naps

“I met Rafiki my first day on the PCT in 2020. Our stories intertwined multiple times until mile 2000, where we linked up. He was a strong hiker. He liked to put in big-mile days but never missed the opportunity to stop to take in a view. We completed the final 600-plus miles together, ultimately tagging the border before hitching to Seattle to say goodbye.

We stayed in touch post-trail until one day he called me to say he was going to be a father. The excitement in his voice was more profound than the day we were sitting on the peak of a mountain in the Cascades and a jet did a barrel roll through the valley in front of us. The rumble of the jet engine and exhilarated holler of Rafiki’s voice I can still hear, but the complete elation at the news of becoming a father far surpassed any moments on the PCT, and man, did that man LOVE the PCT!”

— Naps

“I’ve never met someone with such a zest for life.” Quote and photo: Naps

“He always stopped to appreciate the views.” Quote and photo: Naps

“While trying to hitch into Leavenworth, Rafiki pulled the American flag out his pack, which he carried the entire trail. Waving it for hitches usually worked, but this particular day a police officer pulled up and jokingly said to us, “there’s only one way you’re getting in my car!” Quote and photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Photo: Naps

Do you have a story or photo of Rafiki that you’d like to see included in this remembrance? Submit it via this form. Click here to donate to a GoFundMe in Rafiki’s honor.

Featured image courtesy of “Naps.”

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