Good Life

10 questions with hiker Dave Gantz

Dave Gantz, left, gives suggestions to Eric Wagner how to conquer a rock face during a beginning rock climbing session on June 8, 2014, with Allegheny Outdoors Institute at Donation Rocks.
Dave Gantz, left, gives suggestions to Eric Wagner how to conquer a rock face during a beginning rock climbing session on June 8, 2014, with Allegheny Outdoors Institute at Donation Rocks. Centre Daily Times, file

This spring, Dave Gantz is coming home — the long way around.

Gantz will be dropped off in the Shenandoah National Park section of the Appalacian Trail with his gear and his house key, where he will begin walking the nearly 400 miles back to his residence in State College.

But before that, Gantz will appear at Appalacian Outdoors in downtown State College at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24, to show off the gear he’ll be packing and take suggestions on what to pack from the audience.

Below, Gantz talks about what keeps him walking one step at time.

Q: How old were you when you took your first hike and where’s the first place that you remember hiking?

A: My parents are avid paddlers, so I spent more time on the water than walking in the woods. My first memories of hiking occurred at Prince Galliztin State Park. During these summer vacations, my mom would lead us on day hikes up to the water tower/reservoir. My first overnight backpacking trips began as soon as my friends and I could drive. We would find shelters on the Appalachian Trail during winter break and freeze our butts off until we figured out how to properly sleep in cold weather.

Q: Did you start with smaller hikes and gradually build in scale or were you this ambitious from the get-go?

A: I wanted to thru-hike the Mid State Trail when I was in high school, but after I couldn’t find any hiking partners, my ambitions were denied by my concerned parents. I always wished to hike the AT too, and I finally committed to that goal while I was lying in the ER with a shattered leg in 2004.

Q: What inspires you?

A: The sheer ability to be able to walk inspires me to go walking. Everyday, I am grateful for the ability to walk without much effort or discomfort. I’m that guy who turns down car rides because I simply have a more enjoyable experience if I walk.

Q: Back in 2011, you were training to hike the Continental Divide Trail. What goes into preparing for something like that? What is the time commitment like?

A: I tend to over plan, so long remote trips like the CDT can take months of planning. Acquiring permits and mail drops take a lot of time too. Many thru hikers consider it less of a ‘time commitment’ and more of a ‘lifestyle commitment’. One fun quote that I’ve heard: “It is better to save money before a long hike so that you can eat inside the Pizza Hut buffet, rather than eating ramen noodles on the sidewalk of the Pizza Hut during the trip because you spent your money before your trip.”

Q: You’re preparing to take a 400 mile hiking trip this spring. How did you go about selecting the route?

A: I want to go hiking as soon as spring starts to break. I want to be on a well beaten path, like the AT, as well as trying out some new trails — the Tuscarora Trail will be new for me. I also want to help highlight alternative routes to the AT, which is becoming overcrowded.

Q: How long do you expect it to take and how do you go about pacing yourself for something like that? Is it something you’ve planned out well in advance, or does it depend on how you are feeling day by day?

A: I generally plan to hike an average of 18-20 miles per day, but I don’t set daily goals. The main influence is food. Running out of food in between town stops is horrible, so I try not to let that happen. I also have a hiking meeting to attend to in early April, so I need to finish up before that meeting.

Q: You’ve hiked over 10,000 miles in America. What’s left for you to see?

A: The world!

Q: When you’re at your most exhausted, how do you motivate yourself to keep going?

A: I’m one of those weird people who thrives when I’m working to exhaustion. I prefer uphill sports rather than downhill sports. This is sometimes known as type II fun, which is the kind of activity that is fun after it’s over and you’re sitting at home thinking about what you did earlier in the day.

Q: You’ve packed for many a hike by now. What have you learned to prioritize?

A: I value the feeling of physical comfort and freedom that comes with a light pack over the value of lugging around heavy creature comforts. This has led me to the goal of carrying as little extra gear as possible. The best trick is to have gear that serves multiple purposes: If a single piece of gear only has one use, then I seriously question why I’m carrying it around all day.

Q: Which do you enjoy more — hiking alone or hiking with friends?

A: Hiking with friends is great because the experience is shared, it seems to be more safe than being alone, and I can talk to someone other than myself all day long. Hiking alone is fun because it allows for complete freedom of decisions.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready


What: Gantz’s Gear Shakedown

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: Appalachian Outdoors, 123 S. Allen St., State College