Will Robinson initial heard of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2003, when he located a guide for it although rifling by means of a box of books on his base in Iraq. Back then, he wasn’t however Akuna the thru-hiker, just a 22-year-old soldier seeking for some thing to take his thoughts off of the war about him. In truth, he would not set foot on a extended trail till a lot more than a decade later.
Following coming household, Robinson spent 12 years consumed by post-traumatic tension disorder, alcohol abuse, and a series of surgeries to aid repair a wrist that he had injured although he was deployed. In an essay published on The Trek final year, Robinson recalled how his “depression, discomfort, and all round mental state deteriorated” as time passed.
“I reduce off buddies, family members, and stopped carrying out the factors I when loved for the reason that I no longer located joy in something,” he wrote. “I went by means of the motions just about every day with a smile on my face even even though I was dying inside.”
Then, in 2016, Robinson was channel surfing when he came upon a broadcast of Wild, the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s PCT memoir. Figuring he required a “drastic alter,” he started researching gear and purchased a ticket to California. Just 3 weeks later, he was standing at the trail’s southern terminus.
Robinson set out on his journey as a type of self-administered therapy, organizing to “walk off the war” the very same way that Earl Shaffer, the initial Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and a Planet War II vet, had. That initial year, he doubted he’d be in a position to finish.
“There was no way I imagined acquiring [to Canada]. I was a lot more just going out to see what occurred on the PCT. I knew that was exactly where I required to be to get to a superior location mentally,” Robinson mentioned. Following hiking 1,600 miles, his thru-hike ended when he dislocated his knee on Mt. Whitney in California.
But Robinson had caught the bug. In the course of the off-season, he started instruction, loading up his pack and logging 10- to 20-mile urban hikes about his hometown of Slidell, Louisiana. In 2017, Robinson—now going by Akuna, from “Hakuna Matata,” for the reason that of his no-worries attitude—returned to the PCT. This time, he completed. In 2018, he bagged the Appalachian Trail. And on September 15, 2019, the 38-year-old completed the Continental Divide Trail to finish the Triple Crown.
Robinson’s achievement is a uncommon a single: At the finish of 2018, the American Lengthy-Distance Hiking Association—West recognized just 396 Triple Crowners. Black Triple Crowners are even rarer: By some accounts, Robinson is the initial Black male hiker to claim the feat, following Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker’s productive Triple Crown in 2018.
“I want to get a lot more veterans and persons of colour out,” he says. “But a lot more than something, I just do not want to be the final African-American [to finish the Triple Crown].”
Now, 16 years and a lot more than 9,000 miles immediately after he initial picked up that guidebook, Akuna says he located some thing on the trail that took him back to his army service: a neighborhood, united by a frequent objective.
“These are some of your brothers and sisters,” he says. “When you are in the military, you are portion of a complete. And you have the very same issue with thru-hiking. You uncover a location exactly where you belong.”