Trail Life Q&A with Mike Campos

Many of our Zeeps spend a lot of time outdoors, and as a company that works on sites across the country, we care about exploring and taking care of our natural environment. One of our good friends, Mike Campos, is currently completing the Triple Crown of Hiking.

For those who don’t know, the Triple Crown consists of three iconic U.S. hiking trails – The Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Fewer than five hundred people have ever completed the entire distance for all three trails, and Mike is on his way to being one of them. He started the Continental Divide Trail at the beginning of July 2021.

All told, the three trails are more than 8,000 miles of through hiking – meaning you carry what you need, camp out along the trail, and restock your supplies as you travel thousands of miles on foot. Fewer than half the people who attempt these trails end up completing them, so finishing all three is a rare accomplishment.

Mike chatted with us before he left on his 3,100-mile trek. Here’s what he had to say about trail life.

Z: When did you complete the other segments of the Triple Crown?

MC: I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018, from March to September, and I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2020 from March to September – although I went off-trail for the month of April because of COVID-19 and returned to the trail May 5.

Z: What made you start hiking, especially these iconic hikes?

MC: I started hiking these long trails because I needed to change the way I was living my life. I wasn’t happy with my life or the path I saw my life taking. I knew I needed to change everything I was doing but I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how to do it. I felt lost. I sold everything I owned, bought a baby stroller, loaded it with food and water and started walking west, on the side of the road. I quickly learned that you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you’re going.

Z: What’s something you’ve learned on the trail?

MC: I’ve learned that we have some amazing people in our country. The help you receive from a stranger is a different kind of help. You appreciate it in a different way. When you haven’t showered in a week and you look like you haven’t showered in three weeks, and a stranger invites you into their house to feed, shower, and wash your clothes, it’s hard to describe but it gives you hope that things can get better, that people are better. It’s not all bad out there.

Z: What made you want to attempt the Triple Crown?

MC: I’ll steal this from something I read once, “If you hike one you’ll hike all three.” 

Trail life or hiking these trails has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I never planned, thought, or would have guessed that I’d be where I am in my life today. And with every new trail I keep changing. I’m not sure I’d say it’s important for me to finish “the big three” but it’s definitely important for me to keep hiking, so I can keep changing. I’m not done seeing where walking will take me.

Z: You now also work in national parks – anything you’d like people to know about making big life changes or spending more time in the outdoors?

MC: I’d just want everyone to know that you can change. You don’t have to hate your life. The first step to change is the hardest. The first time I quit working to go walk across the country was the hardest, scariest, unknown thing I had ever done. Now I love finishing jobs to go hike. I love working to go live, not living to work. The jobs I’ve worked these last few years love supporting me while I plan my next hike.

Truthfully, I wish I knew more about our national park system. But the one thing I now know and think everyone should know is that you can live and get paid to live in our national parks, and it’s fun. I’ve lived in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and in Yellowstone all in the last three years. And I plan on living in many more national parks – live where people vacation.

Z: Any advice for people thinking about a long hike like this?

MC: My main advice for people wanting to get into long distance hiking would be, do it. It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, mentally and physically (and for some people emotionally). It will change you. You’re not going to start out hiking 20–25-mile days. It’s not about walking 1,000 miles or 3,000 miles, it’s about walking today, every day.

Take less. It’s okay if you don’t shower for seven days. All you need is food and water, everything else is comfort. Start early, finish late. I spent six months to a year watching YouTube videos on hiking, reading everything I could find online, hiking gear, food, and anything to do with people walking across the country or hiking long trails or things on being homeless. I started living this lifestyle long before my first step on a trail, or in my case, on the road. I might not know what I’ll be doing next year, where I’ll be working, where I’ll be living, where I’ll be hiking. But I know that no matter what I do, something will happen.

Most trails are nonprofit organizations that take donations and use volunteers to maintain the trail systems. If you can’t get away to tackle a long hike, you can have an awesome week or two working and living on the trail. I’m no expert at any of this. I’m still learning.