Introducing: The Attempt

Released September 18, 2019

JULIA: Hey everyone. It’s been a while since we had an episode in this feed. And I want to let you know what I’ve been up to these last few months. Right around when my last episode came out, I started working on a new podcast. It’s called The Attempt. It follows my little brother, Benjamin, as he attempts to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. So basically, he’s walking from the very northern edge of Washington state, all the way down to the border with Mexico. The whole thing is like 2600 miles and it usually takes people about 4-5 months. Each episode covers a part of the journey and is mostly made up of voice memos he records on his phone. Then, every week or so when he has cell service, he sends them to me and I get this window into his adventure.

And that has been my favorite part of this whole project. He shares his worry and his joy and sometimes he just cracks me up. Each episode I do what I can based on what I get from him. And so there’s this sense of adventure for me as I listen to what he sends me each week.

I also want to say that I’m sad that this project has taken me away from Going Forward. The plan was to do both at the same time -- this monthly episodic show and a regular serial show -- but it turns out, that’s easier said than done. Anyway, I want to assure you that Going Forward isn’t over -- I’m just taking a little time off to tell this other story. The plan is to resume episodes in this feed very soon. But for now, I want to share with all of you what I’ve been working on. So, without further ado, here is episode 3 of The Attempt. It’s called High Spirits.


JULIA: Hey guys, this is Julia. I got my first reports from the trail last week and I’m happy to say, Benjamin has successfully begun his attempt! In fact, this episode will cover week 1: from Hart’s pass, up to the Canadian border, and then South again, down to the town of Stehekin. You know what, I’m gonna let him tell you.

BENJAMIN: Hey it’s Ben. It’s first night of the PCT trip. We’re at Holman Pass, 14 miles north of Hart’s Pass where we started. I’m with Antoine who I started with and Brent who we met along the way. We’re varying degrees of fatigue. It was a pretty tough walk in, just to get used to the weight of the pack and just how it feels to put miles behind you. Luckily it was pretty flat, mostly downhill. Tomorrow the plan is to go 20 miles to border where we’ll actually start. Right now we’re kinda going backwards in our goal because we gotta go tag the northern border. Dinner tonight: a delicious combo of top ramen and buffalo chicken prepared pocket. And it is around 9:00 and I am no in the mood to stay awake any longer so it is bedtime for Ben. Good night.

 ~Hiking sounds~

BENJAMIN: Alright, so we made it up to the US Canada border. It’s monument 78 which is the official northern terminus of the PCT. So we came 33 miles from Hart’s Pass and it’s about 3 PM on Tuesday, the day after we started. Antoine, any thoughts?

ANTOINE: I’m fucking tired already.

BENJAMIN: You’re fucking tired already? Is the Marlboro helping?


BENJAMIN: Good. Hahah.


BENJAMIN: Alright, Antoine, I’m gonna do a quick recording. It’s Day 3, we just  -- Antoine and I just tagged the border yesterday then camped by a lake, about 7 miles back. Which means we are officially 7 miles through the PCT Southbound. Antoine, what hurts today?


BENJAMIN: Knees. I have more blisters than I can count and I’m running out of tape to cover them up. I accidentally tore my sleeping bag last night, cuz I tried to remove a tag and it burst a seam. But I’m in high spirits. I’m walking through a cloud right now. We just passed the highest point on the PCT in Washington State and now we’re in a steady descent.


BENJAMIN: I’ll introduce you. Hey it’s Ben and camped at Windy Pass with Antoine and our new friend Ophelie. You want to introduce yourself?

OPHELIE: Yeah, Hi! I am Ophelie, I am from Quebec. Well I am quite slow and I am just walking to have fun and don’t know where I am because I don’t have GPS and no watch – no way to have the time, no way to know where I am or where’s water. And um, what’s your name again? Ben – I borrowed Ben’s stove because mine couldn’t work. I’m lucky he’s there. That’s it!.


~Rain sounds~

BENJAMIN: So it’s raining pretty hard. It’s the third night. I am cozy in my tent which is filled with mostly damp things that I own. What else is going on. I just popped a couple blisters, which was a gruesome affair. But hopefully it’ll be good in the long term. Oh my god, it is really raining out there. I kind have to pee, but I’m in my sleeping bag and it’s not even 9 pm and I’m fucking exhausted. So that’s what I’m thinking about.

 ~Rain sounds~


BENJAMIN: Um, it’s really rainy. Hasn’t stopped being rainy. That’s a bit of a bummer. And I have pretty bad blisters, which is the other bummer. All over both feet. Hurts to walk. Shit. It’s starting to rain again. Besides that, things are good.


BENJAMIN: Ok. Day 5. About I guess 45 miles officially southbound on the PCT. Um, what’s on my mind right now is blisters. I have about 7 bad blisters and I’m running out of bandaids and tape and gauze to cover them. It’s pretty frustrating because I can’t get my socks dry and I can’t get my shoes try. So that friction creates even more blisters. I’m hoping that when we get to stehekin in a couple days, they’ll have more medical supplies I can buy. That would be awesome. I’m also just thinking that these boots are causing the problem. Might see if I can get some more shoes at Stehekin because if I have to walk too many more miles with pain at every step, it’s not gonna be very fun. The good news is: besides the blisters, everything feels pretty great. Having a great time with my bud, Antoine. He built us a fire last night so we got to kind of dry out our stuff. Right now eyes and hearts are focused on Stehekin which should be a nice respite, restaurant meal, maybe dry off a bit, that’s the goal. 


~Hiking sounds~

BENJAMIN: Alright Mike, I’m doing a recording. Tell the good people where we are.

MIKE: Hello good people! We are entering into – if not already in – the Cascades National Park. It’s probably a little after 1:30 in the morning. We got a full moon. Or nearly full moon. Extremely waning gibbous. It’s Ben, Antoine, and the new godfather – oh, river crossing!

BENJAMIN: Ooh shit, this is a bad time to pull my phone out. Oooooh ok. Oof. So we… is this the trail? Yeah I think so. You see my confusion right? So we got up early this morning because we want to be in Stehekin about 18 miles away by the time the shuttle comes to take us into town, into the post office. Alright, I’m putting this down


JULIA: Now, I have no idea what he says after this point because I think he put his phone in his pocket. But here’s the good news: They made it in time to catch the shuttle to Stehekin. Once they got there, Benjamin was able to take care of his blisters, take some time off, and hang out with other hikers. After spending Sunday in Stehekin, he decided to take the boat into Chelan to buy new shoes. And, from his motel room there, he recorded this.


BENJAMIN: So it is Monday, a week after I started the trail. And I am currently in Lake Chelan, taking my second straight zero day. A zero day is basically when you don’t do any hiking. I’m taking my second zero day because I have these pretty bad blisters from my first week of hiking that did not go away after my first zero day. It’s a really weird thing for me to hit the brakes because my instincts are all telling me to just power through it. And that would be really bad in the long term. Because blisters can be infected. I wouldn't go very fast. And I could get hurt more. So I took a boat from Stehekin into Chelan and I got a new pair of shoes because my boots were not working for me, they were way too rigid. And tomorrow I’m gonna go back, see how I’m feeling. If I’m ready to start, I’ll start. If I need another day in stehekin, I’ll stay another day in Stehekin. So that’s what I’m thinking about right now.


JULIA: So this is where I was going to end this episode. But then, I got some new voice memos. And I have to say, it was nice to hear him back on the trail and happy.


BENJAMIN: Hey. It’s been a couple days since I made a recording. I think the last one I made I was in Chelan and I was pretty worried about delaying and I was kinda going through this idea that I had to accept that this is a marathon not a sprint. And I think I’ve kinda taken those ideas to heart a little more. They’re still kinda fighting my instincts a little bit. But anyway, I’m currently walking up top one of the higher passes in the area and I am fucking blown away by how pretty it is. I am surrounded by a ring of snow covered mountains, walking through fields of wild flowers that are just swarming with marmots. Um it’s sunny. Pretty warm. And camp is two miles away. That’s all for now.


JULIA: So there you have it for Week 1 of The Attempt. I’m so proud of Benjamin. I know that’s cheesy, but I am. You know how he said at the beginning, in that interview, that he’s looking to find toughness out on the trail? Well, I think he’s already pretty tough. What impresses me is that he seems to be learning how to be gentle. How to be kind to himself and take care of his injuries and slow down. And that makes me really proud.

That’s it for this episode of The Attempt. And as promised, here’s the real time update on Benjamin: As of today, August 6, he is somewhere between Snoqualmie Pass and White Pass, still in Washington state. The blisters are doing a lot better, and he’s currently with his friend Anand. My parents and Rebecca went out to Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday to drop off Anand and re-supply Benjamin with food, including a picnic lunch of fried chicken and fresh salad. And, since we’re on the food theme, I just wanted to share a little bit of audio Benjamin sent me that didn’t make it into this episode.


BENJAMIN: I thought I’d talk a little bit about what I’ve been eating. So, everyday as soon as I wake up I eat two protein bars… a nature valley, or a granola bar… two candy bars, a couple tortillas… I either have them with chicken or peanut butter… the powdered peanut butter… a dehydrated meal… dinner is sometimes mac and cheese or ramen… having tortilla chips and potato chips was incredible...I do miss fresh fruit and vegetables and food someone else prepares for me. Ok, that’s it for now.



JULIA: Thank you so much for listening. If you want to hear more of the Attempt, please follow the link in the show notes or just search for “The Attempt” on your podcast app. Going Forward and The Attempt are produced by me, Julia Drachman with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Our theme at Going Forward is by Phoneix Glendinning. Ok, that’s it for now. See you soon!