Brian Robinson took a hike into the record books
Two weeks ago, on a cold, blustery afternoon, Brian Robinson
trudged five miles up the side of Mount Katahdin in northern
Maine and made hiking history. By reaching the icy 5,268-foot
summit, which is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail,
the wiry 40-year-old became the first person to complete
hiking's Triple Crown in one year (SI, July 23), covering a
staggering 7,371 miles in just under 10 months on the
Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails.
Surely, after such an epic undertaking, most people would look
forward to blissful sloth. Not Robinson, who spent the first
week after his historic accomplishment...hiking. "Yeah, I guess
it sounds funny," says Robinson of the day he spent hiking with
a buddy in Maine's Acadia National Park, "but after so much time
in the wilderness, it's hard to adjust to being in the real
Robinson's reentry process has been made even more surreal by all
that has changed in the world since last New Year's Eve, when he
spent a freezing night atop Springer Mountain in Georgia
preparing to begin his quest. When he came off the Continental
Divide Trail in Silver Thorn, Colo., on Sept. 12 to pick up a
resupply box, Robinson noticed that all the flags in town were
flying at half-mast. Stopping at a Wendy's, he watched CNN's
coverage of the previous day's terrorist attacks. Stunned and
feeling helpless, he quickly got back on the trail.
November 12, 2001
"I never considered taking time off," he says. "I had such a 'go'
mentality that I wasn't going to allow my emotional state to stop
me. Frankly, I can deal better with things while walking."
After a couple more days Robinson forced himself to move on to
other more immediate concerns. All year he had targeted a stretch
of snow-blown peaks on the Continental Divide Trail as the most
crucial stretch of his trip. If he didn't make it through before
the first substantial snowfall, the trail would become
impassable. His brisk pace enabled him to avoid the worst. "I got
hit by one big storm that left a foot of snow," says Robinson,
"but otherwise the weather was fabulous."
His luck soon changed, however. While Robinson was traveling
cross-country on a Greyhound bus to reach his final leg, a
575-mile stretch on the Appalachian Trail, his custom-made pack
was stolen, leaving him with no gear. His father, Roy,
immediately sent an e-mail through
www.royrobinson.homestead.com, the website he has maintained to
chronicle his son's trek, and asked for help. When Brian arrived
in Bennington, Vt., a few days later, he was met by hiker Cindy
Miller, who had shown up with a jeep full of equipment. Newly
outfitted, Robinson got back on the trail and resumed his pace
of nearly 30 miles a day.
While his persistent pace carried Robinson to his goal, it also
isolated him. He often met interesting women (including one who
might even have been "the one"), but he says that he had no time
to pursue relationships. "It was a sacrifice," says Robinson. "I
was going too fast for romance, and that's too bad."
Robinson says he doesn't have any immediate plans beyond getting
a lot of rest and writing a book about his trip. He hasn't
decided whether he'll return to his job as a systems engineer at
Compaq, and he isn't ruling out further adventures. "I must
admit, the thought has occurred to me," he says. "There's
something called the Trans-Canada Trail, which goes from the U.S.
border to the Arctic Circle and then coast to coast." He pauses,
before adding wistfully, "That would be about 10,000 miles in
all, and somebody's going to have to hike it." --Chris Ballard
A dream team of adventure writers contributes tales of chilling
risks, yielding sweet rewards for the reader
The most impressive quality of The Greatest Survival Stories
Ever Told, a terrific 17-story collection, is its vast literary
sprawl, even as it revolves around a single, essential element:
the pull of death-defying adventure. The book includes fiction
by Jack London (To Build a Fire), as well as gripping nonfiction
accounts such as Owen Chase's story of a mid-ocean whale attack
in 1820 (an excerpt from Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex, which
inspired Moby Dick).
Editor Lamar Underwood gives no explanation for the stories'
seemingly random sequence, but the result of the eclectic
juxtapositions is that classic tales hit with fresh impact. Here
you find Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-tikki-tavi, a short story about
a brave mongoose, alongside an excerpt from Slavomir Rawicz's
The Long Walk, in which the author escapes a Siberian labor
camp. The stories are sometimes gruesome (people eat human flesh
on more than one occasion), frequently epic (Robert Scott's and
Ernest Shackleton's polar treks are included) and largely free
of the forced drama that often undermines adventure writing.
Whether you're an adventurer or only want to feel like one, The
Greatest Survival Stories Ever Told should be on your short
list. --Kostya Kennedy
Getting in touch with His Surfing Roots I: In a move no doubt
intended to inspire nostalgia for his role as Jeff Spicoli in
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sean Penn will star in and produce
In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End
of the Road. In the flick, which does not have a release date,
Penn plays narrator Allan Weisbecker, who travels to Central
America in search of his friend Christopher, a.k.a. Captain
Zero, a hard-core surfer who mysteriously disappeared in
1991.... Getting in Touch with His Surfing Roots II: In a move
no doubt intended to inspire nostalgia for his role as somebody
other than Jimmy Slade of Baywatch fame, Kelly Slater (above)
will return to the pro surfing tour full time in 2002. The
six-time world champion dismissed suggestions that his return
from a three-year hiatus was inspired by the return of Michael
Jordan to the NBA. "I can honestly say that this had nothing to
do with Michael," Slater said. "His comeback had to do with me,
I think."...Next year's Tour de France course, which was
unveiled last week, will be 106 miles shorter than this year's
2,150-mile edition, but it should provide far more drama because
most of the race's toughest climbs, including three straight
ones in the Alps, have been pushed from the second week to the
Faces and Feats
Regina Jaquess, Suwanee, Ga.
Jaquess, 17, finished with 7,400 points to win the women's
tricks competition at the world championships in Recetto, Italy.
The high school senior was sixth in the women's overall and the
youngest member of the U.S. elite team, which defeated France
for the gold medal.
Danny Pate, Colorado Springs
Pate, 22, became the first American to win a gold medal in the
under-23 men's individual time trial at the World Road Cycling
Championships, in Lisbon, where he crossed the finish in 46
minutes and 29 seconds. Pate is a three-time national champion
in his sport.
Wendy Ingraham, Smartville, Calif.
Ingraham, 37, finished the Ironman World Championships in 9:57:33
and the following week's Xterra World Championships in 3:38:31 to
give her the Hawaiian Airlines Double, awarded to the athlete
with the fastest combined time in the two events.
Submit Faces candidates to siadventure.com/faces.
The storied Nose at Yosemite's El Cap has always offered a
rocking scene, never more so than in the last two weeks, when
the record for the fastest ascent up the 34-pitch, 2,900-foot
route was broken three times. On Oct. 19, Timmy O'Neill and Dean
Potter, both from the U.S., scaled the Nose in three hours, 59
minutes and 35 seconds, surpassing by nearly 23 minutes the
previous record, set by U.S. climbers Hans Florine and Peter
Croft in 1992. Nine days later, however, Florine teamed with Jim
Herson to set a new mark, in 3:57:27, only to watch O'Neill and
Potter pick the Nose apart last Friday in 3:24:04. That's a far
cry from the first ascent up the Nose, in 1958, when Warren
Harding needed 45 days to summit.
Hours by which Steve Fossett smashed the west-to-east
transatlantic sailing record, in a 125-foot catamaran. Less than
two months after he had failed, for a sixth time, to complete
the first solo flight around the world in a hot-air balloon,
Fossett (with his nine-man crew) made the 2,925-mile trip from
New York City to Cornwall, England, in four days, 17 hours and
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
--Full SI coverage of Brian Robinson's Triple Crown hike
--The remarkable comeback of U.S. skiing sensation Erik Schlopy
--Gear guide: prepare for the ski season on skinet.com