QUICK INTERVIEWS FROM THE EDGE OF ADVENTURE
LONG-DISTANCE HIKER WHITNEY "ALLGOOD" LARUFFA
When I write Expeditious, I try to inspire readers by telling the trails and hard lessons learned from explorers of every kind. But after chatting with Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa about the thousands of miles he’s hiked you wouldn’t know that he’d had any hard times at all. Secondly, when interviewing explorers, correspondence with some can be difficult. Some think they’re celebrities - and treat you like a small-time subordinate. But immediately after meeting “Allgood” I felt we’d been friends for years. His attitude towards life and work is one to aspire to. His positivity and kindness is addictive, and stays with you long after you leave the interaction.
He’s a hiker - and that sounds simple, but it’s much more than that. At 38 years old, he’s been hiking semi-professionally for 20 years. In that time he has hiked the Appalachian Trail, Allegheny Trail, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, Timberline Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and submitted more North American peaks than I care to list. He founded AllgoodsK9Adventures.com where he advocates and educates people on hiking with their dogs. In his remaining time, he somehow squeezes in being the president of the American Long Distance Hiking Association (See more at: ALDHAwest.org) I met up with him last month just before he set off for a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail.
MFA: How has long-distance hiking changed you and how does it excite you?
Allgood: More than anything - I am a pretty fast-paced person, and it makes me slow down. When you can only travel at 3 mph max you get a very different perspective of the world around you. For me, it’s the connection back to earth and nature, at a human pace, that makes you appreciate the fine details of things. Secondly I just like to walk. I mean humans have been walking since the beginning of time! It’s kind of this primordial instinct in each of us, that when I get started - I just want to keep going. Also, I’m more of a hiker than a camper. Some people go backpacking and bring a lot of crap, hike for 5 miles and get to a place then relax with a book by a lake. But me - I’d rather walk 10-15 hours, through different environments and see how far push my body, and how much I can see in a day is the most intriguing thing about it. Lastly, it's my first love. The first big thing I did as an adult, when I first left home? I hiked the Appalachian trail. So there's a fair bit of nostalgia every time I go for a hike.
MFA: Over seven thousand miles of hiking with a dog! Highlight a few of the challenges and benefits of hiking with canine?
Allgood: The benefit is companionship. People always think it’s protection, and both my dogs can let out a growl if needed, but in reality, after hiking 25 miles they are completely sacked-out like me. There's lots of joy to watching them enjoy nature - getting back to instincts on their own adventure is rewarding. But the flip side is hiking with a dog is that it’s twice as much work. Depending on the environment you have to bring more food and water, which means more pack weight. When you take your dog out, you're on your dog’s hike - not your hike. So if your dogs having a bad day you might have to sit a day out and chill. You have to pay attention to how their pads are doing, how their bodies are holding up, and if they’re starting to suffer - dogs will hike themselves to death for their master. It’s expensive too! Vet bills and all the extra food, etc. add a lot of extra work and money to a hike.
MFA: If you weren’t a long-distance hiker, what other kind of adventurer would you like to be?
Allgood: When I was a kid, I would have said a Himalayan climber. But I don't think the wife would be very keen on that. I spent a decade as a very passionate winter steelhead fisherman, and I’m a very avid saltwater fisherman. I spend a lot of time on the water fishing, but I love the mountains and mountaineering - the mountains call to me. So I might say spend half my time mountaineering and the other half rafting. I used to whitewater paddle a lot. I obviously like to be well rounded in my outdoor adventures!
MFA: What has a life of adventure taught you?
Allgood: It’s made me very humble. Mother nature doesn't have a copy of your spreadsheet, and if she did - she wouldn't care. You can have all the plans in the world, but when the rubber hits the dirt it can all change. Its also made me really appreciate simple things in life. My trail name is “Allgood,” because it's all-good. All you really need in life to be happy is a relatively flat, dry place to sleep, clean drinking water and a warm meal. If you have those three things you are a lot better off than like 90% of the people in the world. It just helps me keep a good perspective on the rest of my life.
MFA: Give us your best advice for completing a thru-hike?
Allgood: Never quit on a bad day, and don’t overthink it. When I get out on the trail you’ve got roll with the punches and make sure you’re having fun.
MFA: Tell us something that not many people know about you?
Allgood: I have really wide feet, and I play the tuba, too!
MFA: What would be your ultimate adventure?
Allgood: To do a sea to sea hike across America, to Thru-hike the Trans-Canadian trail, or lastly, a bucket list item - I want to race in the Iditarod.
MFA: What advice do you have for those nervous of following their passions, and might be scared of the risks involved with taking a leap-of-faith like that?
Allgood: I just say do it. I got out of college and wanted to hike the PCT, and it didn't happen. I fell in love with a girl and we built a life together. When I was 30 years old, I lost a very good friend of mine to cancer. He was also 30. From 27-30 I watched his life completely change as he got really sick with a rare form of cancer and it just ate his body away. And the last week he was alive he came into the office to say goodbye to everyone.
I was pushing him in his wheelchair, and he turned around and said, “Hey, I know you love to be outside and adventure, I’m going to give you one piece of advice...I’m laying here on my deathbed, and never once have I said to myself - man I wish I had gone to work more often.”
I just think the reality is that we’re on this planet once, you better make it what you want. And it doesn't have to be 6 months at a time. There is adventure in life everyday if you simply seek it out.
Follow Allgood's current thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail at: