Jeffrey A. Ruth's Long-Distance Hike: A Journey in Perseverance

man standing next to a tent wearing merino wool base layers

For most of us, finding out we have brain cancer might be one of the scariest moments we can imagine. What would you do with that news?

Years ago, Jeffrey A. Ruth found out that he had a brain tumor after it ruptured. The good news was, he survived brain surgery and had high hopes that he would never suffer problems from the brain tumor again. But then just recently, doctors in Marquette, Michigan discovered two new tumors during a scan.

But he's not taking the news lying down. In fact, he's taking it on his feet, by going on a 2,100-mile hike from Michigan to Mount Shasta, California. And here at Meriwool Layers we want to play a small role in helping him get there. As Jeffrey takes on this incredible journey, we'll provide him with some of the clothing he'll need to stay comfortable on the trail. He'll be warm at night, cool during the day, and prepared for whatever comes at him as he heads off on this incredible journey. 

Jeffrey's doctors are taking a "wait and see" approach: they want to conduct a few scans, learn a little more, and then wait and see what happens. Jeffrey, on the other hand, prefers to "go and see." He's going to head out into the wilderness on an epic hike, and if he has to he'll take his "two new tumor friends" along with him. 

The Uncharted Journey

Jeffrey Ruth's route takes him across the northern plains, through the Rockies, and into California to the gorgeous Volcano at Mount Shasta. Unlike many long hikes across America, including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, there's no set route for Jeffrey to take along the way. Instead, he's planned out his own route, mapped it, and hopes he "won't get too sidetracked along the way."

It's an incredible journey that will allow him to take in some of the most gorgeous scenery across the United States while checking in with friends and family on social media. He's hoping to be in a place with a signal or WiFi every week or so in order to share his pictures, talk about his journey, and give his followers a chance to see what he's accomplished so far. 

Ruth plans to set off on his incredible journey on June 18, 2019. He doesn't have a specific end date, either. He's simply planning for it to take around four or five months for him to reach his destination. Jeffrey plans to go on the entire trip by himself, thoroughly enjoying the solitude and the journey. 

Planning the Gear

Planning a hike of this magnitude requires a substantial amount of gear. Jeffrey has been lucky enough to acquire a number of sponsors who are willing to give him a hand as he prepares for his trip, including a discount on his hiking boots and a sample of food bars that are, as he notes, the perfect nutrient-dense option for his trip as well as the donation of layered clothing from Meriwool Layers that will help him keep his ideal temperature at night.

Jeffrey notes, "The level of support I'm receiving is well beyond any hopes I held. It has always been difficult to garner sponsorships and such for hikers--we're simply not as glamorous as professional high altitude mountaineers." Thanks to his sponsors, however, Jeffrey is going into his trip well-supplied with everything he needs. 

Layered clothing to help keep him warm and comfortable.

After spending the night in his test camp early in May, before heading off on his adventure, Jeffrey shared on Facebook, "The merino wool base layers I was wearing did improve my comfort and coziness by about 15 degrees compared to the night without them!" This comfortable, layered clothing is also lightweight, making it the perfect option for carrying in his backpack. He's got a long journey ahead of him--and that means he needs gear that is easy to transport. Jeffrey has also carefully chosen comfortable, durable boots that he hopes will help him plan out his trip. 

Lightweight, calorie-dense foods

For long-distance hikes, planning food ahead of time is critical. Most of Jeffrey's food supplies will be carried along with him. He plans to take along lightweight, nutrient-dense foods that will allow him to get the calories he needs for his exacting journey without adding excessive weight to his backpack. Water is also a top priority, though Jeffrey, like many hikers, will probably take along water purification tablets that will allow him to purify water that he finds along the way.

A solid tent and sleeping bag

Sleeping accommodations are critical on longer hikes, especially since the weather could bring unexpected challenges. Jeffrey tests out each new gear combination in his test camp to ensure that it will work for him once he's out on the trails. 

Other basic but important tools

Jeffrey knows that taking along the right gear is critical. From fire starters and repair kits to duct tape, matches or a lighter, a water filter and backup treatment system, and a compass and knife, there are plenty of smaller tools that he's including in his gear. He's checked all of this stuff out and ensured it's all working at peak efficiency. 

Jeffrey recognizes that, as he heads out on his journey, he won't be able to pack a four or five month supply of food in his backpack. Instead, just as he plans to check in via smartphone, he also plans to order additional goods as needed to help him along the way. Sometimes, that will mean sending food to a shipping facility a few days ahead on the trail.

Other times, that may mean making a larger purchase, such as ordering replacement boots as needed or swapping out clothing as the weather changes. Planning for those resupply stops is every bit as important as packing his backpack for the initial journey--and Jeffrey is well-prepared for the challenge!

Preparing for the Hike

man sitting next to a tent wearing merino wool base layers

The preparation part of the hike doesn't stop with packing his backpack. Jeffrey has been preparing for his hike for months, including several stages that clearly showcase his dedication and determination. 

Walking (and hiking) everywhere

You don't take on a 2,100-mile journey across the United States if you don't love to hike. Jeffrey doesn't just take on shorter hikes. He also enjoys walking everywhere he goes on a regular basis. "I walk and hike everywhere, quite literally every day," he admits. "This way two things are accomplished. First of all, it keeps my body accustomed to an ongoing hiking position and maintains parts of the body that need to be continually taken care of--especially the toes and arches of my feet. Second, and just as importantly, it keeps my mind right. I am not driven down mentally by putting in mile after mile every day. Sometimes that can be a challenge, because there are always going to be days when it is difficult to get out of the tent, put on a heavy pack, and face 20 miles."

Thanks to his months of preparation, Jeffrey is well-prepared for those challenging days and looking forward to what the journey will bring. Since he walks everywhere already, in some ways, the long walks out on the trail are just another day--and that helps keep each day fresh and interesting.

Testing out his equipment

Even the top-rated equipment in the industry won't work for every hiker. In fact, Jeffrey has already found that some of his initial equipment wasn't adequate to the job: his first sleeping bag, for example, didn't measure up to his expectations. Discovering that in his test camp meant that replacement was easy. Discovering it on the trail, on the other hand, could have been catastrophic! Jeffrey's test camp also allowed him to test out his tent, which has withstood heavy rain, strong winds, and even a surprise snowfall. He also got to test out his clothing to ensure that it would keep him comfortable and warm even throughout dropping temperatures at night. 

Mental preparation

In some ways, mentally preparing for the hike is even more important than any of the physical preparations. As he goes into this hike, Jeffrey is going in with good spirits and a determined attitude. He's not going to quit or give up, and he's not going to let challenges along the way stop him--and all that mental preparation means that when hard days hit out on the trail, he will be well-prepared to dig in and face them, rather than giving in. 

Do you want to join us as we follow Jeffrey's journey and cheer him on? Check out his Facebook page and follow him for regular updates along the way. You've got this, Jeffrey!