When Scot "TABA" Ward says he's going to do something he comes through on his promise. And his promises are not small. This self-proclaimed modern day American pioneer has charted unchartered territory, covering roughly 920 miles across North Carolina, from Great Smoky Mountains to Outer Banks known as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST). In March 2010, he was given the "First to Yo-Yo the Mountains-to-Sea-Trail" Award. This achievement earned him the nickname "TABA", which stands for "There And Back Again". Naturally we were interested in finding out what makes this adventurer tick.
CampingRoadTrip.com: You have been traveling around North America since you were 15 years old, by bike and by foot. Can you tell us about that moment back then when you thought to yourself, "This is what I want to do"?
Scot: Actually I have been at this for much longer than that, traveling in between cities and towns around southern Florida as a way to experience more than just my little village of Siesta Key. I knew every street in Sarasota, Florida when I was 10 years old. I am not sure if there was any particular moment that I thought I was going to be traveling the country this way but when Hurricane Andrew came through Miami and destroyed my home, I was prompted to extend my trips and get out of Florida. I rode my bicycle from Key West to New York and enjoyed the adventure so much that I kept going.
Who brought you to the outdoors? Who inspired you to live a life of this kind of adventure?
There wasn't anyone particular in my life that introduced me to the type of travel I do. I have never had a lot of money, and riding my bicycle was the most inexpensive way for me to see the country. All the people I meet along my travels and the kindness they show towards me keep me moving forward. My neighborhood is America. I just keep walking to my friends' houses and it doesn't matter how far away they are, I will get there soon.
You have hiked the mountains of Colorado, Hawaii and Vermont and have conquered renowned trails. What are your favorite moments in all of your years of hiking?
I would have to say the best moments are when I achieve something that requires so much time and physical strength that most people would never think of doing. This sense of accomplishment and the experiences I gain are more valuable than financial success..
Do you have your share of scary moments?
Life is scary, but I don't have the time to waste on an emotion like fear. I have to have confidence in my ability to make the right decisions when faced with extreme challenges I must overcome.
You are now known across the country as the first person to "Yo-Yo the MST". What motivated you to take on that challenge? How does it feel to be given that award?
Throughout the years of my journeying, I have met thousands of people who have shown some sort of kindness to me. Whether that was a place to sleep, clean clothes, shower or simply bringing out a bottle of water on a hot day. Most of the time the only way they want me to repay them is to give something back to the next person. The Yo-Yo was to update a version of the MST Manual and write one for the other direction. This is my way of repaying favors. By helping to relieve the stress and confusion of the trails for everybody else who wants to have fun while taking on huge challenges. I don't do this for awards. In fact I believe that particular award is in a shoe box somewhere in my mother's house. It is a good feeling to know that I was the first person to achieve that feat but that is not my motivation. Sharing the excitement and adventure with others is what keeps me going.
What was going on in your mind while you were taking on the MST? Did you meet some bumps along the way that made you think it might not be possible to conquer the MST?
Anything is possible; you just have to be committed to it 100 percent. Whatever I can think of, I can do. The first time I thru-hiked the MST, I was at the brink of self-destruction because it was over 100 degrees everyday and water was one of the hardest things to find. Since then, the water location problems have been fixed with every water source listed in the Manual. Every water spigot at the churches is listed with directions on where it is located on the building.
How did your MST experience help in writing your book, "The Thru-Hiker's Manual for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina"?
Without hiking the trail, I would not have the first hand knowledge of what this experience is all about. Whatever I see, I write in the book. All of the camping locations, water sources, view points, tops of climbs, resupply points and towns along the way have been documented.
How did people react to your book?
Most people love it and find it extremely useful. I even get postcards from some people who have said they couldn't have hiked the MST without the Manual. However, the organization has never publicly recognized the Manual because I have listed "illegal campsites". I believe that sleeping for a long-distance backpacker on a long-distance trail should never be "illegal", especially deep in the woods. I am working on fixing this issue for the MST and once that is accomplished it will start a trend for every other long-distance trail in America that has similar issues.
What's next for Scot Ward?
After my 4th thru-hike of the MST, which will be finished soon, I will go back to Kentucky to Yo-Yo the Sheltowee Trace and update the Manual I wrote for it last year and to also write a Manual for the other direction for that trail. Then I will head on over to the northern half of the Great Eastern Trail (GET) and thru-hike all of the trails that the GET interlinks and write Manuals for all of those and one for half of the GET. Totaling about 2,500 miles of hiking and 10 Manuals for 8 trails across the Eastern US. From there, it's on to the next big challenge, which is to be determined this coming winter.
What do you have to say to people who wish to follow the footsteps of Scot Ward?
Be responsible, stay safe and make the right decisions. Educate yourself about what you are going to do and come back alive.
Visit Scot Ward's website to get to know more about him.
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