In this article, you will get all information regarding Backpacker Radio #176 | Kevin Conley on fighting wildfires, mental health and biking from California to Florida – The Trek

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Kevin Conley. Kevin is a hiker, wildland firefighter, and the author of Above the Ashes, a memoir about battling mental illness on a 3,500-mile bike ride from California to Florida with his dog. Kevin shares the story of his troubled upbringing – and how it ultimately led to his discovery of the Appalachian Trail, and hence his love of hiking. Kevin details the life of a wildland firefighter, how his crippling panic attacks nearly led to his demise, and his spirit of giving back and improving the community around him. This is a truly deep, honest, and at times dark conversation – and we’d like to offer a trigger warning to listeners that the following interview touches on discussions of suicide.

We end the show with a discussion of the need for rain pants for hiking, the triple crown of fast food breakfasts, whether weekend warriors are allowed to use limited AT campsites, an update MG day, and more.

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Interview with Kevin Conley

Timestamps and Questions

00:05:18 – DAILY: Do you prefer living in the Avatar, Jurassic Park or Avengers universes?

00:07:20 – Reminders: Randonneur Meetup, Saturday, December 10!

00:07:53 – Introducing Kevin

00:09:09 – Tell us about your origin story and your first hike.

00:14:58 – What went wrong for you in wilderness therapy?

00:17:56 – How did you go from this experience to TA?

00:19:27 – What kind of problems did you have when you were a child?

00:20:30 – Discussion on educational background

00:22:46 – Walk us through the early days of starting the TA.

00:25:10 – Tell us the story of where your trail name came from.

00:27:15 – When did you feel like you hit your beat on the AT?

00:28:17 – Have you ever thought that you might not finish the course?

00:28:55 – Tell us about a black widow spider bite.

00:30:40 – Tell us about breaking your foot twice.

00:32:08 – Tell us about Lyme disease infection and treatment.

00:37:05 – At what point during the hike did you know you would take another trail?

00:41:34 – Do you feel like hiking helped you deal with your grandfather’s death?

00:44:37 – Tell us about starting the PCT.

00:46:32 – Do you feel like you dealt with your grandmother’s death better by spending more quality time with her?

00:48:08 – How was the PCT experience different from the TA?

00:50:05 – Tell us your PCT love story.

00:51:25 – Why didn’t your relationship continue?

00:53:54 – Talk about burgers and love

00:55:10 – Were burgers the start of your charitable endeavors?

00:57:17 – How much money have you raised on your hikes and bike tours?

00:58:18 – Tell us more about Backcountry Ninjas.

01:02:07 – Tell us about the evolution of your relationship with your parents.

01:03:53 – Tell us about hiking the John Muir Trail four times.

01:05:52 – How did you meet Hawaii?

01:07:01 – Tell us how you got into cycle touring.

01:10:42 – If you now had to choose cycling or hiking, which would you choose?

01:12:28 – Why did you cycle south from Canada?

01:13:12 – How did you become a firefighter?

01:16:17 – What do you have to do to get the job or during the training?

01:18:20 – Do many people back down once they’ve joined a Hotshot team?

01:20:09 – How does the toughest day of firefighting compare to the toughest day of hiking?

01:22:09 – What other days have marked you in the fight against fires?

01:27:07 – How do you get back to doing your job after a near death experience?

01:29:05 – Did you follow a specific training or did you have to pass a test to register?

01:31:57 – Zach and Chaunce kill time

01:33:39 – Which firefighting tasks did you prefer?

01:39:51 – Can you say “I’m a Hotshot boss who takes care of a plate”?

01:41:10 – Tell us about the mental illness you suffered from before your bike trip.

01:47:00 – *Begin trigger warning*

01:54:30 – *End Trigger Warning*

01:55:30 – Story of the man in the well

01:56:30 – Discussion about the bike trip.

01:59:57 – Was there a trigger for the panic attacks?

02:04:10 – What do you see as a way out of panic attacks?

02:08:54 – Bison facts and gratitude

02:13:33 – Can you talk about the changes you’ve seen in firefighters talking about mental health?

02:16:00 – *Begin trigger warning*

02:20:19 – *End of trigger warning*

02:20:19 – Have you ever told your father that you hear his voice?

02:22:07 – Tell us about the book, above the ashes.

02:24:42 – Any other farewell messages you want to share?


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Triple crown of fast food breakfasts

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Backpacker Radio #176 | Kevin Conley on fighting wildfires, mental health and biking from California to Florida - The Trek

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