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Nature is a tool for understanding ourselves. My third hiking documentary will explain this idea on the 812 mile long Hayduke Trail.
Nature is a tool for understanding ourselves. My third hiking documentary will explain this idea on the 812 mile long Hayduke Trail.
26 backers pledged $2,454 to help bring this project to life.

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Condensed version - I am thru-hiking the Hayduke Trail and making a documentary about it. The film will explore ideas about how the wilderness can be used to create a better framework for dealing with life. I call it a mental map. The Hayduke Trail is 812 miles long in southern Utah and northern Arizona. I’ll start at the end of March 2018 and it will take between 2 and 3 months to hike.

My goal is to make more than just a hiking documentary. I want this film to be a metaphor for navigating life. It will take place on the Hayduke Trail, but I’ll be using the thru-hiking experience to discuss more universal ideas about choice and perspective. 

Having a good perspective is like having a mental map of reality. On this metaphorical map, each fork in the trail represents a choice with its own destination. If your perspective is accurate and well developed, then you will be able to see which path to take in advance. 

Society has become so complex and abstract that reality has become subjective. We have more information at our fingertips than ever before, but it’s being scrambled by an almost equal amount of misinformation. Whatever beliefs a person has, he or she can find “facts” to back them up. If you don’t believe me, just look into the resurgence of people who think the earth is flat. It’s a growing community. 

It’s no wonder that a lot of people are feeling lost right now. Their mental map doesn’t represent reality, so they can’t even see where the forks in the trail are, let alone chose the right ones. 

I think that’s why we need to look back to the wilderness as a tool for building our own mental maps. Out there the truth is objective. There is no arguing the fact that a mountain exists, or that a storm is coming, or that you are out of water. You have no choice but to accept the facts and act accordingly. 

I can almost guarantee that anyone who does a thru-hike will come to similar conclusions. Unfortunately we can’t all afford to just leave regular life for a few months. That’s why I’m hoping this film will condense the wilderness experience down into something that anyone can build an accurate mental map from. 

I’ve been working on these ideas for over 3 years. It started with my first thru-hike on the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). A 1,200 mile long route from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. I made a film about that hike called “A Sense of Direction.” It was the first documentary ever made about the PNT and has been viewed over 34,000 times on youtube. https://youtu.be/5QK__Cjw2Fk

A year later I hiked 550 miles across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the North Country Trail (NCT). I made a series of 9 episodes that dug a little deeper into these ideas, but I was still trying to figure out how to articulate them. https://youtu.be/8YGSj4C8Nfw

Now I have a good working theory, and I’m ready to go back into the wilderness. The Hayduke Trail is 812 miles long in southern Utah and northern Arizona, starting in Arches National Park, dipping down to the Grand Canyon, and finishing in Zion National Park. It is more of a route than a trail because most of it is on trail-less ground with no signs. Navigation will be a challenge, there will be very long sections with no water, and I have almost no experience hiking in the desert. It may sound foolish to attempt such a thing but that’s exactly what I did when I hiked the PNT. That too, can better be described as a route than a trail and I did it with no long distance hiking experience. 

I’m confident that I can, not only complete this trail, but that I can also explain a good approach for understanding life. 

Costs 

I’m asking for $2,000 to cover the bare bones cost of production. 

Ideally I could use $6,400. 

Here’s how the numbers break down. 

  • On the trail 
  • Rule of thumb for thru-hiking is between $1 and $2 per mile. I’ll need about $1,500 to spend on the Hayduke. This includes food, the very occasional lodging in town, National Park permits, and shipping supplies to and from the trail. 
  • Gear 
  • I already have most of the gear but there are a few things that need upgrading or replacement. 
  • Sleeping bag - $300 
  • Gnarbox (rugged portable hard drive for storing and shipping footage home) - $400 
  • SD cards - $200
  • Getting there and back 
  • Flight to the trail and back home afterwords. - $400 
  • Kickstarter Expenses 
  • This includes the small percentage that kickstarter takes, and the cost of making and sending out stickers, dvds, books, and prints. - $325

This adds up to $3,125 

I will have about $1,100 saved up by the time I start. 

 $3,125 - $1,100 = roughly $2,000 Bare Bones Budget

I have already invested a lot into this project and I will be spending hundreds of hours editing the film after I get back. That’s time that I could be working, but will otherwise be donating to this project. Ideally I could use a lot more than $2,000 to cover the costs I have already invested, and the time I will invest after the hike. 

  • My old camera broke and I bought a Sony a6500 for this film - $1,200 
  • 4K monitor for editing the new higher quality footage - $200 
  • Editing my PNT film, “A Sense of Direction” took at least 300 hours. At $10 an hour that equals $3,000 (I expect this film will take even longer to edit but this gives us a very rough estimate) 

This adds up to roughly $4,400 

Bare bones budget of $2,000 + Extra costs of $4,400 = $6,400 Ideal budget to cover time and prior investment.

This will be a high quality production. Many hiker films are shot on cheap and tiny cameras for obvious reasons, you have to carry all that gear for months. My first priority is quality video, with weight and size being a close second priority. Luckily camera tech today allows me to have very high quality camera gear at a reasonable weight and size. This film will be shot in 4K (that’s 4 times the resolution of HD video) with professional level production value. I already have a lot of experience filming hiking and I’ll take what I’ve learned from the last two projects and improve upon it here. 

 Here is a list of the camera gear I will be carrying the whole way. 

  • Sony a6500 with Tamron 18-200mm lens (main camera) 
  • DJI Mavic Pro (foldable drone capable of shooting in 4K) 
  • GoPro Hero 3+ (B camera, mostly for recording my thoughts while I’m hiking.) 
  • Carbon Fiber Tripod 
  • Rode Video Mic 
  • Gnarbox (rugged portable hard drive for storing, backing up, and sending footage home) 

Hayduke Trail Facts 

  • 812 miles long. But the route is very fluid and there are a lot of alternate routes that will change the length I actually hike. Some are longer, some are shorter. 
  • 6 National Parks Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion 
  • Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument 
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area 
  • Lowest Point 2,000 feet in the Grand Canyon 
  • Highest Point 11,419 feet on Mount Ellen, in the Henry Mountains 
  • A temperature range of more than 100 degrees can be expected throughout the trail. 
  • The trail passes by many ancient ruins and hieroglyphs 
  • Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella are the founders of the trail. They first hiked it in 1998. 

Risks and challenges

There are 3 main risks on a thru-hike like this one. Injury, getting lost, running out of food/water.

I have a lot of experience doing this, and all I can say is that I will be careful. In my thousands of trail miles, and hundreds of nights outside I have never had a serious injury.

As for getting lost, I expect that will happen many times. Getting lost is kind of a loose term because, "lost for a couple hours" is much different than, "lost for a couple days." On the Pacific Northwest Trail I got lost for a couple hours many times and I always found my way back to the trail. I have never been lost for longer than that though. I navigate with paper maps and compass but I will always have my GPS enabled phone as a backup.

I ran out of food and water on the PNT too but it was never serious. I know my limits and I don’t worry about these sorts of things too much because I am cautious.

I may have one or two other people hiking with me that will help film, but this is my own production. The completion of this project doesn’t hinge on any outside influences other than funding. I am making this film for me as much as I am making it for an audience. As long as I have enough funding to at least hike the trail, the film will get made.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thank You in the credits

    You'll be mentioned in the credits as a supporter of the project.

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    Sticker and GPS Link

    Mental Map sticker.
    A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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    DVD

    The full documentary on DVD along with special features only available to the backers.
    + Mental Map sticker.
    + A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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    Access to video updates

    You'll have access to video updates that I will send out when I reach an occasional town.
    + The full documentary on DVD along with special features only available to the backers.
    + Mental Map sticker.
    + A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Screensaver Package

    100 of my favorite images from the trail in a digital package that you can use for your screensaver.
    + Access to video updates.
    + The full documentary on DVD along with special features only available to the backers.
    + Mental Map sticker.
    + A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Signed Copy of Book

    I'll make a book that dives even further into the ideas discussed in the documentary.
    + Screensaver package.
    + Access to video updates.
    + The full documentary on DVD along with special features only available to the backers.
    + Mental Map sticker.
    + A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    Trail Notes and 16X20 Print

    My trail notes will provide a more behind-the-scenes look into how the movie was made.
    Also a 16X20 print of your favorite picture from the hike.
    + Signed Book.
    + Screensaver package.
    + Access to video updates.
    + The full documentary on DVD along with special features only available to the backers.
    + Mental Map sticker.
    + A link to my live GPS location while I'm on the trail.
    + A mention in the credits.

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Funding period

- (30 days)