When I was preparing for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail I came across two documentaries, Embrace the Brutality and Wizards of the PCT, by Triple Crowner Shane “Jester” O’Donnell. Neither of them are about the A.T., but at the time, I was up to my elbows in research, and needed a break. I bought them both on a whim and it turned out to be one of the best things I could’ve done for myself pre-hike. By the way, there’s a discount for buying more than one! I wrote up a brief review here about what I thought. Okay, it wasn’t really a review. It was just me saying they were awesome. Which, by the way, I’m glad I did because Jester came across the review and actually commented that he was glad I liked them. Haha, our friendship would be much more awkward, or nonexistent, if I’d shared with the blogging world that they were horrible. They’re not. They’re awesome. We connected on Facebook and I learned he was planning his second thru-hike of the A.T. the same year as me. This time, he filmed it. So, I may be a little bias because I’m actually in this one (for 3 seconds) but I think it’s the best!
Connect With Jester and TBW Productions:
TBW Productions (Buy the DVD here!)
YouTube | Facebook | Instagram | Blogger
On the previous movies, I talked about how much I liked them but I didn’t go into why. Before my own thru-hike, I went head first into research mode. I’d devoured every bit of information I could get in 2014, but before I found Jester’s movies, I’d only seen two types of documentaries on long distance hiking. The first types were nature documentaries. They focused on the trail itself and the history. I vaguely remember something about acid rain? They were beautifully made and made me want to look into it further but I can’t remember even seeing a single backpack in one of them. The other types of documentaries were about the hikers themselves. They were low quality videos that focused on hiker life and hiker culture. They were great at giving a more realistic look at trail life but lacked the beauty of the nature documentaries. What I loved so much about Embrace the Brutality and Wizards of the PCT was that Jester managed to combine what it was like to actually be a thru-hiker with all of the wonderful vistas and wildlife into one magical package. Coincidentally, “Magical Package” was one of Jester’s rejected trail names. But, seriously, they are the best of both worlds. If you haven’t thru-hiked before, they’ll inspire you and are a wonderful place to start getting excited about your hike. They’re also a great gift for those non-hikers in your life that are concerned about you going out into the woods alone to get eaten by a bear. It’ll put them at ease. If you have thru-hiked before, you’ll fall into a nostalgia induced coma so you may want to watch it with a friend or make arrangements in advance for someone to come check on you in a few days.
Thru Story is just as great as the first two films. Jester shows what it’s like to actually be on a long distance hike. It remains more real than anything I’ve seen. A thru-hike isn’t just gorgeous views. It isn’t just sunshine and rainbows and fluffy bunnies. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s rain and hail and sleet and snow and being so hot you jump at a chance to soak your head with cold water from a pipe of unknown origin sticking out of the ground. (Buy the movie and you get to see that super hiker trash moment of mine!) Sometimes it’s blisters and bug bites and swelling. I got struck by lightning on my hike. That’s a thru story… er, um, true story! (Not to be confused with the lightning strike story talked about in the movie.) A thru-hike also isn’t just getting drunk in the woods. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s hiking 25-mile days one after another after another so that you have the time to take off and enjoy yourself. Thru Story shows all of this. It shows the beauty and the reality. It shows the hard work and the rewards, both of which exist on a long distance trail, and it does it all with lighthearted laughter in the background. This is why I love it. My roommate, Pathfinder, and I laughed and cried when we watched it. Seeing those familiar faces that we love and miss so much made us feel like we were back on the Trail for a moment. Even if you didn’t hike with us in 2015, you’ll still enjoy this movie because it’s real. You’ll still see the mountains and the wildlife and the beautiful process of forming a trail family. It’ll make you want to be on the Appalachian Trail, whether it’s again, or for the very first time.