Hank Pantier

The Unconventional Life

Hank Pantier
The Unconventional Life

SmartWool Fan Field Tester Logs Journey Through the Mountains

After years as a project financial analyst, Russell Mease was done. Unfulfilled and unhappy, he distracted himself with work, marriage, weekend projects, vacations, cars. But it wasn’t enough.

Then he watched the movie ‘Into the Wild.’ The scene where Alexander Supertramp walks into the woods, breaking free from a conventional life, resonated with him. Soon after, the SmartWool Fan Field Tester started to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey that set him off on a path of what he calls his “unconventional life.”

This summer, he’s tackling the Continental Divide Trail and Great Divide Trail. Averaging 21 miles a day, he’ll spend 167 days on the trail for a total of 3,453 miles, hiking from New Mexico through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and into Canada. He has scheduled nine rest days for refueling in towns, with mailed-ahead supplies waiting at various stops along the trail.

In late June, he took a quick break from the trail in Steamboat Springs, stopping by the SmartWool headquarters to say ‘hi’.

We’re inspired by his trek, and maybe just a bit jealous. Check out a few excerpts from his blog describing his epic travels.


Travel through the snowy high peaks:

“The sheer exhaustion, both physical and psychological, of navigating through snow in the early season can you leave you with little room to focus on the other aspects of a hike, but once you learn to relax and take all the hardship in stride, you open up windows of sheer beauty and enlightenment that nobody who has not gone through the same kind of struggle can fully appreciate.”

“During a particularly exhausting hike in the South San Juans, I pushed hard to reach a point to the east of Long Trek Peak… The mountains seemed to take notice and (the wind) switched direction in the middle of the night, shaking my tent for many hours and keeping me from the deep slumber I desperately needed.

At 5 am I gave up… As I unzipped the side vestibule and kneeled near the edge of the (tent)… I was presented with a spectacular sunrise I would have missed if the wind was quieter during the night.”

Trail celebrations

“Fourth of July in Riverside, WY with trail friends Stryder, Onna and Neon gave me renewed excitement for the journey ahead. I have missed the camaraderie of the trail I had on the PCT; trading trail stories and convincing each other that we are not collectively crazy is important to our sanity, and sometimes you just need another voice to listen to besides the one that lives inside your head. That night we hop between the two bars in this small town of 450 people, one right next door to the other. After a couple of shots of whiskey and a few beers I amble across the street and settle into my tent at the roadside RV Park and fall asleep listening to fireworks popping and fizzing around me until the wee hours of the morning.”

Leaving the snow

“The following morning Stryder and I hitch back up to Battle Pass and make quick work of the six miles of trail to Badger Pass, which, at ten-thousand feet, is the last high pass of the trail before we descend toward The Great Basin of Wyoming. As I climb down from this pass I give the last snow-drift a metaphoric middle finger and then dance down the trail. It is time to make up some miles.”

Into the Wind River Range

“Nothing could have prepared me for this version of Wyoming. I had thought that the scenic highlights on the trail were behind me, in Colorado. But Colorado is a beast of a landscape; brutal and remote, while The Wind River Range is both more dramatic and more accessible than the Rockies.”

Check out Russ’ full travel report on his blog www.unconventionallife.net/blog/