Photo by Craig Fowler
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My Trail Story featuring Craig Fowler

Craig Fowler shares his story of how he became a thru-hiker and bikepacker, and how he turned his passions into a full-time project.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       02/13/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
02/13/2019
A hiker stands on a a slab of rock with a backpack on.
Photo by Craig Fowler

I first thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001. My journey started a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday, with a day hike up Mt. Katahdin in 1985 while on vacation in Baxter State Park. This is where the seed was planted to thru-hike the entire AT. Sixteen years later, in 2001, I took my first steps northbound on the AT. I finished 153 days later, a changed person.

I was always the one who wanted to see what was around the next corner whenever I went on walks with my late Grandfather. I was a curious child for sure. I think this is why when I got my first bicycle I fell in love. My bike allowed me to go further, see more, and simply gave me more freedom.

I was one of those people who get “hooked” as others like to say. I knew from the time I finished the AT that I would go on to do the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I even moved to Seattle to be closer to the PCT and then to Colorado for the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The AT had sunk it’s claws in me. Being the geek that I am, I like to compare the AT to the Terragin Crystals in the Marvel Universe. If you have the mutant gene in you, the Terragin awakens it, giving you your powers.

I like to think exploring, wanderlust, the need to see more, or what’s around every corner was always in me, and the AT truly awoke it. It changed me and made me who I am now. I could never go back to a “normal” life. The AT gave me a small taste of a larger world, a world I wanted to explore.

By 2003 I hit the Long Trail as an Ultralighter. Next was the PCT in 2007 (which included riding my bicycle from Seattle, WA to the southern terminus of the PCT and then riding home from Manning Park to Seattle), and finally I completed my Triple Crown in 2015 by thru-hiking the CDT. 30 years later that seed had fully matured.

After completing a 30 year dream I was left pretty depressed throughout 2016. In the Fall of that year I had had enough and sat myself down and came up with a new goal. I had seen the movie “The Martian” starring Matt Damon, where he’s trapped on Mars alone. During his time there he realizes he’s the only person to ever be alone on a planet. This struck a cord deep inside me. I wondered what I could do to be the only person to have done something.

After some research I determined no one had done both the Thru-hiking and Bikepacking Triple Crowns before. Being a cyclist for 27 years, at this point it was a natural fit. I had already tried so many cycling disciplines from cross country to downhill to cyclocross to endurance racing. Bikepacking had been on my short list for a while.

Bikepacking after all is basically hiking but with your bicycle. It was then I decided to complete the Bikepacking Triple Crown, which includes the Arizona Trail Race, from the Mexico border to the Utah border, 757 miles; Tour Divide, from Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM, 2660.8 miles; and the Colorado Trail Race, from Durango to Denver, 538.9 miles, in the same year.

A man riding a bike on a road with a pond off to the side.
Photo by Craig Fowler

From June to October of 2017 I completed all three bikepacking races and became One of Seven Billion. This is where the name of my project came from, the One of Seven Project. When I started it, the goal was a personal one. But I always knew I wanted to grow the Project into something bigger, I just didn’t know what when I started it.

For years I had been enjoying great trails across the country, both on my bike and on foot. I always wanted to give back. The little bit of trail work I had done wasn’t enough. I wanted the Project to help others experience what I had.

As the Project unfolded many things became apparent to me. One that really stood out was we’re all born One of Seven Billion with our own DNA, but not all of us choose to celebrate that uniqueness.  From this realization and others, I formed the Project’s Core Values and found the new focus of the Project.

Encourage others to truly know themselves and their passions.

Assist others in celebrating their uniqueness by following those passions that make them unique.

Humanize adventure.

Help others be the best version of themselves.

A big part of of the Project’s focus is about breaking down both mental and physical barriers keeping us all from following our passions. To help break down those barriers I created four first of a kind Bikepacking Guides:

Bikepacking is fairly new, and as a result there wasn’t the kind of guides the hiking world has in place. This was a barrier I could help remove, so I built guides with what I learned during my bikepacking triple crown. If I’m being honest I was inspired by the gang at Guthook. My goal was to make it easier for others to get out on the trail and experience the outdoors.

A hiker standing on a mountain.
Photo by Dahn Pratt

The information out there is spread across the web, and finding it is overly time consuming. I saw no point in keeping the knowledge I gained over all those years to myself and sought to combine it with what is online. By combing it all into one location, the barrier of finding it would hopefully be removed, resulting in more people getting outside or following their passions.

In 2019 I plan to produce two more Bikepacking and six Hiking Guides to add to the four mentioned above.

  • Coconino 250
  • The Lake Trail (Cycling loop around Lake Tahoe)
  • Long Trail
  • John Muir Trail or Colorado Trail (hiking)
  • Appalachian Trail
  • Pacific Crest Trail
  • Continental Divide Trail
A biker stands with his bike next to a Colorado Trail sign.
Photo by Craig Fowler

Accompanying these guides I have produced Bikepacking and Hiking Resources to further help others follow their passions.These Resources are blog posts/pages, where I share what I have learned, in hopes of making the process of following one’s passions easier. Going into the hiking forums online, I saw people asking the same questions I had when I started. It’s the Project’s goal to answer as many of those as it can.

Overall my journey is probably not that different from others but with it’s own twist. Like me, it’s unique. I might have taken my exploring further than some or less. In the end I’m just another thru-hiker who realized that the life I had before the trail wasn’t the one for me. I’ve forgotten that feeling many times but finally I’m listening.

For more inspiration checkout the Project’s Passion Profiles — a collection of short interviews meant to inspire, motivate, and to help break down barriers that might be holding you back from following your own passions.

To learn more about the One of Seven Project, its mission, and what it has to offer you, please visit the website or reach out to me at info@oneosfsevenproject.com.


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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the United States and attracts thousands of thru-hikers every year. Its narrow corridor stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, traversing 14 states and nearly 2200 miles (3540 km) on its way.

2200 miles       $59.99 full guide
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Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
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A trail winds through a dense and lush green forest on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
Photo by Zoë Symon
Get our hiking guide for this area!

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the United States and attracts thousands of thru-hikers every year. Its narrow corridor stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, traversing 14 states and nearly 2200 miles (3540 km) on its way.

2200 miles
$59.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.