Photo by Michael Ivey
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My Trail Story featuring Grizzly

Our "My Trail Story" series features thru-hikers of all ages and backgrounds sharing their personal, real-life experiences from the trail. Michael Ivey, also known as Grizzly, kicks off this series by answering some questions about his thru-hiking experience.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       01/31/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story

What is your trail name?


What trail(s) did you hike?

I have hiked the John Muir Trail ’14, Pacific Crest Trail ’15, Colorado Trail ’16, Superior Hiking Trail ’18, large sections of the CDT ’16, and will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and Colorado Trail again in 2019


How old are you?

I am 36 years old.


What was one thing you wish you knew before you started hiking?

I wish I would have initially bought ultra light gear rather then being on a budget. In the long run I’ve spent much more money because of it.

A man with a backpack standing next to a tree on a trail.
Photo by Michael Ivey
A man standing on a log in a lake.
Photo by Michael Ivey

What is your favorite food on the trail?

I typically cold soak my meals so I eat a lot of ramen. That being said, peanut butter is always a favorite as well as cheese and summer sausage.

What advice would you give to someone who has never done a thru-hike before?

I’d say give it a shot if you love backpacking and the outdoors. A lot of people think it’s something unachievable and are intimidated by it before they have even tried one.


What does thru-hiking mean to you?

It means relaxing and re-centering myself. I feel more like myself on a long trail then anywhere else.


Would you do another thru-hike? If yes, which trail is next?

Absolutely, and I’ll be doing the PCT and CT again this year. It will be my second thru-hike of each. I also section hiked 200 miles of the CT in 2018.

What was the easiest/hardest part about your thru-hike?

The easiest part was enjoying my surroundings and the beauty that surrounded me. It wasn’t hard to stay motivated. The hardest part for me is slowing down at times. I have a tendency to just put my head down and do miles rather then slowing down to enjoy my surroundings.

What do you wish you had done differently?

I wish I would have thru-hiked the CDT in 2016 rather then just doing a long section hike. I kick myself all the time for not finishing the trail that year.

What do you miss the most?

The simplicity of thru hiking. It’s just wake up, walk, eat, look for water, and sleep.

A view of a trail in the mountains.
Photo by Michael Ivey
A view of the trail with the Colorado Trail sign post.
Photo by Michael Ivey

What was your favorite feature in our app?

Elevation profiles are something I love about the app. I planned my days around climbs especially in the Sierras and Colorado Rockies.

What was the one thing you had to have with you while you hiked?

I’m pretty attached to my Patagonia R1 hoodie.

Why did you decide to go on a thru-hike in the first place?

Honestly, to see more of the country and to get away from working so much.

Did you hike solo or with other people?

I hiked with other people. Most long trails are fairly crowded at this point, making it tough to ever really be alone.

What part of the trail was your most/least favorite?

Washington on the PCT and Glacier on the CDT were my favorites. New Mexico on the CDT is pretty low on my list of places to hike through again.


How many pairs of shoes did you go through?

I average about 500 miles per pair of shoes. I exclusively hike in Altra shoes and love them.

A view of a lake and mountains.
Photo by Michael Ivey
A beautiful sunrise with mountains and trees.
Photo by Michael Ivey

Was there a highlight of your hike?

Goat Rocks and Glacier Peak Wilderness are always a highlight.

What was the scariest part of your hike?

Scaring a grizzly bear out of camp on my first night of the CDT was a thrill.

Did you ever reach a point where you wanted to quit? How did you stay motivated to finish?

Yeah I was pretty down while hiking the CDT. I had pretty bad weather early on and a very bad sinus infection. Ultimately I got off the CDT and thru-hiked the CT before getting back on the CDT for as long as the weather would hold out.

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Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

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2650 mi (4260 km)       $29.99 full guide
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

2650 mi (4260 km)
$29.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author
A woman wearing a denim jacket and a brown hat stands in a field of wildflowers.

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, places, and nature, which might explain why she has almost 47,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things related to social media and marketing and recently moved to Denver, CO from Flagstaff, AZ. You may find her frolicking around the trails and mountains of Colorado, or exploring the new city she gets to call home.