Lessons from a Triple Crown Hiker

Spokane REI employee Tim “Tribhu” Plaza to Share Triple Crown Journey at 2018 Expo

There is an elite group of long-distance hikers known as Triple Crowners. To become a designated Triple Crown hiker, you must successfully thru-hike each of the three longest trails in the United States: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Tim “Tribhu” Plaza has done just that.

To put that accomplishment into perspective, more people have been into space today than have earned the Triple Crown title. Just 290 people have been designated by ALDHA West with the Triple Crown. That could be because, collectively, the Triple Crown involves nearly 8,000 miles of hiking.

Plaza completed the trails in 2012, 2013, and 2015. He will share about his travels and talk about long-distance hiking tips such as gear prep on Saturday, February 24th, at 1:45 p.m. during his presentation at the Spokane Great Outdoor and Bike Expo.

Plaza reaches the top of Mount Elbert, the highest summit in Colorado
Plaza reaches the top of Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, on the CDT

“Each of [the trails] had challenging aspects,” says Plaza. “On the AT it was the physical aspect—the ups and downs are just grueling, and one’s knees really pay the price. On the PCT it was the dryness and lack of water in southern California. On the CDT, it was the isolation and lack of human contact for days and days on end.”

So, what does it take to accomplish such a feat? Plaza averaged 21, 27, and 31 miles per day on each of the trails, respectively.

“The AT is physically the most difficult [. . .] and an average of 15 miles per day is respectable. The PCT is completely horse grade the entire way, so averaging higher miles is very doable. The CDT includes a lot of forest and jeep roads, making it easy for swift travel,” says Plaza.

Along the way, Plaza had to make decisions such as opting out of resupply routes that were long and cumbersome and taking more time to hike with friends. During his time on the AT, he also completed the four-state challenge, hiking 43 miles and crossing four state lines in just one day.

“There are two things that help the most [in terms of preparation]—foot care and knowing your body,” says Plaza. “Helping your feet to be tough for what you are about to undertake is a very doable thing, and can help in the prevention of blisters, which are the most common cause of injury for long-distance hikers.”

At the Expo, Plaza will also share some of his favorite gear recommendations. Plaza says that fun hiking starts with a lightweight backpack, so he will provide tips for lowering pack weight.

Plaza reaches the 2,000-mile mark on the Appalachian Trail
Plaza reaches the 2,000-mile mark on the Appalachian Trail

“My Leki trekking poles are easily the most useful, and have saved my life and person from countless potential mishaps,” says Plaza. “My Platypus Gravity Works filter is easily one of my favorite luxury items—it weighs a bit more than other filter options, but it is nice to not have to actively filter my water and let gravity do it for me. I hiked the whole CDT with just a Luci solar collapsible lantern as my light source.”

If you plan on tackling any one (or all three) of the Triple Crown hikes, talk to Plaza this weekend for a wealth of information. If you can’t make the Expo, he would recommend the hiking guide book The A.T. Guide by Awol, both Halfmile’s maps and Yogi’s guidebook for the PCT, and both Ley’s maps and Yogi’s guidebook for the CDT.

While he couldn’t choose a favorite trail, Plaza did have some spots that served as highlights on each trip:

“On the AT I loved the White Mountains in New Hampshire and pretty much all of Maine. On the PCT the Sierras are epic, and the Northern Cascades in Washington are stunning. On the CDT, the Wind River Range in Wyoming is probably the most beautiful hidden gem this country has to offer.”

Plaza will continue his hiking adventures this summer with his husband, planning to tackle the John Muir Trail in the Sierras, which involves 210 miles and shares about 160 miles with the PCT. The hike will include summiting Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet (pictured below).

Tim "Tribhu" Plaza doing a jump at the top of Mt. Whitney (Photo from Tribhu Plaza)
Plaza does a jump at the top of Mount Whitney in California on the PCT

Plaza recommends Northwesters to check out a new National Scenic Trail in our own backyard: the Pacific Northwest Trail, or PNT, goes from Glacier through the Colville Forest to Cape Alava on the coast. The hike is approximately 1,200 miles and crosses beautiful terrain, says Plaza.

For more information on the upcoming Expo where Plaza will provide more long-distance hike information, check out the below links.


About the Spokane Great Outdoor and Bike Expo:

Where: The Spokane Convention Center, 334 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201

When: Saturday, February 24, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 25, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Tickets here

Expo Website here


Lisa Laughlin is a contributor and digital editor for Out There Outdoors. 

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