Interview: Walk the AT with the Tougas Family

Update:  Their Kickstarter campaign is 100% funded.  Check out their first episode.  

  I have been a long time reader of a popular minimal footwear resource site Toe Salad.  Keeping me up to date on anything new on the market coming out and giving  detailed reviews of current products already on the trail.

  When I heard that he was going to bring his whole family on a journey to walk the Appalachian Trail or AT for short, got instantly excited for them.  The first thing that came to my mind was, what an awesome opportunity for the kids.  I can't think of any better place for a child to grow mentally and physically, than on a trail.

  Here is a short interview, on some unanswered questions I personally had.  Feel free to also check out their Info Page, with a introduction video and detailed description of their goals for this project.

Why put the kids homeschooling on hold and have your family walk the Appalachian Trail as a whole?
At first glance it might look like we are putting our kids homeschooling on hold, but in reality, their homeschooling will be going into overdrive. There are a ton of learning opportunities to be had on the trail, and we plan on taking advantage of as many as we can.

Historic sites, interesting people, new places, animals, geology, geography... so many possibilities. One of the ideas Renee and I have been batting around is asking people whom we meet on the trail to teach us something new. Everyone is passionate about something, an expert in something, and has something we can learn. I think it would be fun to make trail life our teacher.

Then there is everything we will learn when working together to create our video series. It will be real-life video production school. We will have to learn to work together effectively as a team, and support each other in order to achieve our goals. It is going to be a lot of work, but I am excited about the process, and all the things we will learn on the way.

How do you feel minimalist footwear has benefited your family?
Minimalist footwear has had a big impact on our family. For starters, it gave me a new lease on life when I was able to overcome some injuries that sidelined me for a period of time when I was younger. Once I discovered the benefits of being barefoot and using minimalist shoes, I was able to run, hike, and backpack again.

Several years later my wife started to have problems with her knee. I suggested that she try minimalist footwear to see if it would help, and it did. Ever since that time our whole family has been either barefoot or in minimalist shoes (except of course for those times when we can't - like when we are skiing).

After becoming a true believer in the benefits of minimalist footwear I started blogging about it. Which eventually led to me creating Toe Salad, which in turn led to me becoming a part of a great online community of hikers, backpackers, runners, and outdoorsy types (like yourself!).

Now we are hiking and backpacking regularly as a family, blogging about it, and now launching a video series. I would say minimalist footwear has changed our lives :-)

A good percentage of Americans have trouble getting off the couch, nevermind walking over 2,000 miles.  What are you doing to prepare the body and mind, for such an adventure?
Our minds have been preparing for quite a long time. We have been thinking about this trip for years. We have read trail stories together, and followed along with other folks on their journeys. I would say that while we haven't done a trip like this yet, we have some idea of what we can expect. We are trying to go in with eyes wide open, so that we aren't surprised by the trail, even though it might be difficult. I think it is important not to romanticize it in your mind, because it is probably easy to become disenchanted when things don't go as you expect.

In terms of physically, well we make sure to exercise outside regularly (daily if possible). We also spend one day a week outdoors together either hiking, backcountry skiing, trail running, or backpacking. I have been trying to add extra weight to my pack when I can for a little extra conditioning. We are not really going over-and-above what we would normally do, as we only have so much time. As long as we stay in decent shape, whatever we are lacking in fitness can be gradually built-up on the trail, provided we take things slow.

How can we help your family reach their goals?
There are several ways you can help:

- Help spread the word and share our project with anyone whom you think might be interested.

- Visit our Kickstarter campaign page (update: Funded) and make a pledge (every little bit helps)! Most rewards include the ability to watch some or all video episodes, so you can follow along and share our journey with us.

- Meet us on the trail to give us some encouragement and moral support along the way :-)