Having completed the Triple Crown and most recently the Arizona National Scenic Trail, Fred Gaudet has been given a unique monicker on behalf of his accomplishments: “Triple Crown with a Desert Jewel!” Fred persevered through plenty of physical and natural challenges until he reached his goals. We interviewed him on behalf of our National Trails Guide fans as part of our ongoing thru-hiker blog series.

Arizona National Scenic Trail

How/when did you develop your passion for hiking?
I started hiking with my oldest son to help us connect on a different level.  I continued with all six children, including hikes into the Grand Canyon over Christmas break.  Once the kids left home, I started solo hiking in Arizona and southern Utah during long weekends or on vacations trying to see as much rock art as possible.  Two weeks after I retired I starting hiking the Arizona Trail and became hooked on long distance hiking.

Pinchot Pass, CA

Would you recommend this to others?
I would recommend hiking/backing to others but not just jumping into long distance hiking without some experiences hiking/backpacking.  I took my kids backpacking into the Grand Canyon when the youngest was in kindergarten and continued hiking into the Grand Canyon with the kids over the years. This past spring I backpacked again into the Canyon with two kids/spouses and three grand-kids.


What were some of the best outcomes for you from this experience?
The outcome after hiking the Arizona Trail was a passion for long-distance hiking.  An outcome of other hikes is the acceptance that not everything happens according to schedule, but will happen if one is willing to continue the next year(s):  the body gives out, such as stress fractures, giardia, illness, or Hurricane Irene closes the White Mountain Forest in Vermont.  Achieving the Triple Crown was never considered when I started hiking, nor even when I finished the CDT.  After completing the PCT, the Triple Crown became a realistic goal since only the AT remained as the third leg of the Triple Crown.  So I guess “the best outcomes” are setting goals and achieving them.

end of CDT hike: Colorado
Were there any particularly challenging/grueling experiences you would like to share?

Getting giardia and spending four days in the Rawlins, WY, hospital from dehydration was an experience not to repeat.  The source of the giardia was water from a beaver pond that I had filtered–but the filter had cracks in it, so wasn’t working correctly.  Another water related challenge was when a filter clogged up after pumping a little water from a dirt stock pond with cattle in it in New Mexico.  Back-up iodine pills–which I think taste horrible– provide purification for the water that I sifted thru a bandana in order to catch the floaties.


How often did you have to consult your maps/GPS device and was that a reasonable process for you?

On the AZT and CDT I carried a GPS, not for route finding purposes but only if the trail got ‘lost’, so I could relocate it using TOPO maps.  I carried maps and compass on the AZT and CDT and would consult them when the trail seemed to disappear or when then were confusing trail junctions.  I carried a water sources data sheet as well as a data book on the PCT and would use them only occasionally.  On the AT I carried a data book, but no maps nor GPS.  The white blazes provide enough guidance.

Were there any particular types of technology (electronic, hardware/equipment, etc.) that were especially useful for you and would you recommend them to others?

I carried a cell phone with me so I could contact my spouse from the trail and/or from a town, although many times there was no cell phone coverage.  Starting on the PCT I did carry a SPOT which allowed me to send an “I’m okay” message every night to my wife and kids.


What effect did your cell phone have, if any, on your experience? 

The cell phone was a positive experience because I used it to call and talk with my wife about everyday things.  I’ve also used it to coordinate pickups on the AZT.  The cell phone was never continuously on and I never received phone calls on it.


Fred Gaudet serves on the Board of the Arizona Trail Association and is VP of Trail Operations. More of Fred’s photos are available at http://www.fredgaudetphotography.com/.