Meet the soon to be iconic duo, Lauren Steele and Paddy O’Connell of our most recent film, Best Bad Idea. Lauren and Paddy set out on an epic adventure together to backpack the White Rim Trail in the middle of July. This was a really, really great bad idea.
And Lauren and Paddy have the best worst stories to share from their backpacking adventure around the White Rim Trail:
We’ll start with the obvious question: why the heck did you choose to do this in the middle of summer?
Lauren: Columbia chose this. Camp 4 Collective chose this. They thought it would be a great way to test the Omni-Shade technology–which they were right about. I don’t think most people would just choose to go walk many miles through the Utah desert in mid-July.
Paddy: Because we are big dumb dummies who find stupid things very fun and funny. Seriously though, we had the White Rim pretty much all to ourselves. To be alone with a small group in that terrain, in that beautiful landscape was incredible. That being said, it was hotter than hell and almost broke us. My mustache nearly evaporated it was so flippin’ hot.
I don’t think most people would just choose to go walk many miles through the Utah desert in mid-July.
Were you guys supported on this trip?
Lauren: Honestly, you couldn’t make it through an objective like this without a support crew. Not even bikers can do the White Rim in the summertime without support. Sure, you can be a hero and pack your own tent and clothes and gear and live off of Bobo Bars for a few days, but you’re only going to last as long as you are able to carry water. And there’s no way you’d be able to carry as much water as you’d need. Sorry, but that’s the facts. There’s no potable water out there–and when it’s this hot and this dry, you need about a gallon a day (or at least I did. Am I too thirsty?)
Paddy: Oh sweet lord, yes. I don’t think it’s possible to hike the WRT in the middle of summer without a support crew. And ours was the best. They kept spirits through the roof and made sure we were safe. Plus, they gave really great hugs. And we all need hugs.
Lauren: Anyway, Paddy and I had an amazing support crew that made this journey a little more crazy and a little less dumb. Our crew made sure we had plenty of agua, bribery snacks, nap nooks, and love.
Did you have a strategy like walk at night or did you do it all in the day?
Lauren: The schedule of this objective was more brutal than the sun. There, I said it. We were on a mission to wake up and hike every morning, nap in the afternoon like a pride of lions, and wake up again and walk at night. The daily rigamarole looked a little like this: 4 a.m., breakfast. 5 a.m., walk. Walk, walk, walk. 2 p.m., collapse and sleep under a speck of shade. 5 p.m., wake up, fix some food, pack up. 6 p.m. walk. Walk, walk, walk. 10 p.m., set up camp, shove food into face, collapse again and dream feverishly about air conditioned rooms and Sno-cones.
Paddy: Our days started around 3 or 4 a.m. and we were on trail an hour after waking up. We had to make it to the next camp each day, so we’d walk as far as we could before the height of the heat at midday, then crash out under lonely trees and pop-up tents like a lion pride, rest until late afternoon, and then hike the rest of the mileage to camp. We averaged around 20 miles a day, I think. Mostly, the strategy was walk and walk and walk, then walk a little more, and then walk after that, until it was time to walk some more.
Did it ever get cool enough to sleep?
Lauren: I say yes. Paddy says no. I’m a firm believer that if you’re tired enough, you can sleep through anything. Except mosquitos. No one can sleep through a mosquito attack. Each opportunity I had to get horizontal, I took.
Paddy: If by “sleep” you mean lie down/collapse in sweaty exhaustion on top of rock that feels like a diner griddle in a land that feels like a convection oven, then yeah, sure, we slept. I think over the course of the trip I slept for ten and a half minutes. Truly, maybe two or three hours a night. Somehow Lauren could sleep…which was annoying. She’d pop up from her tent like it was goddamn Christmas morning. I thought about pushing her down a lot.
Canyonlands National Park is too hot for any critters to call home in the middle of July–and that’s because critters have brains and souls and some form of good sense.
Any critter encounters?
Lauren: Canyonlands National Park is too hot for any critters to call home in the middle of July–and that’s because critters have brains and souls and some form of good sense. The only thing that exists within those park boundaries besides stupid humans are brainless, soulless, minions of Satan called mosquitos. I swear, the mosquitos of Canyonlands National Park have enough room in their tiny, evil bodies for two things: blood and hatred. When we finally reached the one area of respite on the entire journey–the Green River–we were greeted by hoards of hateful, horrible mosquitos. It was like meeting Cerberus at the gates of hell.
Paddy: I am Chicago Irish, which means I have extra sweet blood that is as thick and as tasty as a milkshake. The bugs descended upon me like I was a $5 buffet.
Lauren: Nope. Except Paddy kept muttering something about being disposed into an ice cream machine instead of being taken to a crematory when he dies.
Paddy: No. This wasn’t Coachella, ya know? Just a super hot hike.
What was the hottest it got?
Paddy: No. It was a bajillion.
How did you keep each other motivated?
Lauren: Paddy was great about keeping it positive, and focusing on the goodness. I mean, we had an entire national park to ourselves. How can that not motivate you to explore?
We had an entire national park to ourselves. How can that not motivate you to explore?
Paddy: I did it all myself. I’m super funny, so Lauren used my humor to keep herself going. Plus, I am very artistic and highly athletic, so she used that to inspire herself as well. Honestly, following the trip my back hurt more than anything…since I had to carry the team. HA! Just kidding. Lauren and I have a great friendship and we leaned on one another. We talked almost every step of the way and, true to form, the conversation swung from super deep to bathroom humor. Hard things aren’t hard when you’ve got pals.
When was the first time you thought this was a really dumb idea?
Lauren: When my feet turned into ground beef in my shoes.
Paddy: From the first second of planning. No one, literally no one hikes the WRT in the summer. Why? It is super dumb. As soon as we arrived on the first day my immediate response was to laugh and say, “Oh, yeah. This is stupid.” But it was awesome, too.
No one, literally no one hikes the WRT in the summer. Why? It is super dumb.
What did you crave the most while on the trail?
Lauren: Sleep. And ice cream. Somehow, I got the ice cream but I didn’t get any sleep.
Paddy: Better company. Kidding. Probably sticking my feet inside giant tubs of ice cream. So, I craved ice cream shoes the most.
What was the best part of the hike? The worst?
Lauren: The best part of the hike was discovering Canyonlands with our crew–no tourists, no crowds. We moved through this wild land and were able to discover it ourselves. We saw every sunrise and didn’t miss a sunset. If you’ve ever been to the desert you know it doesn’t get better than that. But the worst part? Mosquitos. That’s the worst part of every hike.
Paddy: The solitude, the enormous and endless Dr. Seuss landscape, the laughter; that stuff was the best. The worst? Well, on our last night I awoke in my tent to the sounds of a rushing water. In the grayness of waking up I thought it was a flash flood or something. Pretty scary stuff. But then my eyes and my head focused. It was just Lauren peeing next to my tent. That wasn’t really the worst thing, but it is something the world needs to know about. If you go camping with Lauren Steele, she’s gonna pee near or on your tent. The bugs and the heat/the sun were probably the most brutal part of the hike. Sleeping next to a puddle of pee wasn’t that awesome either.
The solitude, the enormous and endless Dr. Seuss landscape, the laughter; that stuff was the best.
What ended up being the most coveted piece of gear for this trip?
Lauren: Definitely the Bora Bora II Booney sun hat. If you don’t have a good hat in the desert, you’re gonna get cooked.
Paddy: My friend Lauren. Seriously. She’s a boss. Or Tim Kemple’s runners lube. On day two I waddled into camp with chafing so bad that I thought my undercarriage was going to burst into flames. Seriously. It was like burnt ham hocks. Gross. And I wasn’t the only one. Tim had runners lube that we all used to grease the gears. It was a life saver.
Any advice for those people looking to adventure in the heat?
Lauren: Don’t go alone, wear sunscreen, pack a lot of water, and don’t be dumb.
Don’t go alone, wear sunscreen, pack a lot of water, and don’t be dumb.
Paddy: Bring good pals who have a great and unwavering sense of humor and determination. And smile, even when it sucks. Life is better that way. Also, I think we all need to put some research into ice cream shoes. Think about it. It’s a great idea.