Armed with a camera and laptop, one Dixie State University alumnus will be tackling 2,650 miles of deserts, forests and mountain ranges from Mexico to Canada on foot.
Michael Nielsen, who graduated DSU with an English degree in 2014, is aiming to become the self-dubbed “world’s first extreme adventure daily vlogger.” He’ll be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and uploading daily videos of his trek on YouTube from May to the end of September 2017. Through Kickstarter, Nielsen has raised over $3,600 for his project, which he is calling “I’m not lost.”
Nielsen is currently a master’s student at the University of Texas at El Paso studying rhetoric. He will graduate with his master’s degree in rhetoric and professional writing studies in May, the same month he is planning on starting his adventure. Nielsen said studying creative writing at DSU and rhetoric at UTEP has inspired him to write his now-successful proposal on Kickstarter.
“There are a lot of extreme adventure documentaries and films, but there’s not a lot of transparency in them or online,” Nielsen said. “I want to show the ‘behind the scenes’ and what it’s actually like every single day on an extreme adventure…I’m fulfilling this need through daily vlogs for audiences to experience adventure in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Though he’s been an active outdoorsman his entire life, Nielsen said the PCT will be his first attempt at an “extreme adventure.”
The PCT starts on the Mexican border in the desert of Southern California and crosses California, Oregon and Washington to end in Manning Park, British Columbia. According to the PCT website, the trail crosses 26 national forests, 60 mountain passes, seven national parks, five state parks and four national monuments. Nielsen said he is planning to hike about 20 miles a day for 130 days to make sure he finishes before it gets too snowy in Washington.
As if the PCT isn’t tough enough on it’s own, Nielsen will be lugging about 10 extra pounds in his pack, which will include his DSLR camera, laptop and other filming supplies. He said he’s even considering bringing along a Phantom drone.
“There was one person in particular that told me the PCT is really hard to do, and the extra weight for my camera equipment would make my pack too heavy,” Nielsen said. “It’s going to be very hard, but that motivates me even more to prove I can do it.”
He said he plans on spending a half-hour editing his videos each night in his tent.
Jack Haskel, trail information specialist of the PCT, said he has heard of many people who have filmed daily videos along the PCT, but he didn’t know if anyone had uploaded videos each day along the trek.
“Thru-hiking the PCT is definitely a pretty intense exhibition, but hundreds of people hike the entire trail each year,” Haskel said. “Filming the experience on the PCT is definitely popular, but it would definitely be a challenge to upload daily videos because of the seclusion and lack of Wi-Fi on the trail.”
To compensate for the lack of Wi-Fi coverage on the trail, Nielsen will be uploading the daily vlogs to YouTube through a Verizon Wi-Fi hotspot after a 20-day buffer. Although he will be uploading daily videos, there will be a 20-day delay so he has plenty of time to catch up on editing and uploading. He plans to begin uploading the eight to 12 minute long videos June 1.
There are about 30 resupplying checkpoints along the PCT where Nielsen will be spending the additional time to finish editing and uploading the videos. These checkpoints are also places where Nielsen said he would be mailing himself additional charged batteries for his equipment.
“People told me solar power isn’t always reliable—especially in Oregon and Washington where it’s often overcast,” Nielsen said. “So I’m taking a lot of batteries.”
This won’t be Nielsen’s first time churning out videos quickly. He said he learned to produce and edit videos quickly on tight deadlines while working as a videographer for St. George News and The Spectrum. According to Nielsen’s proposal, he will also be attempting to make daily vlogs of five- or ten-day backpacking trips to prepare for the task of making videos quickly outdoors.
After his adventure, Nielsen said he doesn’t plan on stopping extreme adventure vlogging. He hopes his YouTube channel will gain enough traction to be monetized and attract advertisers, which will then support him enough to take additional extreme adventures in the future and vlog his journeys.
“Best case scenario, my adventure on the PCT will be like the season one of ‘I’m not lost,’ and I’ll be able to vlog more extreme adventures in the future,” Nielsen said.