Thomas "Jabba" Gathman
In 2010, Thomas Gathman was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps Infantry where he served as a point man for his Fire Team and Squad during two combat deployments in Iraq. Upon returning to his home town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Thomas enrolled at Bucknell University where he began working towards a degree in Business Management. It was during his time at Bucknell where he began working for a titanium manufacturer of lightweight camping/backpacking goods called Vargo Titanium.
In the spring of 2012, working at Vargo afforded him the opportunity to make his way to Trail Days on the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, Virginia. Being that Trail days is the largest hiker festival in the U.S., Gathman found himself being inspired by the countless hikers both past and present who were making their way from Georgia to Maine along the 2,189 mile long trail.
Ten months later, he was standing atop Springer Mountain in Georgia beginning his own adventure northbound along the Appalachian Trail.
While on that 6 month journey, Gathman earned the name "Jabba" (as in Jabba the Hut from Star Wars) because of his overwhelming desire to eat massive amounts of food while in town. It was during this first hike on the AT that he discovered his passion for wanting to thru-hike America's many long distance trails. He got rid of his house, vehicle, and the majority of all his possessions and decided to set out on a life aiming to tackle as many trails as he could. Before his next hike the following year in 2014 along the Continental Divide Trail, Gathman decided to start a blog to share his stories and pictures. He called it "The Real Hiking Viking" to pay homage to the massive beard that he continues to grow as well as his warrior heritage while in the Marine Corps.
Since 2013, he has hiked over 20,000 miles on trails both international and domestic with no sign of slowing down. So far he has tackled the Jordan Trail (in the Middle East), the Appalachian Trail twice (once in winter starting in Maine the first week of December), Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, half of the Florida Trail, Wonderland Trail, Sierra High Route twice, Wind River High Route twice, Mid State Trail (in Pennsylvania), and countless other hikes and summits. He has his sights set on many, many more adventures.
The Real Hiking Viking