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Yes, And…to Adventure (Lunchtime Speaker)

October 3, 2023 @ 12:30 pm 1:50 pm

Triple Crown Hiker? Check. Cross Country Biker? Check. Viking Re-enactor on a boat? Check. John Kincheloe takes the “Yes, And” mantra very seriously when it comes to his adventures. Hear his ‘why’ when it comes to choosing his adventures and what it takes to prepare (and complete) them.

John Kincheloe, Northern Virginia Community College


  • In 2007, John found himself in the Wind River Mountain range, on a trail headed straight towards a forest fire
    • He ran across a “ragtag bunch of firefighters” who were good for the wilderness, but maybe not so good for John – most people would turn around and evacuate, but John snuck away from the firefighters and tried to work his way around the fire, not wanting his journey to be over 
    • He found his way through a freshly burned area and narrowly avoided the fire, he made it through, but then…
    • A storm blew in 
      • John traversed through mud and rocks, he was battered and beaten, but yet again, he prevailed
      • He finally made it to a camp, what a beautiful sight for sore eyes, AND THEN, John saw a bear trap. It wasn’t any old bear trap you see in the movies. This was the kind ONLY used to trap “problem bears,” a bear that is a danger to humans. The trap is full of raw, rotting meat, and entices the bear to come in and be captured. 
    • He had to avoid the bear’s area and hiked away to set up a camp
      • When he found a place to camp, he realized he didn’t have his water or his hiking pole (a critical component in his lightweight shelter set-up)
      • Feeling defeated, John turned and went back to retrieve his things  – on the way he saw a beautiful rainbow, which, even though he was exhausted, gave him hope
    • John persevered time and time again to find the trail, and three months later he reached the Mexican border, completing the continental divide trail. 
  • Kinch started these journeys in 1996 with a bike trip that sparked his enthusiasm and became a lifelong passion
    • John completed several more long-distance hiking trips, ending with the Continental Divide trail 
    • He created hiking routes in Scotland, canoed through Peru, and explored many other areas in the world 
    • Finally, John realized he wanted to focus on a career, and that’s when he found his passion for sailing
  • His ultimate passion finally became, the Draken Harald Harfagre, the Viking ship he continues to sail all over the world
  • Why does John do all of these things?
    • He loves being one of the only people to see all of these beautiful, seemingly unreachable places – specifically, seeing them at 2-3 mph allows  you can soak in every aspect, watch the environment change around, the golden sun rising and falling, and the beauty of the world most humans can only dream of 
    • He loves the utter simplicity of only having to worry about food, water, and what the weather will be like that day 
  • Kinch dedicates SO MUCH time to this practice – he studies topographical maps, uncovers each place the trail crosses the road to evaluate if he can re-up his gear, mails  himself supply drops, and, most importantly, finds the best places to get a cheeseburger and a milkshake
    • Nothing ever goes as planned – no plan John has ever put together went accordingly 
      • Mice will steal your food, masts of Viking ships break in the middle of the sea (who would’ve known you could make it out of that?), you have to duct tape your shoes to your feet (naturally), and sometimes you have to sleep in a hollowed out log to not get pelted with hail through the night
      • Some trucks passing by will throw beer at your head, and others will share a nice cold one with you, it’s a lot like life, isn’t it?
  • You must accept, you must adapt, and you must, above all else, persevere
    • John will calculate his calories and water, and determine how to maximize naps and the best views along the trail 
  • If you live in the moment all the time, you never reach the end of the trail
    • Life requires plans, and those plans always change 
      • It’s not about your ability to go with the flow and relax, letting things come to you — it’s about when you plan, it’s disrupted, and you adapt to all of these ever-changing aspects that success follows 
  • What’s the secret to completing these journeys? 
    • Waking up every day and failing to meet every goal, and then making a new plan, continuing to put one foot in front of the other and prevail no matter what 
  • John’s next journey might be in Nepal, but he specifically wants to focus on doing another canoe trip
    • John has a 300-mile canoe trip on the Yukon River that is also on his list 
    • He mentioned needing a 60-foot boat and a year in the Mediterranean if anyone can help him out with that
  • How does prepare?
    • Build spreadsheets and mark your research so you have everything planned and know where you’re going to be able to restock along the trail 
  • Does John have a daily routine while on the trail?
    • Yes, but it evolves over time 
  • John’s trail name was Sign Field, and the craziest human character he ever met on the trail was Baltimore Jack 
  • One of Kinch’s favorite memories is at a place called Charley’s Bunyun in Great Smoky National Park on the AT. On this journey, he encountered a bear. That wasn’t the bad part, however. He looked and realized he had also encountered bear cubs. John describes the moment when he saw the bear cubs saying, “I didn’t see a bear. I saw death.”
    • Luckily for John, the bear decided that “he wasn’t worth her time that day.” 
  • On the trails, John journals every day, noting how far he hiked that day, and how long he still has to go, and records the highlights from the days 
  • All in all, the message is clear. John Kincheloe is a badass. And no matter what happened to him throughout all of these amazing journeys, he never gave up and always innovated, adapted, and persevered. 



October 3, 2023
12:30 pm – 1:50 pm
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