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Kalahari Trailblazers

Sam Conley

In our new ambassadors’ blog series, we’ll introduce you to the awesome people who taste the adventure every day! Our second trailblazer is Sam, a photographer with a passion for the outdoors.

man with blue jacket stands on mountain top with bag of Kalahari in hand

Tell us about yourself

My name is Sam and I am a photographer who has a passion for the outdoors. I try my best to take my camera with me wherever I go, capturing the moment whether I’m running, hiking, climbing, or biking. I currently work as a waiter and bartender in Massachusetts and spend my free time climbing, running, and hiking! I’ve spent a winter ski bumming in Colorado and a few months living in a car with my friend, climbing every day in crags all over the country. I’ve hiked well over 6,000 miles, some adventures taking me several months to complete, like hiking from the Mexican border to the Canandian border.

What does adventure mean to you?

To me, adventure is about the journey and not the destination; it can be anything from pushing yourself physically and mentally to just having a fun, mellow day outside with friends. Adventure could be trying a climbing route that’s out of your range, or an easy climb with a gorgeous view. It could be a short, easy day hike in The White Mountains, or a grueling day hiking hours from sunrise to sunset. At the end of the day, adventure is what you make of it.

man climbs rock face

What is your favorite outdoor activity and what makes it special to you?

My favorite outdoor activity would have to be climbing. Climbing has taken me to many places I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to, and has allowed me to see views I otherwise would never see. On top of this, climbing pushes me to train harder. One of the greatest feelings is sending a climb that I’ve spent countless hours on over the course of many trips. The climbing community is incredibly welcoming, as well. From the gym to the crags, I’ve made many friends who have become my regular climbing partners.

Tell us about a memory or accomplishment from your adventures that you are proud of.

The first thing that comes to mind is finishing the Appalachian Trail, my first of many thru-hikes. Starting the hike right out of high school with very little backpacking experience, this adventure was a pivotal moment in my life. I was filled with anxiety and doubt in my ability to actually walk from Maine to Georgia, but as the miles and months passed, I grew more and more confident. Reaching the end of the trail in Amicalola Falls, GA felt unreal. Two months after arriving home, I still felt a desire to explore, so I moved to Carbondale, CO and spent the winter snowboarding in Aspen working as a photographer. Since then, I have hiked the Pacfic Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, The Long Trail and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

man in red shirt and blue shirt runs with trees and grass in the background

How does food and nutrition play a role in fueling your adventures?

When it comes to strength and performance, I notice a dramatic difference when I actually pay attention to what I am eating. Back in April 2020 when my plans to hike the Continental Divide Trail fell through, I did something called “The Calendar Challenge” and ran a total 465 miles in the month of April alone. On April 1st I ran 1 mile, on the 2nd I ran 2 miles, on the 3rd I ran 3 miles, all the way up until the 30th where I ran 30 miles. Around day 10, I was losing steam and realized I needed to change my diet. To fuel up, I ate Kalahari Biltong for the protein (and taste!), some crackers, and a banana, which got nicknamed “Rocket fuel” because of the energy it gave me! After every run, I cooked a meal with the other half of Biltong — my go-to was scrambled eggs, Biltong, and chopped peppers. It was quick, tasty, and left me feeling great.

Do you have any intentions or goals this year? What are you hoping to accomplish?

The one goal I have this year is to hike the Continental Divide Trail and finish the Triple Crown, a goal I’ve been working towards since November 2016 after I finished the Appalachian Trail. Triple Crowning is the act of hiking the 3 major long trails in the U.S: The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. These trails equal ~7,000 miles of hiking, according to ALDHA-West (American Long Distance Hiking Association West). At the end of 2020, there were a total of 482 recognized Triple Crowners and I plan to join that list by the end of 2021.

This or That: Adventure Edition

Kayaking or Hiking

Skiing or Snowboarding

Mountains or Beach

Biltong or Crisps

Winter or Summer

Camping or Glamping

Surfing or Paddle Boarding

Cycling or Running

Beer or Wine

Explore Alone or Adventure Buddy 

Cardio or Strength Training

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