Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

Ethan west has The Squarehead Barber Shop in Mason. He likes cutting hair and he likes adventure. He has done 500-mile kayak trips on Texas rivers and walked the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.

“During my sophomore year in high school I wanted to do something significant in my life at some point. I saw a documentary on TV about the Appalachian Trail. It mentioned the 2,200-mile hiking trail starts in Georgia and goes all the way to Maine. I turned to my dad and said, ‘I’m gonna do that.’ He said he would drive me to the trailhead. That built a fire within me.”

When Ethan graduated from high school he went to barber school and became a barber. Generations of his family had been barbers. “I became a barber to earn money so I could hike that trail. But I love barbering and will probably do it the rest of my life.” He walked the trail three years ago when he was 20. He cut hair along the way. “I had about $200 worth of hair-cutting supplies with me. Believe it or not those hippies wanted to get their hair cut right about midway in the hike. I cut their hair and charged for it. I made enough money to cover the cost of the equipment and made some extra for me. I gave the barbering tools away.”

The walk took 145 days. “I started on April 11th and finished somewhere between September 2nd or 3rd. It’s pretty hard to plan, so I just took it a day at a time.” He averaged 22 miles a day. His longest day was around 40 miles.

He had a sleeping bag, a tent and a 36-pound pack to start, but the pack got lighter as he went along. “I didn’t know anything about hiking and was carrying a lot of junk I didn’t need.” He got a motel room every 5 days so he could take a shower. That’s also when he stocked up on food.

“I weighed about 190 when I started and my body weight dropped down to about 140 at one point. But I was able to put that back on by eating a bunch. I finished at about 162.” He ate energy food during the day. “Peanuts, M&Ms Cheez-Its, Oreos, Snicker bars. But in the morning and evening is when I would cook my protein.” He faced all kinds of weather. “Snowstorms in the beginning, hot and humid in the middle, toward the end it starts getting cold. I walked from spring all the way to fall. I walked in the rain all day sometimes. The dropout rate among young people is high. Older people are usually more successful. I believe it’s because their mind set is refined. They have resolved to complete this.”

There were fears. “You fear every day that you’re going to break your leg because you’re walking on rocks and different landscapes. If you hiked the trail and say you didn’t fall you’re not telling the truth. I fell on my butt a lot of times.”

Ethan sent back his progress to friends and customers in Mason.