Thru-hiking is a powerful experience. The activity has been growing in popularity from books like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. The appeal comes from the ability of a long hike to change a person. They go in one person, and come out another through the course of months hiking every day on long distance trails. Josh Sheets is a brand ambassador of Wūru, and a man who pursues joy in life. He seeks to find the essence of what he is, and grows closer and closer with each step.
Josh is a 34-year-old gay male from Delaware. He’s worked all kinds of jobs including retail, social work, and in state government. Josh describes himself as “a Gemini through and through” who values being a homebody and socializing with friends and strangers alike. He finds solace in the outdoors, particularly on long-distance backpacking trips, which he likens to a "walking meditation". The simplicity of living in the moment and being present draws him to the great outdoors. He has hiked 2/3rds of the Triple Crown of thru-hiking, having hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
One thing he couldn't live without on his thru-hike (besides Wūru of course) is his camera. He loves to document the epic vistas and the people he meets on the trail. It’s an essential part of his journey. He loves to find authenticity, honesty, and genuine candor and the camera is a great gateway to meet and interact with others when on the trail.
Wūru Wool has been an integral part of his journey, and we’ve been proud to support him. What grew out of a customer support conversation has become a fruitful relationship. Josh saw the potential for our Blister Wool on the trail, and knew it could help hikers. The unpredictable PCT has been a great place for us to get product feedback, and Josh has helped us do real world testing throughout his journey.
Josh believes in acknowledging the history of the land and educating people about all aspects of HIV since he is living with it himself. He takes pride in accepting and owning his HIV diagnosis. The initial diagnosis caught him by surprise. Eventually, he turned it into something meaningful, carving out a career as a case manager and social worker for people living with HIV. Thru hiking has helped to change him for the better. It can be physically challenging, but maintaining a positive outlook on the trail can be even harder. The trail has taught him that good natured people exist everywhere, and that there's more than enough space in the outdoors for EVERYONE.
His proudest achievement in the outdoors is being 2/3rds complete with the Triple Crown. He doesn’t shy away from his identity. He is a proud gay man who is open about living with HIV. Josh wants to declare he is “present and accounted for in a community that often seems full of healthy, straight, white men”. The outdoors has always been more diverse than it seems, and though recognition is slow, it is coming. Josh loves being part of the wave that is changing people’s perceptions of outdoor recreation, and in turn changing the world.
Medical compliance with his ARV (anti-retroviral) medication is key to staying healthy when living with HIV, and he wanted to stress the importance of taking medication as prescribed and being engaged with a doctor. Post-trail, Josh hopes to learn about brewing, massage therapy, and structural integration. He plans to complete the Triple Crown in the next couple of years, and has already begun thinking about the Continental Divide Trail. Despite the weather, the possibility of gear malfunctions, the constant exhaustion, there’s no place he’d rather be than through hiking, and he thinks everyone should try it at least once.
Thru hiking is an exhilarating and fulfilling experience that offers a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It allows hikers to connect with nature, challenge themselves, and gain a sense of accomplishment that can boost their self-esteem and confidence. Through hiking provides an opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with oneself. While it may be daunting at first, Josh faced down the trail and his HIV diagnosis, and has been an inspiration to all of us here at Wūru.