Will “Akuna” Robinson was inspired to enter the outdoors in a new way after watching the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) memoir, Wild. He knew about the PCT from a book he came across while he was in the Army overseas. The book became very special to him because it allowed him to escape from the harsh realities of the war around him. When he saw Wild, he recognized the PCT from the descriptions in the book.
The film spoke to Robinson, who had been diagnosed with PTSD and was suffering from a number of physical injuries from the Iraq War. He had self-medicated for 12 years with alcohol and painkillers to deal with both. It wasn’t working. He decided to try something new.
Just three weeks after he saw Wild, Robinson found himself at the southern terminus of the PCT trailhead. It was the Spring of 2016. He had no training for this expedition other than his military experience, but he set out on the trail.
An old knee injury prevented him from completing his first attempt, but he was back a year later and completed the journey. He then took on the Appalachian Trail (AT), where he met his romantic partner and the two hiked the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) together.
Robinson was nervous at first to enter a space wherein people of color were rarely, if at all, represented. He was unsure if people would accept him, so he initially kept to himself. Seven thousand miles later, Robinson has become a seasoned hiker and is helping other people of color interested in tackling hiking expeditions have a face and a place outside.
Hiking, Robinson said, saved his life. This is much of the reason why he wants to share this passion with others.
Robinson is the first recorded African American male to complete hiking’s triple crown—the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Scenic Trails—and one of fewer than 400 logged on the American Long Distance Hiking Association website.
The film that tells more about his journey, The Crown, was screened at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Robinson’s story reminds us that films inspire many of us to see the world in new ways and can stir in us the strength and courage to do something we might otherwise never dream of doing.
If you want a dose of inspiration and missed the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, you can join one of the many tours as it crosses this country and the world here https://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org/on-tour/ and hear more about Robinson’s story as he tells it in his own words.
This story is part of a month-long celebration of Black people who have become environmental leaders in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth.