My name is Jeff Benefield and I used to go by the trail name, “JBEN.” However in May 2017 on a hike to Damascus, Virginia for Appalachian Trail Days, my normal hiking buddies ( Chris “Daddy’$Money” Russell & Josh “TrailDaddy” Belcher ) renamed me to “JOHNNY CASH…” The reasoning behind the conversion to that of “The Man In Black…” was due to the fact that all of my gear and trail clothing is black. Hence forth when you meet me on the trail I very well may greet you by saying…
“Hello, I’m Johnny…Johnny Cash!”
I am married with 3 children and live in Gardendale, Alabama. My wife, Joy, enjoys dayhiking…however she doesn’t care at this point to go into the backwoods with me. She says she will after the kids are grown. That will be in 18 or so years because they are just babies.
My children are the range from toddler to teen-ager. The 2 boys are still too young to go and my daughter is a girly girl that doesn’t desire to get the trail on her in the form of dirt. She loves the shows I watch in regard to the outdoors, however…that is as far as it goes. The sons shows signs of strong desire for the outdoors and I am counting down the days until we hit the trail together.
I started hiking as a hobby in 2010. What started out as a basic over-packed & weighted camping trip into the Sipsey Wilderness with 2 buddies turned into something bigger. I had found it…my decompressing release. From then on, I was hooked.
I had to find more wilderness areas where I could stretch myself for adventure.
Since 2010, I have found pouring over anything hiking or outdoors related. Buying gear and retiring it because I didn’t need it or it didn’t work well with me. Reading books from all kinds of genres. Cody Lundin, Bear Grylls, Les Stroud, Dave Canterbury, Andrew Skurka, the famed John Muir, and most recently Creek Stewart. These authors and TV personalities have all fed my desire to be outside when I couldn’t. Anything about the AT, PCT, JMT, GSMNP, BMT, CDT, GET, and my beloved Pinhoti Trail were fair game for my outdoors consumption.
My new desire to spend as many nights in the woods of the Southeast as I wanted , I knew I had to get comfortable with being solo. My hiking buddies were not as flexible as me in work and they didn’t have the desire to cover miles like me. Then there were buddies, who were simply like that of what Andrew Skurka described in his book, “just campers.” There is a difference between “Camper” and “Hikers.” Hikers will be content just camping, however that is a one-way street as campers will not enjoy pounding out the miles in an attempt to do a 20 mile day. So with all of that said…, I had to get comfortable being solo. So I did… Logging multiple trips by myself with a few buddy hiking trips and more buddy camping excursions.
I have no doubt, my 1st pack weighed in well over 50+lbs. I knew I had to cut weight, and cut weight, and cut weight as the 20 mile per day trips mounted. That’s like losing a small child of you back…thus your knees. The days of carrying just incase were over! I removed tags, changed over to silNylon items, then changed again to Cuben Fiber items and got rid of things I simply did not use.
I will continue down this lighter path and proclaiming the UL gospel to anyone that will listen! This continuing and never-ending endeavor will pay dividend as I age and desire to continue romping around our forests until my heavenly homecoming exit.
Until next time…,