By Pam Pollan
Alex Borsky gave a talk, “In Pursuit of the Triple Crown: A Journey Along Our National Trails
System,” sponsored by the Princeton Public Library on February 9th.
Borsky, who was raised in Princeton and lived here for much of his life, told the packed room of his
completion of three long distance hikes, known as the Triple Crown of Hiking, covering some 8,000
miles, including the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2013, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2021 and the
Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2022. All of the Triple Crown trails are well traveled, he said.
He enjoyed recreational adventures as a teen in the Princeton Venture Club, an organization
affliated with the Boy Scouts of America.
“We pursued a variety of outdoor recreational activities including canoeing the Allagash Wilderness
Waterway in northern Maine, bicycling from Montreal, Quebec to back home in Princeton, a variety of
overnight backpacking trips in the White Mountains and New Hampshire, and sailing in Narragansett
Bay in Rhode Island, etc.” he said.
Borsky fell in love with long distance hiking while climbing Mt. Katahdin, after graduating from the
University of Maine in Orono, where he received a B.S. in Marine Science and minor in Fisheries.
Spanning 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail crosses 14 states. There were
frequent opportunities to resupply food, water and other resources, he recalled. The trail was well-
established and had town amenities, was easy to navigate and well-marked. The AT is known for its
social characteristics, compared to the PCT and the CDT, he said.
He hiked in the Pacific Northwest in 2014 and 2015. When the pandemic hit in 2019, he was living in
Oregon and decided to relocate back to Princeton. While his plans to hike the PCT were postponed,
he focused on shorter trails and his self-reliance.
“More often than not, there are no specific campgrounds (on the PCT and CDT), so backcountry
users reply on their knowledge of Leave No Trace principles to determine appropriate places to make
camp in order to minimize impact to the trail and surrounding environment,” he said. The AT had
numerous three-sided shelters for camping.
The PCT covers 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, and runs through California, Oregon and
Washington State. Opportunities for resupply were less frequent so, he planned ahead and sent
supplies to himself via general delivery, for pickup at the post office.
Stretching 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, the CDT was his favorite of the three Triple Crown
trails. It was the most challenging because everything was extreme from the weather to the wildlife on
the long western trails, he said. The trail crosses five states and travels through the desert and alpine
“The CDT still maintains a sense of “wild,” something that, in my opinion, the AT and PCT has
largely lost due to development and popularity. The trail itself, as well as the vast wilderness areas it
passes through, presents some of the most remote, rugged and challenging terrain offered in the
lower 48 states. It truly required me to utilize the majority of my wilderness skills that I have acquired
and developed over the years, a great final test and way to cap off my long-distance hiking
endeavors,” he said.
Tips for Long Distance Hiking
Borsky recommends that anyone preparing to do long distance hiking “consider the inherent risk,
which becomes more substantial the further you get from emergency services.”
He said hikers need to make sure they have adequate gear and skill level to attempt such hikes.
They need to consider the weather, what the roads will be like, how they will get to the trailhead, be
aware of how to manage snow, avalanche, fire, and wildlife concerns. He asked hikers to be honest
“Your safety and life could be dependent on it,” he said.
Borsky encountered wildlife on all three Triple Crown trails. Out west, he ran into black bears,
grizzlies and cougars.
“Management of wildlife is dependent upon species and situation,” he said. In general that
maintaining proper food handling and storage and keeping adequate viewing distance is most
important for the safety of both the hiker and the animal, he explained.
“Wildfires have the potential to present risk on any trail, but especially when hiking out west”, Borsky
He encountered wildfires on both the PCT and CDT, but they did not greatly impact his hike, he said.
“The best way to manage wildfires is through self-awareness. This includes being aware of what
might be burning within your vicinity before entering backcountry, and maintaining adequate means to
navigate and exit the backcountry in case you encounter an unforeseen fire.”
Borsky said he was extremely fortunate to not deal with any significant injuries while hiking.
“Injuries are obviously impossible to predict, but listening to your body especially when something
does not feel right and taking a break to assess its condition is crucial,” he said.
He traveled and camped alone.
”The hiking community tends to be very friendly, so it is not challenging to strike up a conversation
with others while on the trail. These conversations, as well as time spent in towns, definitely help
mitigate any feelings of loneliness.
What’s next for Borsky?
He plans to attend graduate school and depending on the school/program, pursue an M.S. in
either Fisheries Science or Natural Resources.