Meet an AO: Jimmy

In November and December, we’re featuring our assistant organizers on Instagram and the blog.

Our AOs are the people thinking of trips, writing and posting the trip descriptions on Meetup, planning the route and carpool logistics, and then carrying out the journey, making sure that everyone is prepared and safe. When the hike is over, they’ve probably scoped out a place to grab some grub with friends, new and old.

In this season of gratefulness, we acknowledge our dedicated team of assistant organizers. We’ve asked them a couple of questions, so you can get to know them a little better.

Assistant Organizers, we see what you’re doing out there, and everything that goes on behind the scenes. We appreciate you!


We wrap up this series with Assistant Organizer Jimmy, trail name “GQ.” Jimmy has attended or led some 80 Meetups, from the Grayson Highlands to Dolly Sods, and everything in between.

“Slowing down on the trails a bit has allowed me to see more and think more about the artistic characteristics of being outside.” 

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Photo credit: Kylie L.

Favorite trail food: This is a question I never think about but if I had to answer, it would be my bag of Cheez Its. They serve as a quick snack but most importantly, they supplement my backpacking freeze dried dinners soooo well!! All you have to do is crush them up a little and add them to the boiling mix of any freeze dried meal to get some extra crunch and flavor. Works really well in freeze dried chilli!

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Photo credit: Jimmy’s friend.

Favorite trail socks: Another weird question, but I always stick with some sort of merino wool sock. Specifically, I go with the Smartwool trail running low cut socks. Super breathable, comfortable and anti microbial. Also, if I had to answer this in another way, another favorite would be the warm dry pairs I keep specifically for camp and sleeping. Totally awesome when it’s been a cold, wet day of hiking!

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Photo credit: Genevieve.

Something to know about me: When I first started out with DC UL, my major focus was to continually challenge myself physically and mentally. This was something I found long distance backpacking gave me. I was absolutely obsessed with hiking with this group and I probably hiked a sum total of about 1,800 miles with the group in a 3 year span! 

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Photo credit: Genevieve.

I’ve meet some of the best people I know along the way and have gone on so many unique/beautiful hiking trips! I’ll never forget backpacking the Grand Canyon (Rim to Rim to Rim) in some insane weather (heat exhaustion and hypothermia in the same trip!), almost being killed by lightning and altitude sickness on the Colorado Trail, and getting hypothermic while meeting my future wife in the Grand Tetons! Humbling, exciting, and very memorable times. Towards the end of that time, deep down inside, I was getting a little burnt out and wanted to pursue a more serious interest in landscape photography. I’ve always brought a camera out with me on these trips and found that backpacking really gets you out into the true wilderness allowing you to see a ton of great stuff.

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Photo credit: Will F.

Long story short, I’ve focused my obsession from hiking the long miles to making a bigger priority to the photography aspect of backpacking. Slowing down on the trails a bit has allowed me to see more and think more about the artistic characteristics of being outside. To this day, photography continues to be my main passion now and I just find the mix of being out in the woods and taking photos very therapeutic! For anyone interested is seeing some photos, I have a website (www.jimmyjphotography.com).

My favorite piece of gear: This is tough, but it’ll have to be my backpack. My Zpacks Arcblast has been the best piece of gear simply because of how surprisingly reliable it is, how comfortable it is and just how light it is. It weighs just over 16 ounces! A lot of people tend to forget when focusing on being lightweight, that you can save a significant amount of weight just in the backpack alone. Currently, there are a ton of lightweight backpack options, but with that added characteristic, it tends to sacrifice in comfort. To reiterate, this pack has been absolutely pleasant to wear with how it evenly distributes load and keeps you balanced and comfortable for many miles on the trail.

Favorite trip: When looking back at some of my favorite backpacking trips, two trips always pop up. The 14 day section hike of the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California, and the 5 day thru hike of the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park. The JMT was simply memorable as it was my first long distance backpacking trip. My furthest trip prior was only 4 days and 20 or so miles. This one ultimately led to 167 humbling miles in California’s Sierra Nevada Range! So many highs and lows but this was trip that taught me a lot about myself and also kicked off my backpacking obsession! With the Teton Crest trail, I will never forget it as it was the time I met my current wife! Amazing to always answer the question: “how did you meet your wife” with the story of almost dying of hypothermia in the Tetons! If you want to know more, just ask!

How I got my trail name: My trail name is “GQ” and I was given this name in the early years of me being with DC UL. During this time, Michael Martin was in the process of writing a book for the Appalachian Mountain Club called “AMCs Best Backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic” and as such, he was leading a ton of trips in the area at that time in which I took heavy part of. Those trips would always lead to hanging out on epic mountain vistas and people were always taking candid photos of each other looking off epically towards the beautiful scene in front. One of these photos was of me looking towards the summit of Mt. Rogers (highest peak in Virginia) and it was ultimately selected as the cover photo of the aforementioned book! “GQ” was then born.

Thanks for chatting, Jimmy. See you on the trail!


Are you interested in becoming an assistant organizer? Read more on our site.

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