Brothers bond over 900-mile Idaho trail adventure
BOISE, Idaho — Steve and Frank Herbolsheimer endured hundreds of miles through 11 national forests, three wilderness areas, tough elevation, all types of weather, scarcity of water, wild animals and extreme isolation - all for the love of an adventure.
The Hartington natives and identical twins trekked the 900-mile Idaho Centennial Trail (ICT) this past summer.
“The best part was doing it together, being there for each other and completing it together,” Steve said. “Looking back I couldn’t imagine doing it alone.”
The trail begins at the Idaho-Nevada border and continues north through the middle of the state and then east along the Montana border, ending at Upper Priest Falls near the Canadian border. Since its dedication in 1990, less than 50 people have completed the trail in its entirety in one year.
And now the Herbolsheimers, sons of Burnell and Aleacia, join that elite group.
They argue - like all good siblings do - over whose idea it was to do the long thru-hike.
“We both want to take the credit for the wild idea,” Steve said.
One thing they can both agree on is that the idea was spurred by their summer 2017 national parks road trip where they visited 22 national parks, traveling nearly 14,000 miles in Frank’s Chevy Cruze.
“We saw people hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) while on that trip,” Steve said. “We made a goal that we would hike a long distance at some point before we turned 30. We were considering the Appalachian Trail but after moving to Idaho we became aware of the ICT and knew that was what we would complete.”
The brothers didn’t divulge their plans to too many people.
“We didn’t want people’s opinions to influence our hike. The few people we told were supportive but I don’t think any Nebraskan truly knows what a thru-hike is or what backcountry hiking involves. I grew up one of those people,” Steve said.
For comparison, Nebraska’s public land only totals about 3 percent as compared to Idaho which contains 70 percent.
“You wouldn’t get very far in Nebraska without trespassing,” Frank said.
The brothers started researching the ICT by gathering information online about water caches in the desert and supply locations for food, scrutinizing maps and reaching out to other hikers, Frank said.
Already in good shape, the brothers started running a few times per week to prepare for the trail. They also hiked around the foothills of Boise several times before their May 21 start on the ICT at Murphy Hot Springs.
“Most hikers start in mid-May to avoid warm summer temperatures of the shadeless desert,” Frank said. “Leading up to the hike we would check the weather daily hoping for a 70-degree day. What we got was a 35-degree day with snow and rain.”
And it’s notes like these that make their way into the Herbolsheimers’ online blog, called Stank Adventures, they used to document their journey with a map of their progress and incredible photos. (The name comes from a combination of their first names.)
There’s notes about attempts to fly-fish. Many nights when they fell asleep, hoping blisters would heal by morning.
On Day 11: “ Steve realizes he forgot the tent stakes at the previous spot, just 15 miles away. So I call him Stevie Stakes,” Frank notes.
The next day, Steve realized he had dropped his phone and the duo backtrack two miles to get it.
They experienced the trail snow-packed and also covered with thousands of fallen trees. The threat of wildfires forced them to re-route at times as well.
“There were parts of the trail that were not maintained and took us hours to go a couple miles,” Steve said. “I’d say those were memorable days.”
One of their favorite parts of the trail was traveling along the Idaho-Montana border, waking up to a large moose bathing in the lake and six mountain goats staring back at them from 50 yards away.
“Coming off what I think is my favorite hiking trail that I have ever been on, seeing some wildlife like that as the sun was coming up was a surreal experience,” Frank said.
The brothers camped in a twoperson tent in the backcountry along the trail nearly every night. A few times while hiking through supply towns, they would get a hotel room to clean up and sleep on a real bed.
“We had times where we feared we would need to get rescued depending on what choices we made,” Steve said, but he never felt like giving up.
For Frank, giving up crossed his mind a time or two, he said.
“The nice thing about the ICT is that there really is no giving up, he said. “There were times where turning around and heading back was just not an option. If you give up you are most likely going to have to call for help, have to fly out on a plane or have someone drive to the middle of nowhere to pick you up.”
It was the “trail angels” the Herbolsheimers met along the way that helped renew their spirits to keep going - from those just interested in their adventure or those that gave a place to rest. Friends also met them along the way to resupply food, and bring fresh clothes and new shoes.
“Whether a bottle of water or words of advice, we were open to everything,” Steve said. “We grew to appreciate the little things in life.”
Their journey ended Aug. 13 at American Falls. Overall, they averaged 19 miles per day over 50 hiking days. (They took a fourweek break in June to regroup and attend weddings in Nebraska.)
Experiencing all of the challenges of the ICT came with the tremendous reward of seeing some of the most untouched wilderness left in the United States, the brothers said, while also strengthening their bond as brothers.
“We have always had a special relationship as twins,” Steve said. “I feel as though one can’t really explain the reality of a thru-hike in its entirety. I get to share that experience with Frank. He knows what it took and what he means to me.”
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