Lynne Whelden has been hiking since childhood.
He has foot, back, and knee problems.
He gets dehydrated easily.
Since 1987, Lynne has produced
award-winning, highly acclaimed hiking videos
that are gritty and realistic.
His hiking world is one of struggle, an echo of life in general.
Whether on a mountain top or a desert, an old farm field or a forest, Lynne's world is a place of reflection, spiritual growth,
and gratitude for victories small.
Welcome...you'll like it here.
Lynne Whelden Productions, celebrating the struggle since 1987
WHO I AM
Not until 1998 when I turned 45 did I finally realize that I perform best when there are no expectations placed upon me. So you can imagine my state of mind when I graduated valedictorian of my high school class in 1971. Everyone thought I would become a doctor. I dutifully enrolled in the premedical program at Cornell University and graduated with a major in biology. I did find the time in my senior year to take a film production course and absolutely loved it. But I had already been accepted to Temple Medical School in Philadelphia and who in their right mind would turn down such an offer? So off I went.
After two weeks I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.
But I hung in there. After all, aren't we supposed to finish what we start? At the end of my third year, I was desperate for a break. I wanted to try my hand at filmmaking but I needed more training. Bob Jones University, an ultra-conservative Christian college in Greenville, SC seemed to have the program I was looking for. In 1978 I enrolled as a special student. Nine months later I was running for the exit. I just wasn't used to a demerit system, being chaperoned on dates and having to wear a tie to class. But the good news was that I still enjoyed making films.
My mother persuaded me to at least finish my fourth and final year at medical school. So back to Temple I went. Two weeks later (the last Friday in July of 1979) I quit...the best decision I've ever made.
I found a job working as a cameraman for a local TV station. I remember sitting in a news car outside the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, with another cameraman named Tim Hogeboom. We were waiting for some convict to arrive and the subject of the Appalachian Trail came up. It turned out Tim was planning to thru-hike the trail. We both shared a dream of producing a documentary on the trail. The following spring Tim quit his job, borrowed a 16mm camera and hiked the trail from Georgia to Maine. Two years later no finished film had yet materialized so I decided the moment was now. Rather than thru-hike the trail myself, I decided to film a different hiker in each of the 14 states through which the trail passes. The project took 15 months and $20,000 to complete. The result was "Five Million Steps," the first complete documentary of the Appalachian Trail thru-hiker's experience. The film won an award at the Columbus International Film Festival and was shown on a dozen PBS stations nationwide. Oh, I forgot to mention I got fired from my cameraman job because I had spent too much time editing "Five Million Steps". That's the second best thing that happened to me because it forced me to start thinking as an entrepreneur.
The smallest and lightest film equipment available in the 80s was the super 8mm home movie camera. That's what I used on "Five Million Steps". Handy video cameras didn't come on the scene until the late 80s. Encouraged by the success of my film, I eventually purchased a hi-8mm video camera and shot two videos in 1990. For "27 Days" I followed four senior citizens as they attempted an end-to-end hike on Vermont's Long Trail. While taping in VT, I learned about Bill Irwin. He was well on his way to becoming the first blind person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. He was willing to let me follow him in New Hampshire and Maine. The result was "Amazing Grace!".
In 1991 I set up my camera at high hiker-traffic areas along the northern half of the Appalachian Trail and conducted a series of interviews with thru-hikers. The result was "How To Hike The Appalachian Trail." This video became so popular it was listed in Campmor’s famous catalog!
The same year, 1991, I shot my friend Don Hess (Trashman) as he hiked a trail in my backyard–the Loyalsock Trail. Two years later I finished editing "Doc on the 'Sock."
By this time I felt my own thru-hike was long overdue. I had hiked the 60-mile Loyalsock Trail many times and I'd even done the 270-mile Long Trail in Vermont. But the Appalachian Trail was calling. On April 14 of 1992, I rounded the top of Springer Mountain and 137 days later I shoved my fist skyward on Mount Katahdin. I was finally a “real” long distance hiker.
My brother Roy and I collaborated on "Free Food?!" -an edible plants video aimed at backpackers and other people on the move. That was followed by "Lightweight Backpacking Secrets Revealed: Let The Revolution Begin." I had spent the five years since my rather painful Appalachian Trail hike looking for a better way to backpack. The standard 40- to 60-pound packs were killing me and a lot of my fellow hikers. I did interviews with nine other minimalists while I narrated the video and shared the results of my own experiments. Viewer response to the video has been phenomenal. Lightweight backpacking is clearly a concept that's long overdue.
A month after the "Secrets" video release, I applied the lightweight principles on a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. Averaging almost 26 miles a day, I completed the trail in 106 days. The only injury I had to contend with was a Morton's neuroma, which actually got its start on my Appalachian Trail hike. By wearing trail running shoes, my toes never became painful but only numb. "How To Hike The Pacific Crest Trail" followed. By now I was using a tiny 1.5 pound digital camcorder. The new technology allowed me to exploit its features to the max. For example, the Pacific Crest Trail video is an epic length of four hours 39 minutes.
Suddenly a trilogy was in sight. "How To Hike The Continental Divide Trail" simply had to be done even though the trail itself wasn't completed yet. Responding to viewer's requests for more scenery, the video features a documentary by my friend Tim Hogeboom as well as interviews with a dozen Continental Divide Trail hikers including authors Karen Berger and Dan Smith and the "Father of the Continental Divide Trail," Jim Wolf.
My next documentary, “Overexposed,” fulfilled two dreams. One, I finally hiked the CDT from Canada to Mexico. Two, I finally produced a video in high definition, truly a stunning medium worth exploiting. The project took 7 years and $20,000 to complete. Never has a video cost so much in terms of wear and tear on my body. In 2004 I did part of the ID/MT border. In 2006–Glacier National Park. The spring of 2008–700 miles in NM. In 2009–1700 miles, that is, the northern half. Finally in 2010–300 miles in CO.
“Walking with Angels” required two trips to Israel. When I arrived September of 2013, the country was experiencing an oppressive heat wave. I soldiered through two days on the trail with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit). Dehydration got the best of me both days. Demoralized, I got off the trail and did a few days of tourist stuff. Then I flew home to await cooler weather (and start my next project).
March of 2014 I returned. This time God was merciful. I finished the end of April. I used a GoPro Hero 3 attached to the end of my hiking pole for dramatic effect, while capturing much spontaneity in glorious 1080p30 high definition.
I don't want to ever stop dreaming of better ways to travel in the woods. All of this comes back around to the bewildered teenager who went to college to become a doctor in order to "help people." I'm helping people have a pleasant experience in the woods. And the woods bring people closer to God. Isn't that what life is supposed to be all about?