Carolina Adventurers

Carolina Adventurers
Carolina Adventurers

From summiting Everest to hiking the Appalachian Trail to surfing on every continent, these ten Carolina adventurers know how to push the limits and truly live.

Dustin Mitchell

Lincolnton native Dustin Mitchell has climbed high after college, 29,029 feet to be exact.  Mitchell has summited all the highest peaks on the major continents, but the view from nearly 6 miles in elevation on the peak of Mount Everest in Nepal stands as his finest achievement yet.  The trek lasted a challenging three months, from February to May. Serving as guide, Mitchell and his group covered two to three miles over a 12 hour period each and every day.  Against all odds and faced with a 50 degree below zero wind chill, Mitchell and his crew summited Everest on May 24, right as the sun peaked over the Himalayan horizon. Growing up, Mitchell frequented Crowder’s Mountain and worked for the US National White Water Center.  After high school, Mitchell attended UNC Charlotte and earned his degree in Parks and Recreation Management, and soon afterward moved to Colorado to quench his thirst for climbing. He enrolled in a special school in Leadville, Colorado and trained in outdoor recreation and leadership.  After graduating in 2012, Mitchell taught ice and rope climbing as one of the school’s staff members and led a student expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Tom Marshburn

From the trails of the Pacific coast to the stars in the sky, Tom Marshburn has seen them all.  Hailing from the small North Carolina town of Statesville, he left home in 1980 to backpack the entire Pacific Crest trail spanning Canada, America’s west coast, and Mexico.  With his confidence beaming, Marshburn earned his bachelors, doctorate and two masters degrees and then joined NASA as a flight surgeon.   In 2009, NASA assigned him to the Shuttle Endeavor.  His first mission lasted no fewer than 376 hours in space, or roughly two weeks, with 18 hours and 59 minutes of spacewalks as well.  He assisted in delivering two Japanese built modules to the International Space Station along with more than 24,000 pounds of hardware and 1,200 pounds of water.  Marshburn’s mission featured a record 13 astronauts aboard ISS representing NASA, and the Russian, Canadian, European, and Japanese space agencies.   In total Marshburn has done nearly 2500 orbits of Earth covering an astounding 60 million miles total.

Jennifer Pharr Davis

You have just finished college at age 21, what do you do next?  If you are Jennifer Pharr Davis, you jump on the Appalachian Trail and start hiking.  Her days started at 5 AM and stretched till 9:30 at night, covering over 30 miles per day.  She currently holds the women’s record for the fastest trek of the Appalachian Trail, a journey stretching from Maine to Georgia and covering 2,181 miles. Her record stands at 57 days, eight hours, an accomplishment achieved by averaging 38 miles per day.  In 2011 she set an unofficial record of 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, becoming the fastest ever to hike the trail. On this trip she held an astonishing 47 miles per day average.  Following her adventures, she founded the Blue Ridge Hiking Company, and has since published novels discussing her Appalachian Trail experience. Her guidebooks, including Best Easy Day Hikes Charlotte, are some of the most read in the hiking genre.

Cheryl Stearns

If you ever felt that you were in freefall, Cheryl Stearns may be able to relate.  Dubbed the most successful competitive skydiver of all time, Stearns has logged over 20,000 jumps with numerous international awards.  She is also a licensed pilot and retired US Army Master Sergeant.  Stearns began skydiving in Scottsdale, Arizona at age 17.  In 1975, she got a job working with world-renowned skydiving coach and North Carolinian Gene Paul Thacker.  There, Thacker trained Stearns in competitive parachuting events known as style and accuracy.  In 1976, Stearns won the national championship and set an accuracy world record.  Afterward she joined the US Army and became the first female member of the Army’’s elite parachute team known as the Golden Knights.  Following her retirement from the army, Stearns now works as a pilot for US Airways and coaches many international parachute teams.

CJ Burford

CJ Burford started small, with short bike rides around his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina and then moved up to longer rides across the state.  His rides raised over $17,000 in donations for charities through his non-profit organization loveFAR.  But Burford wanted more, so on September 1st, 2014 then 9 year old Burford set off from Oceanside, California on a 2700 mile trek across the southern United States.   At an average 14 miles an hour and 40 miles a day, Burford pedaled into St. Augustine, Florida 81 days later on November 22 raising $20,000 for his charity. After a successful first cross-country adventure, he is planning a second journey, this time across the north.

Jonathan Trappe

Up, up, and away.  Armed with 366 individual eight foot helium balloons, Jonathan Trappe of Raleigh, lifted off from Caribou, Maine with the west coast of Europe in his sights.  After only 12 hours of flight, Trappe was forced to abort his mission and land in Newfoundland.  Battered and bruised, but not broken, Trappe’’s journey covered 466 miles and set the international distance record for cluster balloon aircraft, with 318 miles over open water.  Trappe never ceases to dream of another shot at his goal, but his “magnificent failure” will live as his greatest success yet.

Jeff Botz

Professional photographers spend countless hours to get the best shot, but Jeff Botz’’s target may be the most elusive yet, Mount Everest.  Botz battles wind, fog and bitter cold to find the perfect angles of the ice capped mountain and its Himalayan neighbors.   And now his photos have a bigger purpose: to fund disaster relief funds for earthquake victims in Everest’s home nation of Nepal.  Botz will ship copies of his iconic Sidetrek #9 photo of Everest to those who donate, the only photo in existence of the mountain from that location.   Botz hopes that with the world’’s help, the Nepalese people will soon recover.

Steven Mills

The Fort Mill, South Carolina photographer has grown quite the following by photographing all of his major hiking experiences throughout the Blue Ridge from South Mountain to his most recent venture on Roan Mountain. This past winter, Steven traveled to Cambodia with The Giving Lens, where he partnered with students on photo walks to teach and answer any questions on photography. You can read about his experience in South East Asia and see many of the glorious photos at

Cam Richards

When you think of great surfing, you think of mystical places like Hawaii’’s north shore or perfect sets off of California’s Venice Beach or Santa Monica. South Carolina’s Grand Strand doesn’’t really come to mind but Cam Richards officially put the waves of Garden City on the map. As one of the young guns in WSL, the South Carolina native travels around the world competing against the best surfers on the planet. He has surfed the world’s premier waves on six continents and is making a huge name for himself as one of the torch bearers for the sport.

Doug Crosby

Doug Crosby has conquered some of the most difficult cliffs in the US.  He frequents climbs rated 5.10 and higher. These require a high degree of training and natural skill, and according to the Yosemite Decimal System, the golden standard of difficulty rating, are reserved for the professionals.  Crosby was responsible for leading the development of the sport in the New River Gorge. He also was a founding member of the Sportrock Climbing Centers in DC. Crosby now lives in Charlotte and operates Inner Peaks.