By Leah Ogden
Although Chris Daubert is on his 19th year of teaching, he is relatively new to Arundel— currently in his second year here, he teaches government classes and AP Human Geography. His classroom, adorned with poster-sized maps (including one of the Appalachian trail), resides in upstairs F Hall, identifiable by a sign below his name that says, “AKA Mr. No.”Daubert, originally from Pasadena, attended Chesapeake High School, and later went on to Towson University for both his bachelors and masters degrees. When he’s not teaching, he is an avid enjoyer of outdoor activities, and he likes to take his three sons hiking and backpacking.
Already a regular runner, with previous interest in local trails (such as nearby Patapsco), Daubert recently decided to run the Appalachian Trail—the longest hiking path in the world. “Something just got into my head, I thought, ‘there’s 40 miles in Maryland, I may as well use that, rather than continuing to use the same trails,’” he explained, adding that he initially became interested in the trail in early 2014.
When he first begins talking about this, he includes an interesting fact: while most people would pronounce Appalachia as “appa-lay-chia,” Daubert explains that he, much like the Appalachian natives, pronounces it “appa-latch-ia.”
He started the trail by running the sections in Maryland and Pennsylvania with a friend, but finished the approximate 550 miles in Virginia and then started on the northern states alone, as his companion opted out after breaking his wrist on the trail. Of the Northern states so far, he has completed the trails in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. After finishing those states, he traveled south and ran through the parts along the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. All he has left to complete the entire Appalachian Trail is a small section in Georgia, and then the remaining northern states, New Hampshire and Maine.
He finds it neat that despite how far the trail stretches, each section almost always reminds him of another. “There’s always something interesting to see, whether I come across a waterfall, or a fantastic view, or just different vegetation or different terrain,” he says, going on to mention the rocky parts of the mountain, detailing how you have to climb them.
Daubert also brings up the “green tunnel,” a term Appalachian hikers often use to describe how the wooded parts of the trail appear during the spring, when the trees are full of leaves. On his trips that take place around this time, he said he encounters a fair amount of “thru-hikers”—people who choose to hike the entire trail at once. Despite traveling hours away to immerse himself in wilderness, Daubert doesn’t plan his trips too specifically; he says that he looks forward to being surprised by what he can see on the trails, so he tries to look ahead as little as possible.
What a lot of students tend to mention when Daubert comes up in conversation is actually his choice in footwear. On the average day, he comes to Arundel wearing minimalist style shoes, the type designed to mimic being barefoot. Most students assume it has to do with his outdoor hobbies, but truthfully, he wears them only for comfort.
“I don’t run in them at all,” he says, explaining that while their original purpose was for running, born from the “barefoot running craze” from a few years past, he only wears them on ordinary days, as he actually injured his achilles when he attempted to run a trail in them.
Daubert is also a music enthusiast, and he has an interesting way of selecting what he listens to. “Each summer, I pick a dead artist, and I consume their body of work,” he shares, explaining a tradition he began “about a dozen” years ago.
At first, the process was unintentional; it happened as he fixated on Jimi Hendrix throughout a summer. However, the next summer happened to be around the time iconic country singer Johnny Cash passed away. His death brought the performer to Daubert’s attention, leading him to realize he’d never really gotten into his music. Because Cash was on his mind, he deliberately began listening to his work, which led him to this unique system of discovering music.
So far, he’s gone through the discographies of artists like Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, Sam Cook, and James Brown. This past summer, the artist he decided on was Miles Davis, which was suggested to him by a friend. He was skeptical about spending months listening to music without any vocals, but in the end, he realized that he really enjoyed the funky, wordless jazz. “I couldn’t give it up,” he admitted.
As a teacher, Daubert has a philosophy that allows him to be more understanding of his students, sharing that when it comes to his students, he remembers to think with the mindset of “A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.” He expresses that he puts more focus on getting those he teaches to learn and take things away from his classes, rather than just passing them.
This idea of prioritizing a valuable, worthwhile experience over a potentially superficial accomplishment sounds similar to the view he has on everyone else who chooses to experience hiking the Appalachian Trail: “hike your own hike.”