How Thomas Mabry became Honey Badger

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors

Thomas Mabry’s trail name is the Honey Badger, so since I knew him 50 years ago as Tom Mabry, football star, I wanted to know how he became the Honey Badger, hiker and photographer. I asked.

Thomas Mabry grew up in Knoxville but with a family cabin in Kinzel Springs near Townsend. He found a second home in the mountains, hiking and skiing when he wasn’t working, playing sports or going to school.

In his later years, Thomas says his fascination with the allure and complexity of waterfalls mirrored an increasing awareness of the beauty and intricacies of life. In 2014, he sought out over 250 different waterfalls, with a special emphasis on extremely difficult hikes and bushwhacks to rarely seen falls.

Thomas says he has the ability and willingness to go virtually anywhere to get a photograph of a beautiful but obscure waterfall. If you have seen his photographs in our Thursday Our Town Arts feature, it’s obvious extremes do not hinder him.

So back to how Thomas earned the trail name, the Honey Badger, and also why certain hikes can be a “Certified Honey Badger Hike.”

Now, honey badgers have quite a few unique characteristics that mirror those of our tenacious Thomas Mabry. Honey badgers are fascinating creatures known for their tenacity, adaptability and fearless nature. They can be found in a wide range of habitats. They have strong forelimbs and long claws that enable them to dig efficiently, even through hard-packed soil.

It seems YouTube has quite a funny parody about a honey badger called Nastyass Honey Badger by National Geographic. It is hilarious but the references used would not allow me to include the clip in this article. A quick search on YouTube will link you.

Thomas found this video personally hilarious and fitting for his sarcastic personality. After he recounted the parody to his hiking partners, the name Honey Badger gained traction, especially as he continued to attempt and conquer extreme hikes, the name stuck.

Thomas says he really likes being known in hiking and waterfall circles as the Honey Badger. The terms “Badger hikes” and “Badgerisms” have become popular.

A “Certified Honey Badger Hike” is one that includes elements of danger and a hat tip to the following elements: destination(s) of epic proportion, a hike of a significant distance at a minimum of 4-5 miles but more like 10–12 miles, one or more serious bushwhacks, preferably through rhodo and laurel and briars, one or more significant boulder scrambles and/or creek rock hopping dashes and escapades, the ability of one or more members of the group to chronicle the hike.

Thomas says the funny one has been the evolution of the term “Badger Error” to describe an on- or off-trail calamity like losing a trekking stick down a 100-foot waterfall or off Charlie’s Bunion. One can liken that snafu to dropping keys in lava at a volcano.

Tom Mabry the football player is also Thomas Mabry: son, brother, lawyer, photographer, adventure hiker and Thomas Mabry, the Honey Badger.

Look for his amazing photos and quick essays on Thursdays under Our Town Arts under his well-earned trail name Honey Badger.

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