About Mark and Holly Johnson


Mark grew up on a North Carolina Christmas Tree farm before somehow managing to earn an English degree from East Carolina University while playing music in clubs three nights a week. In 1990, he moved to Nashville to pursue music on a larger scale and spent the next eight years as a staff songwriter and touring musician.

In 1998, after too many miles and smoky bars, Mark decided to hang up his guitar in favor of a computer. He worked as a freelance graphic artist for four years before spending the next 13 as a magazine editor, writer, photographer, and communicator for two statewide organizations in the fields of agriculture and wildlife conservation.

In 2010, Holly and Mark were introduced to CrossFit. After losing 50 pounds each, the Johnsons became devoted to the workout “sport” and began a much more active lifestyle, including hiking, camping, fishing, and participating in obstacle races like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. It also gave them both a different perspective on what was physically possible in life. (Read Mark’s blog, “The Top 12 Reasons Why This 47-Year-Old HATES CrossFit.” This blog became viral in 2014 and his been read more than a quarter of a million times.)

Then came August 17, 2016. Mark found himself in need of a ride to his auto mechanic’s shop in Nashville, so he downloaded the Lyft mobile app and requested a ride. He was shocked when the driver who picked him up was a Nepali Sherpa, Dawa Jangbu Lama. The next day, Mark left his job, the first time he had been unemployed in more than 13 years. These seemingly unrelated but serendipitous events would lead to the founding of Hobnail Trekking Co. Read the amazing story HERE.

Mark and Holly live in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, with their three kids, Sam,16; Ava, 15; and Pete, 9.


Holly was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and spent weekends at her family’s place in the country, fishing, riding bikes, and swimming in lakes with leeches. (No, really. YUCK!)

She graduated with a degree in Public Administration and Political Science and received her Master’s degree in nonprofit management.  Holly has been working with refugees since 1999, and in 2008 was named State Refugee Coordinator for the State of Tennessee.

 In her work, she has had the good fortune to meet thousands of people from all over the world whose circumstances were far different from her own but brought them to the same place – Nashville, Tennessee.  Some of those refugees hailed from Nepal.

Holly didn’t spend much time thinking about Everest until reading the 1997 John Krakauer novel, “Into Thin Air,” later made into the motion picture, “Everest.”  This book captivated her in a way that no other book had ever done.  She found herself dreaming, several nights each week, about Mt. Everest. After she insisted Mark read the book too, the couple was hopelessly hooked.

The story mentioned Base Camp, and she remembered hearing about a friend of hers who had made an EBC trek.  Having no desire at all to climb the mountain, Holly thought a trek was a fascinating idea and she quickly entered it onto her section of “Mark and Holly’s Bucket List,” a real live document that still exists on Holly’s Google drive.  (She put it in Mark’s section, too, without his knowledge.)

Shortly thereafter, she put the trek out of her mind, believing that her Facebook friend had a) tons of money, b) expensive gear, c) was in fantastic shape (she was a marathoner, after all), and d) did this kind of thing all the time – all required for an Everest Base Camp trek, and unfortunately, all things that Holly did not have.  All of those were assumptions were wrong.

Imagine her surprise the day Holly received an excited phone call from Mark that began like this: “You’ll NEVER believe who just gave me a ride to the mechanic’s shop!”