He's back at it!

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. My next goal is to be the first person ever to hike the Baja Divide Trail.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Earl Shaffer Fantasy

In 1948, Earl Shaffer was the first person ever to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. He wrote a fantastic book about it called ‘Walking With Spring’. Since his historic hike, Earl has become a legend among long distance hikers. Hundreds of people hike that trail every year and they all know who Earl Shaffer was. 

In 2013, I was the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail (now called the Ironbelle Trail) and the Great Lake to Lake Trail (both are in Michigan). With a little luck, I’ll be the first to have thru-hiked the Baja Divide Trail here in Mexico. 

The problem is that I will be the first and most probably the ONLY person to have hiked these trails. That leaves the fantasy unfulfilled: Earl Shaffer is only a legend because subsequent hikers remember him. 

The feat is further diminished by the fact that these trails are already changing away from the version that I hiked. The Ironwood Trail, for example, has since been split into two different trails: One for bikes and ATV’s and one for foot-traffic only. The latter is essentially the North Country Trail as it runs through Michigan. Even the name has been changed; When I first hiked it, it was referred to as ‘the Governor’s proposed but as yet unnamed trail’.  After the amazing reception I received upon finishing it, I promised the City of Ironwood that I would forever refer to it as the Ironwood Trail. Months later, Michigan’s DNR had a naming contest and the winner was the ‘Ironbelle Trail’.

As far as the Baja Divide Trail is concerned, I’m pretty sure that, in it’s current configuration, no one else is going to want to hike it. If I reported back to the long distance hiking community that this trail was fairly easy and lots of fun, some may try it. But I have to be honest when I say that it was difficult (yet rewarding) and had lots of highlights but wasn’t exactly fun. It was intended to be a mountain bike trail and many have reported that as such, it’s both challenging and fun to ride. Not so much doing it on foot. 

In the end, I guess I should just be thankful that I am able to get out and hike these trails. I should be less concerned with ‘who did it first’ and just enjoy it. I freely admit that it’s incredibly narcissistic to wonder if I’ll ever be remembered as having hiked these trails first. Maybe I should do as Thoreau suggested and “Be mindful of each step.”

It is just walking, after all, and I suspect I’m not the first person to have done that. 

Got a thought or a comment? I’d love to see it posted below. In the meantime, mo’ pics!

This might be me if I don’t get out of this desert soon. 

I was able to get >1000 miles out of these shoes by switching to crocs when the trail was easy. 

These guys work at (what I call) The Water Store. Almost every town has one and for just a few pesos you can get plenty of clean, cool, purified water. 

Possibly my new avatar or Facebook pic. 

The beach north of La Paz. 

Feelin’ that cool breeze. 

And, of course, the obligatory sunset shot:

Friday, May 4, 2018

The BDT: Loreto

First things first: A sincere ‘Thank you!’ to everyone who clicked on that ‘donate’ button. The amazing outpouring of generosity was really heartfelt and now I should have plenty of funds to get me to the end of this crazy hike. My heart is full of gratitude and my spirits are soaring!

I’m also fresh off a great zero day with my dear friends Keith and Mary in Loreto. They were very kind to me and sent me back to the trail with a belly full of good food, clean clothes and a well-rested body. They blessed me with a head full of memories that will last a lifetime. 

I can’t tell if I liked Loreto so much because it really was the coolest town that I’ve visited yet on this hike or if it’s because Keith and Mary took such good care of me. 

Loreto sits on the Sea of Cortés and has a population of about 18,000 people (including many Americans). It’s actually 20 miles off the trail but it’s an easy hitch and the city has everything a thru-hiker needs including a well-stocked grocery store, several coffee shops with WiFi and some cheap motels.

The waterfront is fantastic. It goes on for miles and miles and features loads of ‘palapa’ which are little grass huts that you can use to get out of the sun. There’s a thriving town square with shops and restaurants and a good mix of locals and tourists. 

I would have liked to have stayed longer in Loreto but I’m excited to get back to the trail and see what new adventures await me!

In the meantime, mo’ pics!

Best food, so far, on this whole hike. Keith raves about this place and now I know why. 

What would you order at El Rey? Leave your answer in the comments below!

I can smell this picture. 

The town square was busy including these kids practicing for a formal dance. 

Miles of empty beaches and the Sierra de la Giganta mountains in the background. 

Loreto has a really nice marina and some beautiful (but expensive) hotels along the waterfront. 

Huge thanks to Keith and Mary for such a wonderful visit!

Friday, April 27, 2018

The BDT: The Home Stretch

Blood? Check. Sweat? Check. Tears? Check. 

I’m giving everything I’ve got to complete this trail and I’m getting close:  I can almost see the finish line but I need a little help to get there. If you’re feeling generous and you want to see me finish this insane journey, please click on that ‘Donate’ button. Note: If you’re reading this on your phone, please scroll down to the botttom of the page and click on ‘View Web Version’. The yellow donate button will be on the upper right. Thank you!

And now, more pics from the trail!

(The pic above, BTW, was just a superficial scratch I received from not being careful around cactus. It barely hurt and healed quickly.)

Made it to Mulegé. Very cool little town. 

The locals seem fascinated by my cart. 

I include this picture because that’s what most of this part of the trail is: rolling brown hills and cactus. Lots and lots of cactus. 

Typical hot sauces available at a Mexican restaurant. See your favorite? Message me below. 

I love when vultures do this. So dramatic!

South end of the Bahia de Conception. Really beautiful beaches. 

Call me gringo, guero or chico blanco. Just don’t call me late for dinner!

Camping on this trail has been a joy. Most every night is dry and quiet with temps in the 50’s. Occasionally, I get stuck having to listen to loud trucks or barking dogs but most often, it’s just the sound of the wind and a few crickets. It’s usually very easy to find a private, flat, sandy spot. Pretty much wherever I am at around 6pm, I just walk 50 yards off the trail and I can find a great campsite. 

And the obligatory sunset shot. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The BDT: Bird Nerd Edition

Warning: Unless you’re a total bird nerd like me, do not read this post. If you have to click away from this page to look up the word ‘ornithology’, then you should just stay away. If you’re not fascinated that a woodpecker’s feet are zygodactyl while a sparrow’s feet are anisodactyal then get out of here while you still can! I said beat it, hipster!

Anyone left? Didn’t think so. Ahhhh.... Time for some totally self indulgent writing about the birds I’ve seen so far during my hike of the 
Baja California peninsula. Ima do this as a ‘top ten’ list: 

10. Gila Woodpecker

These guys are loud and fun. They have a classic pattern to their flight that makes them easy to spot. 

9. Roadrunner

The cartoon roadrunner looks kinda like an osterich but really, they look, sound and act like a skinny chicken. They are very fast and very fun to watch. 

8. Pacific Loon

When I first saw one of these on the ocean, I thought it looked like a loon but I didn’t think they liked salt water. Then I heard that familiar call and I thought I was back in Maine!

7. California Quail

These things are everywhere and when a flock of fifty or more takes off, it sounds like thunder in the distance. 

6. Burrowing Owl

I love all the strigidae family but these little guys are especially cool. They have bright white eyebrows and unusually long legs. 

5. Turkey Vulture

It’s not their fault that they have weak feet! Otherwise, they’d be killing live prey like other raptors. Instead, they circle endlessly, looking for something dead to feast on. Tell this one at your next cocktail party: What did the flight attendant say to the vulture with two dead rabbits under his wing? “I’m sorry, sir. Only one carrion allowed.” Ha! See what I did there? I kill me...

4. Humming Bird

Ima let you down here (who am I kidding? no one is reading this!) when I say that I couldn’t really identify the different species of humming birds that I’ve seen. I looked at several lists of the species that are down here but they all seem to be in some kind of ‘winter phase’ where their plumage is darker and much plainer than usual. 

3. Prairie Falcon

One of the few species (other than humming birds) that can truly hover. If I spot one of these, I’m stopping until he is far out of sight. It’s like I can’t NOT watch. 

2. Brown Pelican

One of my new faves. They are so graceful, gliding just inches above the waves. When they spot a fish, the fold their wings in and dive bomb hard into the water at breakneck speeds. And that plumage.... I could go on forever about these birds. 

1. Harris’ Hawk

One of the only species of raptor to hunt in groups. I often see three or four of them, each perched at the top of a cardon cactus, scanning the desert floor for movement. Really beautiful, really aggressive...

If you’re still reading this, you should be embarrassed. And, if you dare leave a comment below, Ima call you out as a NERD!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The BDT: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A clean Wolverine

If I had summarize my experience on this trail thus far, I could break it down into three parts. 

 The good part is anytime the trail goes to or along the coast. Both the Pacific Ocean (to the west) and the Sea of Cortez (to the east) have their own special kind of beauty and this trail bounces back and forth between both of them. I LOVE hiking by the ocean. There is always something to see (like the grey whale I saw coming up for air) and there’s usually a cool breeze coming in off the water. And camping by the ocean is the best; I always sleep well to the sound of crashing waves. Also, the coasts are where most of the people are. Sometimes just sleepy little fishing villages, sometimes bigger cities. I’ve met loads of really cool people here in Mexico and I’ve become enamoured of the culture. 

I love hiking along the coast.

The bad part is pretty much anytime the trail heads inland. I know right away that it’s going to be substantially hotter and that I’m going to need more water. The scenery is going to become, for the most part, monotonous rolling brown hills and cactus. Lots of cactus. There will be no people, there will be no water. These are tough stretches. I find myself staring at the map, longing for the trail to take me back to the coast. 

Heading inland means nothing but cactus and rolling brown hills. 

The ugly part of this trail is that damn cart. True, it does what it’s supposed to do: Carry tons of water and some gear. But the worst is when the trail turns to deep, loose sand; That’s when it’s really ugly. Pushing that cart through the sand, especially with a full load of water, is exceedingly difficult. It slows me way down and it takes a ton of energy. Sometimes the sandy stretches can last for miles - I have no choice but to literally push through. I swear, when I get home, I’m never using a cart again. I’m never using a wheelbarrow. I’m never so much as pushing a shopping cart down an aisle! I’m done with carts. 

And I’m absolutely NEVER hiking with a cart again!

I’m really only halfway done with this trail so stay tuned to see if the second half gets any better or worse. And please leave a comment below!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The BDT: I Wanna Quit!

This is an unhappy Wolverine 

I wanna quit. I’m done with this stupid trail. It was not meant to be hiked - it was meant to be ridden on a sturdy mountain bike. 

I’m broiling in the hot sun. I have precious little water to drink but it’s as hot as I am and it smells like gasoline (I knew that last water tank seemed funky but I had no choice). 

I’m out of cannister fuel. My headphones are shot. My shoes are wearing out. My back is killing me. And the cart... OMG do I hate pushing this cart! 

Next town I get to, I’m taking a bus to San Diego and flying home. I’ve had enough. 

Just then, a Jeep pulled up out of nowhere. Guy says, “Hey, man! How’s it going? Wanna cold beer?”

Hmmm... Maybe I’ll keep going for a little bit longer. 

It’s funny how a stranger with a smile can break you out of a funk and get you back on track (Thanks to Fernando and his friends for the beer and the company. They are true Trail Angels.).

As long as I’m gonna keep at it, I might as well post some more pics from the trail!

My hat is literally caked with all the salt and electrolytes that my sweat contains. 

Fishermen returning with the morning’s catch. 

How do you know?!

Hmmm.... Doubt it. 

Camay and Alexandro from the Rancho Piedra Blanca. Two of the kindest people I’ve met on this trail. 

Obligatory sunset pic.

I could use a little encouragement so please leave a comment for me!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The BDT: The Sea of Cortez!

I finally made it to the Bay of Los Angeles on the east side of the Baja peninsula. This last stretch was a long one but it mostly followed the Pacific Coast which was not only beautiful but provided nice, cool weather. 

The Sea of Cortez has a different vibe all together. Much calmer and warmer; Full of islands big and small. The trail has me follow this coast for a few days before cutting back inland. Next stop: Vizcaino!

In the meantime, pics from the trail!

Lots of gear to be mended including this mouse hole in my food bag. 

If something only has one use then it’s USELESS. Dental floss doubles as suture. I fixed the hole in pants AND they smell minty fresh!

On the map, this was a giant blue lake. Hmmm..... Not so much. 

Every plant down here want to hurt me! Especially this species of cactus that drops golf ball - sized nuggets with some of the toughest needles anywhere. I don’t care what kind of shoe or boot you’re wearing, these things will jab right through the sole and into your foot. Nalgene bottle for scale (and shameless promotion). 

Ten miles to town and you’re out of water. Do you drink this? Sure, it has a little algae and some cow poop in it but it’s still water. 

Purple flowers everywhere. 

And lastly, the obligatory sunrise/sunset shots:

Please leave a comment below!