Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
No way I can do crazy hikes like this on my own. A ton of people helped me accomplish my goal of becoming the first to thru-hike the Baja Divide Trail and I am filled with gratitude and joy to have had so many friends and family with me on this hike.
First of all, I am deeply grateful to my friend and AT ‘15 Trail Angel, ‘Camping Nancy’ Smith. I dedicate this hike to the memory of her son, Steven T Smith.
Huge thanks, as always, to Tom and Andrew and all my friends at Moosejaw Mountaineering. They have been with me since the early planning stages of this hike and I am grateful for all their help. I hope you’ll visit Moosejaw.com whenever you need gear.
Big thanks to Paul and Missy McWalters and all my friends at Underground Quilts. They built a very special quilt for me to use on this hike and it was not only super comfy but super durable. Check out their stuff at UGQOutdoor.com
Thanks to George ‘Neon’ and Onna ‘Onnamove’ Voellmer for hiking with me on the PCT ‘12, the CDT ‘14 and for all their help with planning and intel on this hike. They rode this trail (and much more!) on mountain bikes a month or two before I hiked it and they guided and encouraged me the whole way. Check out the blog of this globe-trotting couple at TheRedHeadedNomad.com Love you guys!
I am grateful for my friend (and computer genius) Noam Gal from Tel Aviv, Israel. He helped me a ton with planning and navigation for this hike. Noam, Orna and Cupcake were also very good to me on my hike of the Israel National Trail in 2017.
Thanks to all my friends at OBO #133 but especially to Roberta McCoy and Ruth Schenk.
Huge thanks to the entire Wolverine Lake Crew: Susie Hollyer and Drew Chinarian, Traci Rink and Ron Foon, and especially Marlyss Hollyer for keeping up the website. Check out her handy work at HillierHikes.com
Thanks to my beautiful nieces, Dayna Hillier and Laura Marquez for welcoming me back to California and for getting me to the start of the trail in San Diego. Love you, both!
Thanks to my friends and Trail Angels, Jerry and Becky Patterson of Virginia who welcomed a tired hiker into their home in 2015 and have been good to me ever since.
Thanks to my friends from the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, Dustin and Tiffany Newman. We spent many hours walking together to raise money for the fight against cancer and they’ve always been very supportive of my hikes.
Thanks to my Trail Angels from the CDT ‘14, Keith and Mary Schwarzer who took great care of me then and again on this hike. Because of them, my stop in Loreto was the highlight of this hike. Thanks to both of you!
Thanks to Bob ‘Beaker’ and Chris ‘Dragonfly’ Turner for all their help. I’ve known them since the AT ‘11 and enjoyed every mile we’ve hiked together since.
Thanks to my friends Jenifer Tislerics and Carol Rogers from the SOLAR Club.
I hope to get together with that bunch again soon and talk some trail.
Thanks to my dear sisters Pat Vineis and Carol Machak for helping out and following along. And for practically raising me since birth. Guess I should mention that.
Thanks to all my friends at the Michigan Hiking and Backpacking Facebook group, especially Eric Choi for his help.
Thanks to my friends POD, Disco, D-Low and PMags at The Trail Show for their encouragement. Listen to their podcast at TheTrailShow.com
Thank you to Nicholas Carman for mapping out this magnificent trail in 2016. I used notes and maps from his website,
BajaDivide.com, extensively to prepare for this hike as well as the Baja Divide Facebook page. The folks in that group were very welcoming and a great resource.
Thank you to Graham Mackintosh for being a hiking legend on the Baja and inspiring me. Check out his website, GrahamMackintosh.com.
Finally, to my friend since forever, Jeff Weiner and his wonderful family for helping me celebrate the big finish in style. Knowing that Jeff and Lori were waiting for me in Cabo with a cold beer really gave me something to look forward to during those last, long days in the burning desert sun. Thanks, Jeff!
Sunday, May 20, 2018
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
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
Blood? Check. Sweat? Check. Tears? Check.
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
These guys are loud and fun. They have a classic pattern to their flight that makes them easy to spot.
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.
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!
These things are everywhere and when a flock of fifty or more takes off, it sounds like thunder in the distance.
I love all the strigidae family but these little guys are especially cool. They have bright white eyebrows and unusually long legs.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
A clean Wolverine
I love hiking along the coast.
Heading inland means nothing but cactus and rolling brown hills.
And I’m absolutely NEVER hiking with a cart again!
Saturday, April 7, 2018
This is an unhappy Wolverine
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.