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.

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!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Three Favorite Pieces of Gear

Lots of hikers have written about the ‘big three’: Backpack, tent and sleeping bag (I’m currently carrying this tentthis pack, and this quilt instead of a sleeping bag). Those  items are certainly important but, for me, they change from hike to hike depending on where and how far I’m hiking.  I want to tell you about three pieces of gear that not everyone uses but I’ve carried them with me on every hike I’ve ever done. 

First is my handy piece of Tyvek. 

I use it mostly as a ground cloth - especially if I’m ‘cowboy camping’ (that is, sleeping under the stars with no tent) but it’s super versatile. During heavy snow, I’m more likely to put it over my tent rather than under. Or even, between the tent and the rain fly for extra protection and warmth. During my thru-hike of the PCT in ‘12, my sister sewed a huge piece of Tyvek into kind of a pocket. Perfect as a makeshift bivvy.  The piece I have now is about 8’X 4’ and it has about 2,500 miles on it. Super durable.  

Next, is my Thermarest Z-Lite pad. 

I’ve been through about three or four of these over the years. Not that they’re not durable but it gets used a lot - I sleep on one every single night. I sit on it when the ground is wet or I even use it like a picnic blanket to stop and cook up a meal. When it’s really cold, I combine it with an inflatable mattress to keep me warm at night. 

Finally, I always bring bug netting.

Bug, sun and bullet proof!

Especially handy when the black flies and mosquitoes are swarming, I use this even if the gnats are getting in my eyes. Or on the Appalachian Trail, early in the morning when your face is breaking every spider web strung across the trail. Or even in the winter when the blowing snow is stinging your face and getting in your eyes. Put on your bug net for temporary relief.  

So, what say you? What do you bring that other hikers might not? Leave me a comment below!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The BDT: Deep Sand!

“Piscado por tacos!” he exclaimed. 

Damn. This sand is so deep I can barely push this stupid cart through it (I knew I should have sprung for the 3” tire). The sun is dropping like a rock and there is absolutely no where to camp. People who have hiked with me know that I’m willing to stealth camp in some pretty risky places but this whole area is just flat with no trees and just enough fences and houses to make even the stealthiest camping impossible. I’m so tired. Sweat is pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. I keep pushing the cart through the deep sand. Still no where to camp...

But suddenly, I spy a little used trail that heads down to the water. I find the quiet shoreline to a bay off the Pacific. Nice and flat. No one around. Small waves gently lapping at the shoreline and perhaps a dozen species of shore birds. Perfect! Sometimes, I just get lucky. 

I spent a peaceful evening on the shore of the Bay of San Quitin and even met some local fishermen the next morning (as in the picture above). 

Since that night on the bay, the trail took me inland. WAY inland. A long (116 miles) of nothing: No roads, no other people, no water...  Just me and my cart and a rough Jeep track. I was OUT THERE like I’ve never been ‘out there’ before. I’ve got lots to write but I need to get it all sorted out in my head. Until then, more pics from the trail!

That was a baby nurse shark above. Think about that next time you get a ‘fish taco’ from a roadside stand. You could be eating a baby nurse shark. It’s okay with me, of course. 

Can’t help taking pictures of sunrises (as above) and sunsets. Each one seems to be more spectacular than the last!

With the recent rains, the desert seems like it’s just about ready to burst into bloom. 

I’ve named my cart ‘El Fuego’ because I hate this thing with the burning heat of a thousand suns. It’s all the problems of a mountain bike without the speed! A necessary evil, I guess. 

Fishing troller on the coast. 

Sunset on the Pacific. 

Most pics and posts coming soon. In the meantime, leave me a comment!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Baja Divide Trail: Pinned Down By Rain and Snow!

Despite the security warnings (and the concerns of friends and family), I made it out of Tecate with no trouble. In fact, I found Tecate to be a very friendly town with lots to see and do. All the same, I was eager to make big miles and get as far south of town as possible. 

By about 2pm, I found myself safely in the middle of nowhere and really enjoying the trail. By 4pm, I started to keep an eye out for a good place to camp. For both security reasons and out of habit, I wanted to be far enough off the trail so as not to be seen. This was easier said than done because of that stupid cart; I had to ‘park’ it on the trail while I went cross country looking for a spot. Then, I had to come back for the cart and push it through the thick scrub to get back to the spot. Bike riders, I suspect, deal with this all the time. 

I finally found a great spot to camp, enjoyed a good meal and another beautiful sunset but soon the temp started to drop and it got pretty cold. I slept under my quilt that night with every stitch of clothing that I brought with me. Then came the rain...

Only my sixth day on the trail and I found myself pinned down by wave after wave of heavy rain, sleet and snow. I had plenty of food and water so I just sat tight and let it pass. It turned out to be a good decision. 

The next couple of days I put in some big miles to make it to Ojos Negros.

It’s a cool little town with a campground, a decent store for resupply and several restaurants where you can get an authentic Mexican breakfast. 

That’s a bowl full of shredded lamb with gravy, beans, tortillas and coffee. Fantastic!

Next was a quick stop into Santo Thomas to load up the 24 liters of water (that’s almost 53 pounds of water!) that I would need to get me to Colonet. 

It was a steep climb out of Santo Thomas but I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the town from above. 

After a couple of days of dusty dirt roads, I finally made to the beautiful and rugged coast of the Pacific Ocean. 

Found a great place to camp with my own private beach. 

Enjoyed an amazing sunset and a good night’s sleep. 

I’ll post more soon but, for now, I’d love to see some comments below!