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:


gary zaborowski said...

I wouldn't worry about being first. The idea is enticing, but at least you'll have the experience.

Richard Smith said...

Chris, what you did on the Baja borders on superhuman. There are few who have the strength combined with the organizational skills to do what you did. You and your friends know what you accomplished. In terms of posterity, think of all who have finished the AT with some sort of distinct identity (fastest runner, fastest supported, fastest non-supported, fastest female, fastest with physically challenging condition, oldest, youngest, etc.) and then think of who other than the folks at the Conservancy can name them. But I do suggest you go back to Baja and supervise the building of a statue of yourself, with cart.

Sean Gauvreau said...

I think it's really cool that you're out there hiking these kinds of trails, Chris. Have you considered checking out any of Brett Tucker's routes? You wouldn't be the first to hike em, but I've heard they can be very rewarding. In the next few years I'd like to go try the lowest-to-highest route.

Christopher Hillier said...

You’re right. I should just be glad for the experience. Thanks, Z!

Christopher Hillier said...

Ha! Thank you for the kind words and for making me smile.

Christopher Hillier said...

I’ve heard of the lowest to highest and I’d like to hike that, too. Googling Brett Tucker now...
Thanks, Sean!

Brian H. said...

I'll remember, and I'm super proud of you for all of these accomplishments. I love telling people about my crazy uncle that loves to endlessly rock the earth!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Bri. Very kind of you to say.

I’m an earth rocker!
Everybody hear me now?
I'm an earth rocker!
Everybody get the message?

Suzanne Hollyer said...

Very cool. How close are you to the finish?

Christopher Hillier said...

Just made it to Todos Santos so <100 miles to go. Probably gonna zero here and then meet Jeff in Cabo next Saturday (6/2). Can’t believe I might actually finish this crazy trail.

Simon said...

I have already gone through the stories of Earl Shaffer, the first person ever to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
But your stories are really inspirational and thrilling Thanks for sharing this overwhelming experience. Have a safe hike.

Christopher Hillier said...

Very kind of you to say, Simon. I really do need to quit worrying about being ‘the first’ and focus on finishing this hike!

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