Wolverine Hikes

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. I was the first to hike the Baja Divide Trail in Mexico but failed miserably to thru-hike the Bruce Trail in Canada. In 2019, I hiked the TEMBR in Ecuador and now, I'm going to attempt to hike 1,150 miles of the North Country Trail as it runs through my home state of Michigan.

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 these endeavors.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hiking at Elevation

I’ve been lucky so far in my hiking ‘career’ that I’ve never fallen prey to real altitude sickness but I know of many hikers (most more experienced than I) who have. I mostly associate it with folks driving to high altitudes and feeling the symptoms as soon as they get out of the car. I’ve always suspected that hiking to those same elevations gives my body time to adjust and, thus, avoid any symptoms. 


So much of this hike is above 10,000 feet above sea level (10K’asl), that I wondered if it would bother me. So far, only one month in, I’ve been (mostly) okay. I do notice that, at altitudes above 13K’asl, my breathing changes. If I stop breathing to take a long drink of water or yawn, I suddenly feel out of breath. I have to take several, deep, rapid breathes to ‘catch up’. I also notice a little bit of dizziness and some tingling/numbness in my hands. These symptoms resolve as soon as I drop back down a couple thousand feet. 

Another issue with hiking at these altitudes is the wind. I suppose it’s true of hiking anywhere above 10K’asl but the wind can be consistently strong and it gets old after a while. It’s knocked me off my feet several times. You can’t set anything down, even for a second, lest it blows off the side of a mountain. Even routine actions like reading a map or setting up my tent become challenging in high winds. Mix in some dust and sand and you feel like your skin is being media-blasted. This can go on for days at a time.  

My previous altitude ‘record’ was 14,508’asl. That was at the top of Mt. Whitney inCalifornia. It’s the highest point in the contiguous 48 states. 


During my current hike (Ecuador), I climbed three-quarters of the way up the 20,550’asl volcano Chimborazo for a new PR of 16K’asl. There was camping available up there but I decided that I already know what it’s like to camp with freezing winds so I made my way back down to around 14K’asl and found a spot for the night. 

I felt pretty good up there - no symptoms at all. It could have been that I was just so excited to be up there that I didn’t notice or it could be that I hiked up there instead of driving. Either way, I feel like I’ve had my fill of super-high elevations for a while. I wouldn’t mind being a little lower, a little warmer and with a little less wind. 

What’s the highest elevation you’ve ever been to? Leave me a comment below!

Saturday, July 20, 2019



But first, a couple of shout-outs:

- To Tom and all my friends at Moosejaw Mountaineering. I buy all my gear at Moosejaw.com and you should, too!

- To Paul, Missy and the crew at Underground Quilts. Check out their stuff at UGQoutdoor.com

- To Kelly O’Brien at Obriensales.com

Now, as promised, pics with stupid captions!

This majestic cow. 

This spider bite.

This almost perfect shot of Cotopaxi. That volcano is constantly surrounded by clouds.  

A poor hummingbird with a broken wing. 

This warning not to dump trash. 

This furry burro. 

How to dress for a sandstorm in Ecuador.

This entire hillside on fire. 

This butterfly. 

“Well I’m standing next to a mountain
I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”  - Jimi Hendrix

Looking out over Laguna de Quilotoa.

The perfect campsite. 

My new friend. 

My new friend (and her skinny dog) leaving. 

And now, I must leave, too. Wanna know what you can leave? A comment below. Thank you!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The People I Meet in Ecuador

Not even a month into my hike of the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (the TEMBR) and already, I’ve met some pretty memorable characters. 


Gotta start with the Dammer brothers (Michael, Mathius and Thomas) and their families. They have just been so charming and generous that I will forever associate them with this hike. They have all worked very hard to create a bucolic slice of heaven right here on earth. Picture acres of green pastures filled with cows, pigs, sheep and alpacas and buildings made from local stone and wood. Laughing children running around in homemade clothes, classrooms filled with books and art work and happy workers that smile and wave. I am fortunate to have visited twice so far

Then there was this family. 

They caught me trespassing on their farm but, instead of calling the police, they invite me in for breakfast! Turns out, Karina (pictured above) is a cousin of the Dammers. They gave me some great advice about what else to see in Ecuador and even gave me a hunk of dried, smoked pork to take with me (it was delicious!). 

I can’t forget this guy.

I hiked into the tiny town of San Isidro early on a Sunday morning. Everything was closed but Fernando was just opening his tiny tienda. I’m afraid I came across as desperate when I said, “Nessicito cafe!” to him. He didn’t have any coffee to sell but instead, he insisted that I come in and join him and his wife for hot coffee (he served it black with tons of sugar in a small metal cup) and fresh baked bread. The conversation was lacking because of my poor Spanish but I was extremely grateful and I hope I conveyed that. 

Watch out for this guy.

I met Jose and his buddies just outside of Guayllabamba. He insisted that I have a pull or two of what they called ‘puntos’. 
It was some kind of fermented fruit juice that really packed a punch. They all laughed as I winced after each sip. I thanked them for their generosity and kept on hiking. 

Then there was this group of crazy Americans.

They are doing some horseback riding down here and they were very kind to a hungry Wolverine. It was good for my soul to sit with people from back home. We swapped stories and enjoyed a big picnic lunch. Very nice folks. 

I don’t know why I’m lucky (blessed?) enough to meet the people that I do. Maybe they’re curious about the conspicuous American with a giant backpack? I simply smile and say, “Hola! Buen dia!” to everyone I meet. Almost all respond. Some are very kind just for he sake of being kind! I think the world could use more of that. 

Hiking in Ecuador - The First Week

The flight(s) from Detroit to Quito, Ecuador took forever. I got zero sleep the night before I left so I mostly stumbled through the airports like a zombie. I didn’t arrive in Quito until very late at night. Fortunately, the hotel I was to stay at had someone waiting to give me a ride. 

It’s ‘i-e-r’ but that’s okay. I’m just glad for the ride!

I slept solid for a few hours but I was anxious to get up and get going on my adventure. While I enjoyed a simple breakfast at the hotel, the clouds slowly cleared to reveal tall mountains all around me. This is, after all, the beginning of the massive Andes mountain chain that stretches clear down to Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. 


I took a short cab ride to the Nahual Farm and School just outside the city. This fantastic place teaches organic and sustainable farming techniques to people from all over the world. It’s run by the Dammer brothers and has a reputation for being friendly to bikepackers. I’d have to see how they felt about hikers. 


I was greeted warmly by Michael Dammer and given a tour of the farm. What an amazing place!

One of the classrooms at the Nahual School:

Michael speaks perfect English (and Spanish and some French) and he let me stay the night in a very comfortable loft in exchange for completing some simple chores (work-for-stay). I used my free time to gather some last minute things (canister fuel, batteries, etc... ) from town. 

Work-for-stay means turning this:

Into this:

I set off early the next morning for Tulcan,near the border with Columbia. That trip took about six hours and a couple of different buses. Even with Michael’s help, navigating a busy bus system when you don’t speak the language can be tricky. Somehow, it all worked out and I made it to Tulcan. Since I didn’t get there until later in the day, I was anxious to get out of town and find a place to camp. 

I made it to Tulcan!

The route out of town seemed to climb relentlessly. I was soon up over 10,000 feet of elevation and I was feeling it! Exhausted but thrilled to have even made it to the start of the hike, I found a quiet spot to camp and crashed. Hard. 

Finally home:

Between all the travel and excitement of the last few days and the fact that I sleep best in my tent far away from towns and people, I slept solid for ten hours straight. I woke to a light rain but giggling with joy to be back where I belong: On the trail. 

In my element:

The next few days were just what I had hoped for: Beautiful mountains and rolling,  green farms, charming people and a trail that was mostly old dirt roads and two-tracks. It was easy to follow (thanks to the GPS tracks laid out by bike packer Cass Gilbert) and stunningly beautiful. 


I stopped at little towns like El Angel and San Isidro to get a cup of coffee or to buy more rice and hot sauce (the staples of my diet so far). I met some really cool people but my lack of Spanish kept me from really getting to know them. 


My new friend Fernando:

Every little town has a church:

The St. Peter’s Parade in El Angel:

Quiet streets on a Sunday morning:

Typical breakfast in Ecuador:

Lots of statues and murals depicting Jesus as a creepy farmer:

Giant hog ready for slaughter (trekking poles against the wall for scale):

Bigger towns like Cotacachi are cool, too, as they offer more choices for food and drink. I find I’m also more likely to meet people who speak English in these towns - there are a surprising amount of American ex-patriots down here. 

Sunday open market:

My goal, for now, is to make it back to the Nahual Farm. There, I have clean clothes and a new pair of hiking shoes waiting for me. It probably wouldn’t hurt to take a shower as the layers of sunscreen, DEET, dirt and sweat hide my actual skin. 

I stink:

After that, I’ll just keep hiking south until Ihit Peru or until I have to fly home (September 10th), whichever comes first!

Got a comment or a question about hiking in Ecuador? Click below and start typing!