I've been staying in Colorado for about a week, hosted by my wonderful friend Rich. I've been resting, organizing some gear, and preparing for the next leg of the journey!
First, what have I been up to? Well, I guess I'll write and explain that now, below. The short of it is I've hiked over 2,300 miles in the past few months, done a bunch of hiking in and between National Parks, and it's been awesome. Plus, I'm not done! I'm leaving tomorrow to start the next leg of my adventure: walking from Zion National Park to the Mexican border! After that more adventures are planned, so stay tuned!
Starting on April 23, 2021, exactly 164 days ago, I moved out of my yurt which had amazing views, though lacked plumbing, and drove east. I first made my way to Gateway Arch National Park, which was in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Certainly different than parks like Yosemite or Olympic, but interesting in its own right.
Next, I drove to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Sadly, 90% of the cave was closed, but some of it was open and fun to explore. There were also some cool backpacking trails I spent a few days exploring. I was also able to reconnect with my friend Cory and his wife and dog, which was fun!
Next up was Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. Very unique park in that it's so close to large urban areas of Cleveland and Akron. You're on a 7 lane highway one minute, then in the park the next. Although no camping or backpacking is allowed in the park, it was fun to explore trails and waterfalls.
Indiana Dunes National Park is a getaway for the greater Chicago area. I was there in early May, and sometimes the only car in enormous parking lots. This park is a National and State Park combined. It was fun to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan as well as climb all of the dunes. Had some poor weather a couple days, but my last day was sunny and beautiful.
Voyageurs National Park was up next, and quite incredible! While there are a few trails you can drive to, the majority of the park is on lakes. I rented a canoe and did a weeklong canoe exploration which was incredible! So many bald eagles, loons, beavers, otters, and other water fowl, I felt like I was in a wildlife wonderland. I did flip the canoe once into freezing cold water, but thankfully I was very close to shore and not much got wet, other than me!
Next up I did a 500 mile thru hike starting outside of Ely, MN connecting the Kekekabic Trail(Kek), Border Route Trail (BRT) and Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). The Kek and BRT traversed the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area which was incredibly remote and beautiful. The Superior Hiking Trail, unsurprisingly, followed along Lake Superior. Not really directly on the shore (it only does a lake shore walk for 1.5 miles or so), but on the mountains near the lake. I'd never visited Minnesota before and this was a really cool way to explore.
North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park was next. So many bison here and also a ton of cool badlands. It was super hot when I was here though, which hampered longer adventures a bit. I explored both the North and South Units of the park, and North Dakota was the 48th state in the lower 48 I've visited. I've been to them all! Never been to Hawaii or Alaska though, maybe sometime soon.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota was neat with bighorn sheep ramming one another and more beautiful scenery. Next, I visited the close by Wind Cave National Park and thru hiked the Centennial Trail which runs from Wind Cave to Bear Butte, traversing the Black Hills, including Custer State Park, a short side trip to Mount Rushmore, and tons of beautiful sites! Awesome 140 mile trip. Tempted to move to this area, believe it or not.
The longest segment of the past 5.5 months was next: a thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail from Glacier National Park to the westernmost point of the lower 48: Cape Alava on the Pacific Ocean within Olympic National Park. This was quite an adventure: 1,250 miles, over 400 of those miles directly in Grizzly Bear habitat, a record hot summer, also so many wildfires and so much smoke as a result. This trail was quite a challenge! Because this trail runs East to West, rather than follow a mountain range, the trail crosses 7 mountain ranges. What does that mean? Climbs! Lots of them! So many 4,000 - 5,000 foot climbs then all the way back down to a river, and all the way back up... This trail is also the youngest of the National Scenic Trails, which means a combination of good trail, poorly maintained trail, 4x4 roads, paved roads, and bushwhacks. You could expect any and all of those possibilities in a typical day. The very last section is a 50 mile beach walk in Olympic National Park on the Pacific Ocean. So adventurous and it would be a close toss-up between this beach walking and Glacier National Park for my two favorite parts. The long traverse of the remote and wild Pasayten Wilderness deserves a mention, too, for being another amazing adventure!
What's next? I leave tomorrow to walk from Zion National Park to Mexico. Very very excited for this! The plan is to visit the remaining National Parks over winter and complete Walk The Parks! Stay Tuned!