This is my long-distance-hiking overview and information page. It's the one place to check to find out where I'm hiking, my goals, and my progress toward them. When I'm out on the trail, this page—especially the map—gets updated daily.
I've set five basic rules for my hiking.
- Hike famous trails. The route has to follow an established, recognized, maintained foot trail. Foremost among these are the eleven National Scenic Trails designated by Congress. Lacking that I try to follow one of several hundred non-vehicular foot trails certified by the US Department of the Interior as ‘National Recreation Trails.’
- Make connections between trails. Advocate for a fully connected National Interstate Trail system wherever I go. This would be the foot-only equivalent of America’s Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. Each day’s hike should start from a place I’ve previously hiked, so that all my trails are connected.
- Seek new horizons. I try as much as possible to cover new ground, limiting repeat hikes on the same trails.
- Set goals ("Colorado or Bust"). Hike to meaningful destinations. Personally, my first priority is to connect, on foot, to the two dozen places that I’ve lived for at least a couple of months. This “Hiking Home” goal gives me a further sense of purpose.
- Share the joy. That’s what this blog is all about.
Looking to the future, here's the current version of my big picture goals/dreams. I've designed a continuous route, which I've called the 'Fifty Trail' (this is a link to the trail guide). It includes a generous piece of every one of the eleven National Scenic Trails, and every one of the 50 US federal political divisions on the North American continent.
Below is a TABLE of the miles hiked by year. It only covers the years since I bought my first hiking GPS in June 2010 (when I started recording the tracks of every hike).
And now, for more detail. Here's a chronological list of named trails (in bold) and other hiking locations, and dates hiked. At the end of the list are planned hikes, not yet completed.
- Liberty Reservoir fire roads, west of Baltimore MD, June-July 2010
- Road Walk, including the Catoctin Trail from Liberty Res. to Appalachian Trail at Raven Rocks, MD, Aug. 2010
- Appalachian Trail, Southern PA to Rockfish Gap, VA, Aug.-Sept. 2010
- Beach walks, Topsail Island, NC, May 2011
- Appalachian Trail, Rockfish Gap to James River VA, June 2011 and on to Daleville, VA, Oct.- Nov. 2011
- Road Walk, Liberty Reservoir to Wilmington, DE, July 2011 (First Personal Continuous Footpath destination)
- Beach walks, multiple traverses of the entire length of Topsail Island, NC, July-Oct 2011
- Patuxent Branch Trail, portions of the American Discovery Trail, and road walks, Liberty Reservoir to Takoma Park, MD, Nov.-Dec. 2011
- Appalachian Trail, a ‘yo-yo’—end to end twice in one calendar year, Jan.-Nov. 2012
- North Carolina’s State Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, scouting the new Coastal Crescent Route, Onslow and Pender Cos., NC Jan.-Feb. 2013
- American Discovery Trail and road walks, Greenbelt, MD to Plum Point MD, PG and Calvert Counties, August 2013
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail scouting, Holly Shelter Game Land and vicinity, Nov.-Dec. 2013
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Jockeys Ridge to Appalachian Trail at Yellow Mountain Gap, First to hike the entire Coastal Crescent route. Feb.-June 2014
- C&O Canal Towpath, Harpers Ferry to Dam 5, May 2015
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Waterrock Knob to Woodlawn Work Center , June-Aug. 2015. Forced to discontinue completing this trail by a major forest fire.
- Benton MacKaye Trail, Appalachian Trail to Pinhoti Trail, Aug. 2015
- Pinhoti Trail, end to end, Aug.-Oct. 2015
- Eastern Continental Trail, Alabama Road Walk, Nov. 2015
- Florida Trail, Alabama border to Oviedo, Nov. 2016 – Jan. 2017
- Beach walk, road walk, Oviedo FL to Cocoa Beach to Jensen Beach to the Everglades, then the Eastern Continental Trail and Overseas Heritage Trail to Key West, FL, Jan.-March 2016
- C&O Canal Towpath at Dam 5 to Great Eastern Trail, then north to its northern terminus via Tuscarora Trail (MD and PA), Standing Stone Trail, Mid-State Trail (PA), Pine Creek Rail Trail, Crystal Hills Trail (NY), April-May 2016
- North Country Trail, Finger Lakes Trail (in NY) from Great Eastern Trail terminus west to McConnells Mill State Park, PA, May-June 2016
- Mason-Dixon Trail, end to end, Appalachian Trail to Brandywine Trail, and Brandywine Trail to its southern Terminus in Wilmington, DE, Aug.-Nov. 2016.
- North Country Trail (Buckeye Trail in OH), McConnells Mill State Park, PA to Piedmont Lake, Ohio, Nov.-Dec. 2016
- Road Walk, local urban trails (including Sligo Creek Trail, Rock Creek Trail, Michael Henson Trail and Muddy Branch Trail), and C&O Canal Towpath from Takoma Park, MD to Appalachian Trail at Harpers Ferry, WV, January 2017
- Beach hikes at Topsail Island, “Month of Sunrises”, thirty-one consecutive day hikes at sunrise, March-April 2017
- North Country Trail (Buckeye Trail in OH, Iron Belle Trail in MI with diversions to the Miami Valley Trail System and the Tri-County Triangle Trail connecting Chillicothe and Xenia, Ohio, the White Pine Trail and North Central Trail in Michigan) - Piedmont Lake, Ohio to Ironwood, MI, (May - Sept 2017) then south into Wisconsin using numerous local and state trails including the Mountain-Bay Trail, and finally the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to Madison, WI.
- From Madison, WI, I took a short cut (instead of following the Fifty Trail). I continued south via the Badger State Trail and then the Jane Addams Trail and the Hennepin Canal Parkway Feeder Canal Trail in Illinois. There is a mere 32 mile road walk connecting Jane Addams Trail in Freeport, Ill. to the Hennepin Trail system. The latter is part of both the new Great American Rail Trail and the American Discovery Trail northern route.
- I picked up the Great American Rail Trail at the junction of the Hennepin Feeder and the Hennepin main canal, and plan to follow it west to Coon Rapids, Iowa. In most places it coincides with the American Discovery Trail along this stretch. Once beyond Coon Rapids, I've chosen to bypass the logistical nightmare of Omaha and Lincoln urban trails and instead do a road walk of my own design, generally following the Historic Lincoln Highway, the Oregon, California, Pony Express, and Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trails, and the Overland Trail (Overland Stage Route), which the only one of these famous routes that goes exactly where I'm going. It follows the South Platte then turns north and passes through Fort Collins, CO. There I completed my Personal Continuous Footpath primary goal of hiking to every place I've ever lived on November 1st, 2019.
- The reason for the short cut across Iowa (rather than hiking the Fifty Trail route to Colorado, which would take me across Northern Wisconsin, Northern Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming), is so that I could 'check off' that bucket list personal goal--the "Personal Continuous Footpath" to every place I've ever lived--and put it behind me. My new focus will then become less of a personal quest and more of a campaign to raise awareness of America's Trail system. That is the reason for establishing the 'Fifty Trail.' I doubt that I'll ever be able to hike the entire Fifty Trail route. So what I plan to do is to hike portions that need scouting and other portions just for the pure joy of the places it goes--some of the most iconic hiking venues in this country. That's an exciting new adventure, and one that I hope can make a real difference.
- For a general introduction to the Fifty Trail and my reasons for creating it, see this post.
Now, for those interested, I’m providing more background about that bucket list goal: My Personal Continuous Footpath.
The title of this page, "Hopping Rocks," refers to leaping from stone to stone to get across a stream. In my case, the stream is a metaphor for life, with its restless ever-changing currents. Each stepping-stone represents a meaningful landmark along the way, such as a place where I lived.
Obviously it's not just getting across to the other side of the stream that matters. Each rock I choose matters, and the way I get there matters too. I want to hop the rocks, using my two feet, not get in an SUV and roar across throwing a wake of splashing water into the air.
Why hop the rocks? Just because I love to walk, because I love nature, and because walking is the most natural way to go. Because the rocks give my walking meaning and purpose. Suddenly I'm not just wearing out rubber on a treadmill.
Below are two views of one of the major stepping stones—my boyhood home from 1958 to 1966:
Situated on several acres of farmland along White Clay Creek near Landenberg, PA, it was a magical place to grow up. No one place defines me more.
I first returned there on foot on July 17, 2011, via a series of road walks, including a long stretch of the famous US Route 1, starting from my home about 20 miles west of Baltimore MD.
It was a small hike in terms of distance—a hundred miles or so—but it was huge in personal significance. Not only did it expose me, unhindered by vehicular shell, to places full of deep memory, but it was fulfilling a need I didn’t even know I had until I was more than sixty years old.
I immediately knew I wanted to do more of the same. It gave purpose and direction to my favorite sport—walking. Walking is healthy. I'm convinced that there's no better exercise.
But doing "exercise" bores me to tears. I cannot and will not waste my time and energy just 'staying in shape'. People on exercise machines in gyms remind me of hamsters on spinning wheels. They seem so self-absorbed—fixated on their own bodies and oblivious to the stimulating outside world that they're missing. Even going out and walking the same circuit in a park quickly loses its appeal for the same reasons.
I need fresh new vistas. I need a real sense of purpose and accomplishment. My answer is to walk home.
Yes I know the old saying: "You can't go home again." The place has changed and so have you. It's true ... up to a point. But the poor blokes who say that are pessimists, brooding over the dreary bottom of their glass through its half-empty swill and entirely missing the wider view.
I want to illustrate what I mean with two examples.
In 1959, at the home shown above, I planted a tiny sprig of a tree, a few inches high with maybe three or four leaves. It was a fast growing Tulip Poplar. I had my picture taken with my tree in 1963, and it was already twice my height.
The future seemed unlimited for both of us. I went back to my tree many times. Tulip Poplars live hard and die young. This one blew over in a storm in April 2016, and that was the end of it. There's a lesson in that. When I was a kid I and my tree were full of vigor and naïve enthusiasm. Today I can think back and marvel at the positives and the negatives, how much we both grew, the scars and storms we have both confronted.
|August 22, 2008, with the tree already showing signs of age and weakness|
|August 2016, I returned wearing my Tulip Poplar Leaf t-shirt|
Now … look at the front door of the apartment building where I lived from 1951 to 1953.
In the left photo that's me on the right with Mom and my baby brother Jim. The view at right was taken September 17, 2016.
This is the first place I really remember living. Here I learned how to swing on a swing and I found my first four-leaf clover. Today the swing is gone. The whole playground is a parking lot. But even if the swing was still there and I could sit in it and pretend ... even if I sat down in the lawn and started searching the clover ... I wouldn't be trying to go back to capture some lost essence of my youth.
When I visited the remnants of my tree in the Pennsylvania meadow in August 2016, I did not come to lament the ravages of age. No, in both places I came to reinforce the fabric of the tapestry I began to weave back then. I stand and nod and say "Yes, it happened right here. Now I see. This is how it goes because this is how real things go. The little boy built strength here. And he is still building it."
Then I smile and walk on, because there are many other stepping stones with deep personal significance that I want to visit.
Sure as hell beats a treadmill.