42 days and 420 miles
I began my annual hike fundraiser for the GoHawkeye Foundation on July 15 and continued for 42 days and 420 miles! Solo and on foot with everything needed on my back, I faced many challenges including terrain, weather, possible injury and now even Covid-19 but fortunately I’ve had years of training for this type of isolated Colorado adventure!
After years of long distance hiking throughout the country, I decided to explore the mountains in my own backyard and created the GoHawkeye San Juan Trail(GST) in 2016 which has increased in length every year since. Today it extends from Telluride, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico and back traversing the San Juan Volcanic field, as well as encompassing both the Weminuche and South San Juan Wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. The route, made up of existing trails, forest service roads with some bushwacking has a average elevation of 10,400 feet. Check out the route MAP.
GoHawkeye volunteers and friends met me at various locations along the trail including resupply towns, trail crossings and at this years Fish Camp held at the Platoro Reservoir, Colorado for some great fly fishing, food and drink. I stayed very comfortable on the trail using lightweight gear supplied by Six Moon Designs (SMD). I’m grateful to be a ambassador for this awesome company.
This year I was joined for a stretch in the Weminuche Wilderness by my buddy Tony, who hiked in needed supplies, where we hiked and fished some new trail, rivers and lakes.
It was a pleasure to quickly set up my SMD Skyscape Trekker shelter as needed to ride out a violent squall or enjoy a comfortable night in camp. Spacious enough for my 6’2″ body, sitting in my chair or lying down, plus all my gear, this 2 lb. beauty has excellent ventilation and can ride out a storm with ease. I use my hiking poles to set it up and it’s very stable in high winds.
My preferred backpack is the SMD Fusion 65 which at 65 liters can hold 10 days of food and all my gear comfortably. I also carry the Silver Shadow carbon umbrella but this time I used the hands free attachment and was thrilled to have shade or stay dry and be able to walk along using my poles.
Covid-19 restrictions and cancellations meant my wife Debbie was free to meet me at Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado each time and at Cumbres Pass, New Mexico. I could avoid hitchhiking for resupply which was both fortunate and a pleasure to reunite with Deb. I also have friends in towns along the route for some physically distant get togethers. Awesome folks like Francie and Ben in Ouray, Colorado where the trail goes right by their house, Ken and Cindy in Lake City, Colorado who leave a car the trailhead so I can drive out to their house, Ben in Creede, Colorado in addition to John and Samantha in Silverton, Colorado. We very much enjoyed our stay at the Chama Trails Inn in Chama, New Mexico.
Fish Camp happens at various locations along the trail each year and is meant to give me a break and for people to come out and join me for some camping and fishing. Platoro reservoir and the Conejos river make a excellent site to visit for lake and stream fishing as well as excellent camping and hiking trails. It’s great to meet up with friends for a few days off the trail. Fish Camp is sponsored by GoHawkeye volunteers.
I carry a four piece, 3-weight fly rod for trout fishing on the trail. This is a great way to relax while hiking. I enjoy the challenge of spotting a fish and seeing how quickly I can put the rod together, catch and release the fish then pack up and continue hiking. Sometimes I’ll catch a few before moving on. With a 10-mile per day average, there is plenty of time. If I’m near camp, I may keep one for some dinner with rice. In addition to packing a good book, fishing gear is worth the weight and also helps keep the mind off this rugged trail. This challenging trail has a average elevation of 10,400 feet and a +/-vertical gain of 66,000 feet.
While it’s fairly easy for me to shoulder a pack and walk out the door but it’s not so easy for a person with disabilities. Once again this adventure was a fundraiser to help adaptive athletes afford expensive specialized equipment and training. I donate my expenses so all the funds go directly to this mission. Incredibly $17,000 was raised from generous donors who want to help by supporting adaptive sports!
In 2014 I cofounded the GoHawkeye Foundation in order to help individual adaptive athletes and organizations through grants for equipment and experiences. After years of volunteering in adaptive sports and witnessing many struggle to afford it, I decided this was a way to have a greater and more direct impact for adaptive athletes. We all need to connect to nature regardless of ability. Since inception we have helped 60 athletes including six organizations with grants totaling over $160,000.
I hope to see you down the trail and enjoying the benefits of nature!
Check out the image gallery of this adventure HERE.