Wanna help me hike?

Monday, September 30, 2013


Completed my 250 mile hike from South Haven to Port Huron. Took two full weeks.
One of my favorite things about long distance hiking is that wave of gratitude that fills my soul when I complete a hike like this. I think about all the people that helped me along the way and I give thanks. I'll blog more about the hike later but for now, indulge me in a few shout-outs.

Nancy Krupiarz giving a speech at a ribbon cutting in Pinckney.
Nancy Krupiarz and everyone at the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance made this whole thing happen. They were there, every step of the way, making sure we were okay and that we had what we needed. Good people who really care about the trails in our state.

Lunch at Arcadia in Battle Creek.

Jim Coury and the Calhoun County Trailway Alliance helped me with the route, took me out to eat and helped me with newspaper interviews.  Seems like everyone in Marshall, MI knows Jim and I'm proud to call him my friend.

I was staying with Roger and Sue the night a storm took out this tree and picnic table.

Roger and Sue Storm know more about the trails in Michigan than, perhaps, anyone else I've ever met. Roger has been identifying and bringing trails to fruition since the 1980's. In his work with the DNR, Roger designed the Ironwood Trail that I hiked this past summer. It was my honor to hike with he and Sue from Stockbridge to Gregory.

Marlyss Hollyer, me, Drew Chinarian and Susie Hollyer at the Uptown Grill

Susie and Drew have been hiking with me and helping me since I first put boots on. On this hike, they hiked a good bit with me (after having run a 5K that morning!), treated me to delicious Michigan craft beer, resupplied me and let me stay at their beautiful home on Wolverine Lake. Susie's mom, Marlyss, has been working on a website for me: HillierHikes.com. She's got mad web design skills.

Bonnie and her amazing folding/touring bike.
Bonnie Campbell is glad to host touring cyclists for Warmshowers.org. She made an exception when she let me (a smelly hiker) stay with her for two nights. Not only did she provide a warm shower, but she fed me some great food and let me enjoy the company of her wonderful family. She is truly a Trail Angel.

Isn't she cute in her Conductor uniform?

Finally, I knew Stacey Jones worked for Amtrak but I was certainly surprised when I ran into her at the station in Battle Creek. She introduced me around and let me watch her in action. It was lots of fun and it made the miles fly by.

Of course, huge thanks to my housemates Martha Rogers and Sandy Lowe who help me with all these crazy hikes. My partner in crime, Chris Bowman, inspired me and kept me on track all the way to Lake Huron. Bob Burr, the Mayor of South Haven, gave me a great send off. My dear friend Libby Shaw took the time to keep me company on the West Bloomfield Trail to Sylvan Lake.  Jeff Kindy and the guys from A Sight To Remember got me through the first few miles. As usual, my friends at Moosejaw kept me well supplied and geared up. Thanks also, to my friends in the Burning Boots Trail Club for their service to our country and to the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church for all their thoughts and prayers. See you guys next Sunday!

Without all this help and support, I'd still be standing in the waters of Lake Michigan, trying to make it across the state. This kind of thing just doesn't happen without good friends and family. Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pictures From the Trail

Martha here:
Chris has been in and out of data signals, so he asked me to post some pictures.
He'll describe these images as soon as he can.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Walkin' the walk

I've been talkin' the talk for weeks. Now it's time to hit the trail and do what I do best. I'm going lighter than I've ever gone before because I've got so much support so close to me. If I wind up in a pinch, I've got a list of phone numbers I can call thanks to Nancy Krupiarz and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. They have been so helpful in planning this hike. I would love for people to go to the website and leave a comment for them. Or me. Heck, just go to the website and check it out!


Not bringing as much food as normal. I'll have access to re-supply along the way plus I need to make miles so no need to overload the pack. This will get me through the first few days:

And, of course, custom spices to flavor this otherwise bland diet. My sister Carol makes these for me, special.

I'll be starting from South Haven in a couple of hours. I'm meeting with a reporter from the  South Haven Tribune, the Mayor of South Haven and Jeff Kindy and his gang from A Sight To Remember on the beach of Lake Michigan to begin this hike. I'll also be attending the ribbon cutting ceremony in Putnam Township to help dedicate the Lakelands Trail. All of this is in celebration of Michigan Trails Week which is from September 21st to September 28th. I will be celebrating, appropriately, by hiking.

I hope everyone will mark Saturday, September 28th on their calendars and consider coming out to Port Huron to welcome Chris Bowman and I to town. Not exactly sure where we're gonna dip into Lake Huron to complete our adventure but, wherever it is, there will be story telling and beer flowing.

And I'm sure this goofy dog will be waiting just inside the door for me when I get back. She always is.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I'm hiking Route 1 from South Haven to Port Huron
Thanks to Nancy Krupiarz and the good folks at the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, I'm going to hike Route 1 of the Great Lake to Lake Trail. I'll be leaving from South Haven with the guys from A Sight to Remember on September 13th. We're going to hike a few miles of the Kal-Haven Trail and camp on the Black River. I'll hike out Saturday morning and try to cover more than 20 miles per day through Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Pinckney, Pontiac and, finally, Port Huron. To highlight the multi-use aspect of this trail, my buddy Chris Bowman is going to ride all 250 miles on his bike. We're going to arrive in Port Huron together on Saturday, September 28th. I hope that everyone who can, will come out and join me for a minute, a mile or a whole day on the trail:

I will be very proud to hike this trail on behalf of the Burning Boots Trail Club and Pure Michigan and I'll be thrilled to finish this hike at the Wolverine Market in Port Huron to help them celebrate their Oktoberfest. 

The Michigander is a bike ride put on by the MTGA every year.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this hike and this trail. I'll respond to every one.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Next Big Hike

My return trip to Ironwood, MI was amazing. I have developed a sincere fondness for this city and I was excited to be invited back for the Governor of Michigan to dedicate the trailhead of what I refer to as The Ironwood Trail; he called it the Pure Michigan Trail.  There were marching bands and TV interviews and good vibes all around. Some of the crowd had specific messages they were trying to convey to our leadership:

Even the drive up to Ironwood was great. Ten hours with Roger and Sue Storm went by like ten minutes. These two are a wealth of information about hiking in Michigan and Roger did, after all, design the trail that I just hiked.

During my visit, I gave a presentation about my hike at the Maplewood Steakhouse. It was nice to talk trail with an enthusiastic audience and enjoy some Michigan craft beer.

My hosts for this incredible trip were Bob and Annette Burchell at the Classic Motor Inn and my dear friend Lee-Ann Garske from the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority.  She made this entire trip possible, including a ride from Ironwood to Traverse City with my new best friends Denise and Rachel Stephens.

Bob Burchell, Me, Annette Burchell, Lee-Ann Garske

Not only did they get me back downstate, they let me stay at their BEAUTIFUL home right on Long Lake in Traverse City. This was the view out of my window when I woke up in the morning:

I really hope to make it back to Ironwood this winter for the SISU Ski Fest. This part of the state really has a grip on me. Find out why here.

Why? Because up here, even the statues wear a Kromer

Okay, let's get to the reason you clicked on this stupid blog: To see what's next. One project I'm really excited about is called A Sight To Remember. These are visually impaired folks who want to taste the sweet life of the long distance hiker and I want to help them. I'm also working with the MTGA planning a hike of the Great Lake to Lake Trail but my main focus, the thing that leaves me tossing and turning at night, is the mighty Continental Divide Trail. The King of the Trails. Three thousand miles of no-joke hiking. I'll confess right now - I'm intimidated as hell.  Better hikers than I have attempted this trail and been turned away. Come next April, I'd like to give it a shot.

If I made it, I'd forever be known as a 'Triple Crowner'

Think I can do it? Leave me a comment!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Return To Ironwood!

On April 25th of this year, I had the chance to meet Governor Rick Snyder at the capitol in Lansing as part of being nominated for a Governor's Fitness Award. I only had a brief second to shake his hand and say something so I thanked him for proposing the trail from Detroit to Ironwood and said that I intended to be the first one to thru-hike it. He responded politely but probably had more important things on his mind. He'd better! He is, after all, the Governor.

Thanks, Dude!

Now, it looks like I might get the chance to shake his hand again and tell him that I was, indeed, the first person to thru-hike his trail. The good people of Ironwood have worked very hard on a beautiful park and trailhead and Governor Snyder is going to be there on Monday, August 12th to dedicate it. I'm honored to have been invited to return to Ironwood to participate in this event.

I love Ironwood!

Better still, I was offered a ride up there by Roger Storm. Roger is a Trailway Acquisition Specialist  for the DNR and he is actually the man who came up with a rough outline of the trail the Governor proposed. That outline became the graphic that the Free Press printed as the 'proposed trail' and that's the trail that I stuck to. We have many questions for each other so I'm really looking forward to the ride up there.

This  is the trail that Roger came up with...
...that became this graphic printed in the Free Press.

Not sure where I'm going to stay up there or how I'm going to get home. I'll figure that out later. In the meantime, I'm really excited to be returning to Ironwood and seeing the good friends I've made up there. Special thanks to Lee-Ann Garske for making all this happen.

Me and Lee-Ann at the trailhead the Governor is going to dedicate.

I posed this question before and I received some really interesting answers: If I get to see the Governor again, if only for a second, what should I say to him? Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


It's taken me way too long to get back to this blog but I've only been home for a week and it's been filled with friends and family, meals and reunions, pictures and stories.

Here's me with maximum beard and long hair. I couldn't wait to shave this crap off.

Finishing this hike in Ironwood on July 18th was something I will never forget. The welcome I received was just amazing. The main thing I remember about it was this overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  All the people that helped me, all the support, the kindness... It washed over me in a giant wave that lasted for two whole days. I'll make another blog entry thanking people specifically but, for now, let me just describe to you the last couple of days.

Made it!

The main person who made my Ironwood experience so positive is Lee-Ann Garske. She's a member of the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority. She's worked very hard on a beautiful park and a multi-use trailhead right in the middle of town. She contacted me and asked if I could time my hike to arrive on the first day of Festival Ironwood which worked out perfectly for me. She said Ironwood wanted to 'welcome me'. I had no idea what I was in for...

Lee-Ann Garske and me.

I met Lee-Ann and her husband John as well as the Mayor of Ironwood and members of the community a few blocks away from the park. After greetings and handshakes all around, we hiked into town together WITH A POLICE ESCORT! That's right, sirens and waving to people... Drivers pulling over to yell "Are you the guy who hiked here from Detroit? That's awesome!" It was surreal. Most hikes end with a shrug of the shoulders and a murmur of "Glad that's over." Maybe you high-five the guy next to you if you're with someone. When I finished the Appalachian Trail, I was lucky enough to have my faithful Resupply Coordinator, Martha, there and a glass of sparkling grape juice from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for a toast. This, by comparison, was WAY over the top. There were hotel marquis and banners with my name on them. There were hundreds of people at this festival and they all seemed to want to meet me and welcome me to Ironwood. It was overwhelming. Before I knew it, there was a plate of delicious food in front of me and a cold beer in my hand. Seems like the whole town came out for this festival and I felt like the guest of honor. At one point, I was being interviewed by a woman from the local paper when Lee-Ann interrupted "We're going to have to cut this interview short, the mayor is about to introduce him on stage." Who? Me? I don't think I'll ever hear those words again: We're going to have to interrupt the newspaper interview because the mayor is about to introduce him on stage. Amazing.

So I made a short speech and accepted a round of applause and went back to eating and drinking and meeting cool people and answering questions about my hike. Has any other hiker in the world ever had this kind of experience at the end of their hike? I can't imagine so. The only downside was that I was still covered in a thick coating of trail funk. I hadn't showered in weeks. During this hike, I couldn't even soak in a swimming hole or take a hippie shower in the rain because if I exposed my skin for one second, the black flies would tear me to pieces. Thus, I stunk.

After a wonderful evening, I was invited to stay at the Classic Motor Inn owned by Bob and Annette Burchell. It was so nice to take a nice hot shower with real soap and clean towels, to sleep in a nice soft bed and to make use of a fancy flushing toilet. I didn't even have to tie my food in a tree! I wasn't bitten by bugs all night long. I didn't get rained on. I didn't spend 20 minutes in the morning pulling off all the ticks that latched onto me during the night. It was, in a word, comfortable.

Bob Burchell, Me, Annette Burchell and Lee-Ann. This place is awesome and it's right on US2 if you're passing through Ironwood.

I spent the next day checking out Ironwood. What a cool town. The whole Gogebic Range area of Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield in Michigan and Hurley in Wisconsin seems like it's growing. It once had a huge population and mining community but that kinda fell off over the years. Now, families looking for an 'outdoorsy' lifestyle are moving back to the area and tourism is booming.

When they asked me to be a driver for the Soapbox Derby, how could I say "No"?

I spent Saturday evening at Festival Ironwood which had some great live music and more people than ever. I had a bus ride home leaving at 11pm so I tore myself away and headed over to the bus station. The ride home was tough. It's hard to go from the freedom of life on the trail to being cooped up in a giant metal tube but mostly, I was just glad for a way to get home (thanks Sandy Lowe!). I didn't get to Lansing until late Sunday afternoon and, by then, I was ready to be home. Ready to see my family and friends again. Ready to sleep in my own bed.
Thinking back to when I started from Belle Isle on April 26th.

I've got more pictures and stories to tell. I'll post every couple of days until I run out so stayed tuned and please, leave me a comment!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stormy Kromer

When I saw a comment on my blog from Gina Thorsen, daughter of the owner of Stormy Kromer, I was elated. The iconic Stormy Kromer cap was one of my most prized possessions. A gift from my brother Rob. My 'go-to' cap. A symbol of all things Michigan and outdoorsy and tough. You can imagine my heart break when I lost it while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Touring the factory where they makes these caps and getting a replacement one - in the same dark green color - made it all better.
This wall is at the entrance to the factory

They let me sign the wall.
Know who else gets to sign the wall? Governors.
This is Gina and I after she kindly replaced the hat I had lost long ago
I'll post more stories about the hike and arriving in Ironwood soon but I was just so thrilled to visit Stormy Kromer that I had to post this. Feel free to leave a comment here or on the blog on the Stormy Kromer website.