Wanna help me hike?

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.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Done and done!

I made it! I arrived in Ironwood on Thursday, July 18th to a wonderful reception. The good people of Ironwood really welcomed me to town. I have so much to blog about but I just got home (to Taylor). I'll tell the whole story and post pics soon. I'm happy to be home and filled with gratitude to all the people who made this hike possible. Thank you! More coming soon!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Seems like it took me forever to get to here from Marquette. Some of that was weather related, some of it was me getting 'temporarily displaced' (we hikers don't call it 'lost') and some of it was tough trail (see the entry on bushwhacking). When I finally emerged from the woods and started walking the roads into town, I met Bill and Shari Kayramo. Really cool people. A few miles later I wound up at their home, meeting their wonderful family, eating sub sandwiches and drinking cold beer. They were kind to a complete stranger for no other reason than just to be kind. Their son runs a great printing business so, if you need promotional products, silkscreen, embroidery, vinyl graphics... anything, call this guy:

                               Joe Kayramo
                      Homestead Graphics and Design

I spent the night on the edge of town and got an early start so I could visit the Hilltop Bakery before getting my resupply from the post office. They sell a sweet roll that's as big as my head!  I ate it in about two bites and licked the plate clean.

At the post office, I picked up a perfectly packed resupply box (Quarterback Martha hands off to running back Wolverine for the touchdown!) and a box from my friends at Moosejaw: a new backpack and trekking poles to get me through to the end of this hike! Thanks so very much to Tom Miedema and Perry Keydel. They are hikers who help hikers and it is much appreciated.

Things kept getting better: Bob Dudo and his family at Java By The Bay literally called me in off the street to enjoy a fantastic sandwich and some really fine coffee. They were so kind and generous. They let me hang out, let a local reporter do an interview for the newspaper and, perhaps kindest of all, let me stay in their pop-up camper that looks out over the beautiful Keweenaw Bay. What a great day.

Tomorrow, I can't wait to get back to the trail. I heard that sweet trail and waterfalls await me as I hike on toward Rockland. It's gonna be awesome!

Monday, July 1, 2013


Bushwhacking is a term that hikers use to mean crossing rough terrain where there is no trail. Sometimes we do it because we lose the trail and sometimes we do it to get from one trail or trail segment to another. I've had to do a fair share of it on this hike and I've learned from it. That's a good thing because bushwhacking is a skill that I'll need if I hope to complete the mighty Continental Divide Trail next year. Here's what I've learned about bushwhacking:

1) Avoid it if you can. Bushwhacking is hard on your body and on your gear. You'll cover less ground and use more of your resources (food, fuel and water). I also believe you run a higher risk of injury. If you can road walk or take a different trail around an area where there is no defined trail - even if it's WAY around, it's probably worth it.

2) Keep your cool. After eight hours of pushing through thick Michigan woods, I was so tired that I was shaking. I was ready to be done but there was nowhere to sit down, let alone set up a tent. Unfortunately, you can't just stop when you want to and that can create a sense of panic. You can ease this feeling by making sure you have the basics covered: stay hydrated, check your map and compass often so you can (if possible) know where you are and where you want to be. Try to keep your situation in context: if you hike enough miles, eventually you'll wind up bushwhacking. It's a part of long distance hiking. Relax, do your best to get through it and try to learn from the experience.

3) Pick a compass heading and stick to it. If you can, head for a body of water. Both for a source of hydration and as a topographical landmark. When something unexpected gets in your way (like a swamp or bush that's literally too thick to push through), you'll have to adjust and go around but try to stick to the original plan. Resist to the temptation to repeatedly change your direction simply out of frustration.

Even when I knew I had to bushwhack a section to get to the next part of my trail, I still found it incredibly difficult. I sprained my wrist, broke a trekking pole and wore myself out mentally and physically.  But I'm proud of myself for making it through and for learning from it. I'm blown away when I read about guys like Andrew Skurka hiking hundreds of miles in places where there is no clearly defined trail.  I now look at it as a skill that I continually need to sharpen. Perhaps best of all, when you finally do get back to regular, blazed trail, you'll feel like you're flying!

Got a good bushwhacking story? Leave me a comment!


Martha Here:
I want to thank all the kind and generous people who donated food and/or money to Chris's hike:
Dustin Newman
Jason Phelps--Hee Haw
Susie Hollyer
Lee-Ann Garske
Jeff Kindy
Scott Williams
Lorana Jinkerson
Carol Machak
Tim and Ellen Hass