Friday, November 27, 2020

Blazing the 12,000-mile American Perimeter Trail has been a risky proposition for a hiker from Oregon

McKendrick (Photo by Ryan Brennecke, Bend Bulletin)
Creating the longest American hiking trail can be a risky proposition, as a 40-year-old man from Bend, Oregon, has discovered in 15 months of trying to blaze the American Perimeter Trail, which would be a route of 12,000 miles or so connecting the four corners (loosely defined) of the contiguous states.

"He had guns pulled on him twice in Texas. A tree fell on him in Michigan while he was sleeping in a hammock. In North Dakota, driving snowstorms and a severe illness finally brought Rue McKendrick’s 15-month long trek around the United States to an end," at least for the time being, reports Mark Morical of The Bulletin in Bend, Oregon.

APT coordinator Leilah Grace told Morical that the goal of the APT is “a protected corridor of land and natural resources available for recreational use roughly tracing the continental United States.”

The trail uses several existing trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Arizona Trail, and McKenrick used much of them, but in Texas there is little public land, and "Twice he had to talk his way out of confrontations as folks pulled guns on him for trespassing on their property."

In March, when McKenrick crossed the Mississippi River into Natchez, "He found it odd that the town was completely empty. Busy hiking and with little access to news, he had not heard about the pandemic. . . . The Appalachian Trail was closed due to the pandemic, so McKenrick followed his own route on the west side of the mountain range. . . . After slogging his way across Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, he eventually turned west into Ohio.

“Before I crossed into Michigan I had a tree fall on me and I broke a toe,” he said. “I was asleep in a hammock when it happened. It was a bad storm and the tree knocked me clean out. It hit me in the head and I also separated my shoulder.” He "nursed himself back to health in a hotel for four or five days," but "by the time he reached Duluth, Minnesota, he was extremely sick with a stomach ailment," Morical writes. :He went to a hospital where he got an IV and some medications. He headed back out yet again but as he got closer to Montana, the snow, the cold and his illness became too much."

McKendrick plans to complete the loop in the spring, again with the help of hiking-gear outfits that are sponsoring him. And he hopes the pandemic will have eased.

“It was more about the people before covid hit,” McKenrick told Morical. “After that it changed dramatically. I don’t look at backpacking as much as a sport as I do an art. When I was traveling through the South and Southeast before covid, I was running into all these microcultures, which were just fascinating. America is a lot more diverse culturally. It’s something that you can see when you’re traveling at the speed of walking. It’s easier to see these things and to meet these people.”

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