Love the West

I approached the South Rim of the Grand Canyon as an 18 year old about to go to college. Even in the darkness, I saw the great gaping hole of the Grand Canyon and my jaw dropped. Later in the day as my legs cramped up, I was much less impressed with the big stupid hole in the ground, but I never forgot the first moment nature overpowered me in awe.

Grand Canyon, years after my jaw drop

I stood on Table Rock reaching my hand out across the valley towards the Tetons. I reached out because of an optical illusion that made it seem like I could touch them from where I stood. I kept grasping knowing that it was hopeless, but I couldn't help myself. Somehow this warm-up stood out far above the next weekend when I climbed two 14 thousand foot peaks in Colorado.

My first time looking at the Tetons from Table Rock

As I approached Red Pass during Sunset on the PCT in 2016, the sky turned bright red and Glacier Peak stood out like a crown jewel. Arriving at Red Pass after dark, I saw a group of people who camped there. We uttered unintelligible mutterings at each other while pointing fingers, each of us with complete comprehension of what the others were saying. Two years later, at the same location, I saw another amazing sunset where clouds danced in the sky with balls of mist glowing different shades of yellow, orange, and red. That time, I saw a southbound hiker from England camped on Red Pass and we uttered unintelligible mutterings at each other while pointing fingers still obtaining complete comprehension (unfortunately, I didn't capture what was happening effectively).

Glacier Peak at Sunset

On my first ever 50 mile backpacking trip, on the final morning started hiking through a forest. It was the most beautiful backpacking trip of my life with a couple views as good as anything I had ever seen. Walking through the forest, I started to hate the trees because they obscured the view of the granite cliffs that looked to dominate the area. Suddenly, I popped out into a meadow and for the first time, I saw the granite pinnacles in the morning light that broke my natural beauty scale I had in my head. Energy surged through my body as I reacted to a sight my imagination couldn't totally comprehend.

My most magical nature experience taking place

All of these moments happened in the geographic region I call the West.

It all started with my Dad. He loved the West. By that, he meant the Western United States. I grew up hearing him talk about the Corps of Discovery and mountain men like John Colter and Jedediah Smith. He told me about the Native Americans who lived here before us White people took it over.

Dad on top on an unnamed peak in Wyoming

I had moments of rebellion against this, but in the end he won. He introduced me to my favorite book, Centennial. My love for the West grew. Living in Southeastern Idaho, I traipsed around mountains primarily of Idaho and Wyoming, and the desert of Utah. My love for the West grew.

Eventually, I needed more than I could attain as a weekend warrior using the occasional vacation time for a week of wilderness. So, I hiked the PCT in 2016 and fell in love with long distance hiking. That spurred me to attempt a Calendar Year Triple Crown, hiking the PCT, CDT, and AT in the same calendar year. Instead, I finished the AT in early 2019 for a Single Year Triple Crown. That experience confirmed my love for the West.

During my time on the AT, I met Philip Carcia who was attempting an FKT grid for the 4,000 foot peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That meant that he climbed all 48 peaks each month for 12 consecutive months. Actually, he had so much fun that he continued for an extra two months. The reason for this devotion to the Whites was his absolute love for the Whites.

I like the Whites, I don't love them. I do love that Philip loves them so much to devote a year of his life to them. This has inspired a woman to do the same thing, but she is gridding the South Beyond 6,000 feet mountains in the southern Appalachians. Once again, I do not love those mountains, but I do love that Caet Cash loves them enough to grid them.

I love the West. I mean mostly the geographic region.

In Utah, I kept seeing bumper stickers saying Protect Wild Utah. This got me obsessed with the idea of wild. I asked a friend of mine about the AT which she had recently hiked most of and one of her criticisms was that it wasn't very wild. I smiled at this sentiment, but thought, I don't think its very wild in the West either. Only once in almost 8,000 miles of hiking did I feel like I was in a location where it would have turned into a true survival situation if something bad happened.

During my Single Year Triple Crown, I had this idea: hike the Arizona Trail then continue through Utah and Nevada to the Idaho Centennial Trail, which I would then follow to the Canadian border. Evidently, this has been done before and a few other people are thinking of doing this.

Based on my Single Year Triple Crown, it didn't seem like this would take a full hiking season to accomplish this. I decided to add on a couple more trails, then a couple routes, all of them in the West and all of them I want to hike at some point. Pretty soon, I only had one state from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean I didn't have covered. Now the final idea took shape.

This is my announcement of my next long distance hike which will start in early March. I plan to attempt what I'm calling a Love the West Tour. Here are the rules I will try to follow:

  1. Hike at least 100 miles in all 11 states from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

  2. Hike at least 6,000 miles

  3. Hike from Mexico to Canada using the Arizona Trail, a route I create through Utah and Nevada, and the Idaho Centennial Trail.

  4. Hike fewer than 300 miles on road.

  5. For every mile I hike on road, hike at least two miles off-trail.

I'm not sure goals 4 and 5 are realistic. In fact, I'm not sure goals 1 and 2 are either. I love the West, I hope to find wild on this hike, and I hope to have more experiences where natural beauty overpowers me.

This is as much detail as I will go into at this time. If you want to see precisely what I have in mind, follow my trek as I bounce around attempting hike a bunch of different trails and routes trying to find wild and devoting the better part of a year to the geographic region I love.

For this hike, I will mostly post on Instagram and Facebook. I won't have the time or energy to write a good blog and the workarounds I attempted on the SYTC didn't work very well. Instagram and Facebook provide platforms where it will be easier for me to post and you can follow along.