In April 2007 I began my second mega long-distance hike, the Great Western Loop. Unlike the first one, during which I walked east to west across North America, this was predominately a wilderness experience: I linked five existing long-distance trails and a DIY route across the desert Southwest to create a 6,875-mile circumnavigation of the American West.
My slideshow about the journey, recorded in 2008, has been available on my website for many years. But recently Clif R converted it into a video file that I uploaded to YouTube in two parts.
First is the adventure narrative:
And then a related Q&A/FAQ section, which is outdated but still interesting:
Physically, the Great Western Loop was my most impressive thru-hike: I averaged 33 miles per day for 208 days, and took only seven zero days (five for a funeral). It was taxing on my 26 year-old body, but I struggle as a very fit 38-year-old to imagine repeating it, especially if I’d have to sleep on a foam pad again.
The loop has been repeated only once, by Jeff Garmire in 2018. I suspect the need for speed deters interested thru-hikers. It’s 4,550 miles from Kennedy Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail to Chama, New Mexico, on the Continental Divide Trail, and the backpacking season is only 4.5-ish months long, necessitating a pace of about 33 miles per day. Interestingly, Jeff also completed the loop in 208 days.
As I’ve aged and matured, I’ve become much more thankful for the Great Western Loop’s qualitative experience. It afforded me a first-hand perspective of the West’s wilderness, ecology and geology, and its modern use by man. Since first moving here in 2003, I’ve never considered living and playing anywhere else.