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Hiker’s Toehold on History

Brian Robinson of San Jose went for a hike in January and wound up last weekend, 7,371 miles later, on the snowy summit of Maine’s Mt. Katahdin. Robinson, a 40-year-old engineer, did what no one else has ever done, or possibly even tried. He hiked the length of the three national scenic trails--the Pacific Crest, the Continental Divide and the Appalachian--within a year. In 10 months, in fact, averaging about 30 miles a day on the Pacific and Continental legs, and gulping 6,000 calories daily.

Why? Well, you know. George Mallory covered that when he talked about climbing Mt. Everest. The New York Times reported that when Robinson reached the snowy summit of Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Robinson threw his arms in the air and shouted, “I did the impossible.”

People do hike these trails just because they are there, assembled piece by piece by dedicated hikers and public servants over the years. The Pacific Crest Trail goes from Mexico to British Columbia, following the High Sierra part of the way; the Continental Divide runs up the backbone of the Rockies through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and the Appalachian from Georgia to Maine. Hiking from border to border or from Georgia to Maine through some of the nation’s most rugged and scenic territory offers a sense of achievement and completeness.

But Robinson’s feat is in a category all its own.

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He trained and planned meticulously for two years, plotting food caches along the trails and running up to 90 miles a week. He pared his backpack weight in winter to a remarkable 19 pounds, 13 in summer. He spent less than $10,000 on his three-pronged trek.

Robinson did have to take buses between the three north-south trails. That little flaw could be remedied with an East-West transcontinental trail system. The enduring benefit of Robinson’s accomplishment may be to give new life to a bill languishing in Congress, S. 1069, that would aid land acquisition for nine proposed trails in a transcontinental system.


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