Cape Breton man’s epic American hike sees him travel 6,300 kilometres in 175 days

SaltWire (November 15, 2022) by Christopher Connors

Colin MacDougall never even went camping until two years ago. However, that didn’t stop the Howie Centre man from setting out on an epic adventure in which he hiked more than 6,300 kilometres in 175 days, crossing five U.S. states and ascending nearly 2,000 kilometres in total elevation.

“Honestly, I’m not sure why I did it,” the 25-year-old software and web developer told the Cape Breton Post. “I think I kind of felt like challenging myself and building resilience. I’m kind of new to camping and hiking in general so I thought it’d be kind of cool just to also show people that this isn’t something you have to work at your whole life — this is something you can build your way up to even if it’s later on in your life.”

Travelling light

With only a backpack, tent, rain jacket, some food, water and a camera, MacDougall started off on a solo hike in California on the Pacific Crest Trail, which took him along the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges through Oregon and Washington. After two weeks, he met some other hikers and then hiked with a person from Alabama until the end of his trip. He didn’t sleep in a tent until he reached Oregon, sleeping cowboy-style on a thin mat under the stars for the first 2,721 km and about 89 days.

Once he completed the Pacific Crest Trail, MacDougall flew to Colorado to take on the Colorado Trail then hitch-hiked from Durango, Colo., through four states to start the Arizona Trail.

Arduous Arizona

He said it was the most difficult part of his journey.

With his visa set to expire, he didn’t shower, sleep in a bed or take a rest day for 32 days as he had to cover 1,270 kilometres.

“I was really tested in Arizona. I was brought to tears a couple times kind of questioning why I was out here doing this because I initially only set out to do the Pacific Crest Trail, which is from Mexico to Canada through three states. And then after that, I decided to do two more states. So Arizona was the last state — I didn’t take any breaks really, no resting and that brought me to tears one day — Arizona was definitely the most challenging trail for me.”

There were, of course, other challenges.

MacDougall went through six pairs of shoes and lost 25 pounds, dropping from 165 pounds to 140 pounds.

Wildlife encounters

In addition, there were encounters with venomous tarantulas and black widow spiders, wild hogs, bears and cougars.

“We had a bear that wasn’t afraid of us, which was very concerning at one point and we also ran into some mountain lions while night-hiking, which was also really scary. We could only see their eyes glowing and when they ran away from us after we screamed at them, you couldn’t hear a peep from them — they didn’t make a sound — so that was pretty nerve-wracking.”

Since returning home on Oct. 20, MacDougall said he’s had some trouble adjusting to normal life.

“Everybody pointed out beforehand, and I read about that when you get home you’re going to feel extremely weird. I kind of thought, ‘Ah, I’ll be fine,’ I was in a great routine before I left but when I got home I kind of didn’t exactly know what to do with myself and I kind of still don’t. I kind of jokingly described to people that I’m just existing — I’m like a plant just sitting there and I need food and water and sunlight but other than that I’m not doing much.”

However, it hasn’t discouraged him from setting out on another adventure.

“Actually I have a plane ticket booked to New Zealand for three weeks so I’m going to go hike 3,000 kilometres across New Zealand.”


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