An Oregon Man Is Walking Thousands of Miles Across the U.S. to Develop a 12,000-mile Cross-country Hiking Trail

Oregon backpacker Rue Mckenrick is on a mission to map out America's most ambitious hiking trail.

While many of us have been binge-watching Netflix at home, Rue Mckenrick has been on an ambitious thousands-of-miles-long journey to map out what he hopes will become the longest scenic hiking route in the U.S.

Mckenrick envisions a 12,000-mile loop connecting the Pacific Crest Trail with the Appalachian Trail and has been circumnavigating the U.S. on foot alone for months to bring his vision closer to reality. His goal, he says on his website, is “to encourage conservation efforts through recreation.”

Mckenrick started his journey in Bend, Oregon, in June 2019 and has since walked through the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. The self-proclaimed professional backpacker has logged more than 8,000 miles and averages between 20 and 30 miles each day.

He’s developed a routine: Each morning he wakes up, packs up his campsite, and charts his route for the day, he told Fox 17 during a stop in Michigan last month.

A young woman takes in the view from the top of Mount Abraham, along the Appalachian Trail in Maines western mountains.
Getty Images/Aurora Open

As parts of the U.S. were shutting down to stem the spread of COVID-19, Mckenrick continued walking alone. Instead of stopping in towns to resupply, he picked up supply packages at rural post offices, so that he could further socially distance himself along his journey. He also sidestepped the popular Appalachian Trail in favor of less-crowded options.

“I forewent laundry, showers, hot meals, and humans for a few months. It was a success,” he said in an update posted to his website.

Some of Mckenrick’s route covers existing trails, but he’s forging other parts himself, using just a map, compass, and GPS. On Tuesday, he posted a photo on his Facebook page from a rocky shore of Lake Superior in Michigan. From Lake Superior, Mckenrick will traverse the northern U.S. en route back to Bend, Oregon.

Eventually, Mckenrick hopes his proposed American Perimeter Trail, which loosely traces the perimeter of the U.S., will one day become an iconic destination just like the Appalachian Trail.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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