Blake Robinson is walking – and occasionally cycling – to 47 national parks nationwide – a 20,000-mile journey he expects will take him three years to complete.
As he approached Moab last week – he was walking the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Moab – he used his mobile phone to talk with the Moab Sun News. He reached Moab on Tuesday, Nov. 14, the 113th day of his journey.
Robinson said his love and appreciation for nature began late in life – at age 35. He claimed he was overweight and smoked cigarettes, when, in 2007, he decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, a national scenic trail of more than 2,000 miles, that goes from Georgia to Maine.
“That event changed my life,” he said. “I’m devoted to exploring beautiful places. Our national parks are the most beautiful places.”
Robinson began his journey on July 25 in Yellowstone National Park, and has already covered more than 1,800 miles. Thus far, he’s visited Wyoming’s Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks in Colorado.
Part of the fun is meeting people along the way, like when he met Moab resident Mia Hyashi on the Pacific Crest Trail. Hyashi, who spent six months hiking the PCT, had offered Robinson a place to stay for a night or two, when he reached Moab.
“I’ve been following his adventure online,” Hyashi said.
Robinson grew up in upstate New York, and spent the last eight years near Aspen, Colorado, where he worked three jobs in the ski industry to save for the adventure he’s dubbed “Walk the Parks.”
His goal, in addition to experiencing an “epic adventure and nature” is to “connect with others on the trail and in towns to spread positivity and the open exchange of ideas.”
“I want to encourage others to chase their dreams – with proper preparation anything is possible, one step at a time,” he said.
Robinson spoke at a Grand Junction middle school, where he and students talked about setting and reaching goals. He said he hopes to connect with other schools along the way.
Robinson walks an average of 20 to 25 miles a day, the weight of his backpack varying, depending on the season and distance between grocery stores and water sources. There have been times when he was forced to carry 12 liters of water and eight days’ worth of food. He saves on fuel by cooking only his evening meal – often macaroni and cheese or ramen, he said.
He eats an energy bar for breakfast; he doesn’t even fire up the stove for coffee.
“I’m naturally high-energy,” he said. “I like to get up and go – especially now that it’s cold. I take a break once it warms up.”
Robinson buys topographic maps along the way, but relies greatly on his iPhone Gaia UPS Ap. The phone also serves as his camera, journal and a device for reading books.
He’s had close encounters with a number of moose, but no bears, thus far. His scariest animal encounter was with an unleashed dog in southern Colorado, who came charging while he was riding a bicycle.
Robinson researches in advance distances between water sources and grocery stores. Occasionally, he caches water along the way.
While a lot of his walking occurs in the backcountry, at times the route takes him along paved roads. He’s following the American Discovery Trail from Moab to Great Basin National Park in Nevada, he said. Then, he’ll head toward the Arizona Trail, Grand Canyon National Park and Petrified Forest National Park, before switching to a bicycle to pedal to Florida. With few public lands along the way, cycling, as opposed to walking, saves on lodging costs, he said.
“My goal is to stay in the wilderness setting for the most part,” though that becomes more difficult in the eastern United States, he said.
Robinson is not sure where he’ll be on Thanksgiving Day – but expects to be near Hite Marina on Lake Powell, he said.
To follow Robinson’s adventures, visit walktheparks.com; Facebook.com/walktheparks; Instagram.com/walktheparks, or Twitter.com/walktheparks.
Blake Robinson aims to inspire others to chase their dreams