Paul Magnanti wanted to do something different that has never been done before, so he planned a walk across Utah from the Nevada to the Colorado borders and made up his own 600-mile route.
It took two pairs of shoes and 33 days.
An experienced thru-hiker, he said “Why go?” is the question people ask him the most about his trips. On March 14 he delivered a presentation at Star Hall in Moab to talk about his motives and share photographs.
Illustrating his motive was a slide with a quote in John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.”
“‘Once a bum, always a bum,’” he joked. “‘I fear this disease is incurable.’”
“I tried doing the normal thing,” he added. “I worked my IT job that somehow became a career.”
Magnanti, a guide at Hike Moab, said his “A Walk Across Southern Utah” presentation wasn’t to shed much light on the latest or most favorable gear for making the trip.
“As an outdoors person, my favorite thing is not the gear … or the cool adventures I can do,” he said. “It is the gift of time.”
He carried minimal gear, a camera, and five types of maps to plot out a rough idea of his route. With no schedule in mind, he set out in mid-October to wander over a combination of public lands, trails and roads.
He described walking from the Pine Valley Mountains to St. George, and through the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. He ventured to the Henry Mountains and the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park before heading across the Utah-Colorado border toward Gateway.
He said that he felt a sense of gratitude for the quietness of the remote wilderness.
He wasn’t always alone.
“Trail magic,” back in the day, meant acts of spontaneous kindness left on the trails, he said. The idea of trail magic has changed over the years, he said, referencing runners’ aid stations, but he did experience at least one “old-school original trail magic.”
“I’m walking and a couple go by me in their car and they thought nothing of me,” Magnanti said. “Just a guy with a beard, looks a little grungy, but I got to the picnic table and I’m kind of eating my lunch and they come on over and are like, ‘What are you doing out here?’”
He said he “always keeps it simple.”
“I’m just backpacking,” he told them.
When they realized he was a thru-hiker and didn’t have a car in sight, they offered a cold beer.
Paul Magnanti shares his ‘Once a bum, always a bum’ philosophy