The Great Western Loop

The Great Western Loop (GWL) is a 6,875-mile hike through five National Scenic Trails in the Western United States, 12 National Parks, and over 75 wilderness areas. Because it’s a loop, the direction of travel is a hiker’s choice. 

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To date, two hikers reportedly have thru-hiked the GWL in one calendar. Both are highly esteemed backpackers in the hiking community. 

 

will not complete the trek in a calendar year. For one, I have a neurological implant that requires a periodic recharge — I must regularly stop off-trail for this purpose. And, I wholeheartedly embrace the time I’m on a trail. I’m in no rush. For a better understanding, I have divided my trek into five sections. 

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Section 1 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT): The PCT is a 2,650-mile trail spanning from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. 2,180 miles make up the GWL. I have opted to complete the PCT in its entirety as part of the GWL. I choose to start my GWL journey on the PCT.

 

      

L-R: Image 1. Jennifer Tripp and me. She picked me up at the airport. Image 2. A wonderful guy who dropped me off at the trailhead Image 3. Five-mile first-day smile. 

 

On July 28, 2021, I began in Truckee, California, and headed southbound. During this time, I completed the 210 mile John Muir Trail. I became the first neurological implant recipient to climb Mt. Whitney before ending my journey at Grand Army Pass due to California closures of the National Parks and Forest Service. 

 

 

Next on the GWL is a 900 miles section known as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ across the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Ending the PCT earlier than expected put me in this region sooner than anticipated, leaving me at extreme health risks and possible weather-related fatality. 

Here’s where some die-hard hiking purist would argue that I am not entitled to count this section. But, I’m not on a mission to conquer Nature, so I rented a car. YES, I rented a car. I completed these sections as night hikes (it was too hot to hike during the day). Transitioning from day hikes to night hikes threw my sleep schedule off. The section I enjoyed the most was Joshua Tree National Park. I hit the park during daylight hours. Regarding barriers, renting a car was costly, and public transportation in that area was non-existent. 

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Many folks believe that Black folks are afraid to hike alone at night. I imagine those are the same folks that think Black folks don’t hike in general. Well, Black folks hike too. And I’m not fearful of the dark – nor were my ancestors. Are you familiar with the original thru-hiker Harriet Tubman? Look her up! 

Utilizing a car – allowed me to complete this section within a week, allowing me time to explore and camp in Death Valley, National Park.

     

   

 

 I traveled to Great Basin National Park in Nevada for some stargazing. I spent time with the Great Basin Bristlecone Pines, the oldest non-clonal species on the planet, and climbed Wheeler Peak. Before traveling to Utah to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. 

   

      

 

I drove to Arizona spent a day at Antelope Canyon and another at Horseshoe Bend before returning the car in Page, Arizona. I met a trail angel who dropped me off at the Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail in Knabb, Utah. 

After completing the AZT, I will return to the PCT, starting in Agua, Dulce, in the spring of 2022. From Agua Dulce, I will hike to Kennedy Meadows South (CA). Hitch with a lovely trail angel, passerby, or whoever is kind enough to get me to a train or bus station. From there, I’ll return to Truckee (CA) and head north on the PCT (upon successful completion, I’ll continue to Section 3). 

 

Section 2 The Arizona Trail (AZT): The AZT is an 800-mile trail from Utah to Mexico. I started in Utah on September 20, 2021. Only 316 miles of the AZT comprises the GWL. I intend to complete the trail in its entirety. During the 2021 leg of my journey, I finished the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike with a night at Phantom Ranch, becoming the first neurological implant recipient to do so.

     

        

      

 

My time on the AZT ended abruptly as my pack began ripping through my flesh just over my implant battery placement — the pain coupled with a poor diet caused complications, making it unsafe for me to continue the hike. I ended the 2021 season of the GWL on October 21, 2021, at roughly mile 400 on the AZT. A little south of Payson, AZ. I will pick back up here in the spring of 2022. 

 

Section 3 Pacific Northwest Trail (PNWT):  The PNWT is 1,200 miles. I have no plans to complete the trail in its entirety, only the 750 miles of the GWL. I intend to complete this section after completing the PCT in 2022 and returning home.

 

 

In the spring of 2023, the final leg of my GWL will commence. 

Section 4 Grand Enchantment Trail (GET): 212 miles across the wild Southwest USA. I will begin the final leg of my GWL trek on the GET. The GET is a 770-mile trail. It’s the only trail I know I will not hike in total, for a fact. Why? I don’t feel a reason to, and that’s my only answer. 

 

Section 5 Continental Divide Trail (CDCT): . I haven’t decided if I will complete the full 3,100 miles of CDCT, of which the GWL comprises 2,700 miles. I will be 43 years young when I hike this section of the GWL. While young in spirit, even with the wonderful advancement in technology, my body might not be up for the full 3,100 miles of the CDCT. 

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