Grindin': Planning for the River to River Trail

Unfortunately, working in the west suburbs of Chicago means it's quite a ways to the next decent backpacking trail. Widely known trails are half a country away, but luckily for me, Illinois has a well kept secret within its southern reaches. My next adventure is a traverse of the "Land of Lincoln". Twice.

The River to River Trail, a small section of the sizable American Discovery Trail, spans roughly 160 miles of the southern portion of Illinois. A connection of paths and roads travels from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River by way of the Shawnee National Forest. Little information is available on the trail, but what I have found has been roughly compiled on the River to River Trail Yo-yo page

Getting back to the planning stages of a backpacking trip is a relief; It's been too long since I've done a proper thru-hike. So far I've got two under my belt: the Timberline Trail '12 and Pacific Northwest Trail '14. It's time to add to the list, and with so many trails scattered across America, the options are endless.

Im gathering gear and planning meals and intend to leave on March 22nd for the 5.5 hour drive down to Grand Tower, IL. Here I will leave the car behind and hike 300+ miles out to the Ohio River and back. Hooray for getting time off work! While I'm out there, I will be doing a bit of gear testing for as well. 

After the hike, it's on to Rothschild, WI for the Ice Age Trail Alliance's 2016 Conference where I will network and gather beta for my Ice Age Trail Winter Thru-Hike. The future looks bright! Just moving towards my dream: The National Trails System Thru-Hike


Small Beginnings: Hiking a Dream

I've been dreaming of thru-hiking the National Trails System ever since I finished my first thru-hike on the Pacific Northwest Trail. At first it seemed like a crazy idea. Could I really go hiking for years on end? How would I even begin to plan this? The more I though about it, the more I wanted to go for it, despite the improbability. Currently, after six months of research and planning, I have most of the resupply itinerary and desired route completed. Still, much remains to be done. 

As I plan for the National Trails System Hike, I also will be embarking on adventures from now through my planned start date: January 1st, 2018. Not only will I be doing these smaller hikes simply because I want to, but also to affirm my love of hiking (before setting out for 2+ years) and to gain experience that will increase my chances of success. You can find plans for my future hikes in the projects pages

Putting one foot in front of the other may turn out to be the easiest part of this grand adventure. Compiling the resupply locations, permits needed, gear lists, expenses, historical weather data, and contacts (in addition to raising the funds) could be the hardest part. Time will tell. It seems daunting, but with a hike of this proportion I will take it one thing at a time. I must remember that this is not a race, but a feat of endurance. 

Check back as I give updates on my trips, reveal more of my hiking plans, and set out to hike the National Trails System! 

–Mike Summers

The Pacific Northwest Trail near Priest Lake, Idaho

The Pacific Northwest Trail near Priest Lake, Idaho

For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.
— Henry David Thoreau