The trek concluded this month as unpresumptuously as it started in June, with Jim Mayberger and Simon Cordial simply loading their weary bodies and their well-worn hiking equipment into a U.S. Forest Service truck after walking across the U.S.-Mexico border.
No fanfare, despite the fact that the two had just completed a four-month, 2,400-mile inaugural trek along the proposed Great Western Trail, which stretches through five Western states between Canada and Mexico.The two men survived hardships ranging from broken pack frames to bears demolishing their night camp and finished the journey in 137 days, more than two weeks earlier than planned.
Before returning home to Glen Cove, N.Y., Mayberger made a stop at the home of Provo resident Monroe Gallier, who not only is credited with conceiving the Great Western Trail but also doubles as the state volunteer coordinator. Meanwhile, Cordial is back hitchhiking from coast to coast, this time trying to track down his application for a visa extension.
The two, who had become acquainted several years earlier as Cordial rested in a park, were dropped off June 1 at the U.S.-Canada border, near Priest Lake, Idaho. They finished their trek Oct. 15. Along the way they replenished their food supply with packages that had been sent to post-office boxes along the route, from Clark Fork, Idaho, to Blue, Ariz.
Mayberger and Cordial planned their route through Idaho, Utah and Arizona, although alternate northern trails are available in Montana and Wyoming. The two are the first people known to have covered the proposed route.
"Until it's walked, it's just lines on a map, but it's a trail now as far as I'm concerned," said Mayberger.
The two hikers had reached Utah in early August, with the Uinta National Forest a midpoint of sorts for the 2,400-mile trail. The two stayed at Gallier's home for a couple of days while Mayberger rested up from an illness believed to have been caused by drinking bad water. The stop was also necessitated by Cordial needing to replace a broken pack frame.
For the first half of the trip, the two traveled in the remote high mountains of Idaho - Mayberger's favorite stretch of the route - where water was plentiful and contact with civilization was rare. In fact, the two didn't see another human for 31 days, and people thought they were traveling vaga bondswhen they stopped in town to pick up their next food package.
As a result of the media attention given the two when in Utah, Mayberger and Cordial were often recognized and encouraged by fellow hikers, such as those along the Skyline Drive route in the Manti National Forest.
Ironically, the southern stretch was quite cold, compared to the extreme heat encountered along the northern section of the trail. And it was only a few days from the trek's end when Mayberger and Cordial's campsite was demolished by a bear one night.
However, the mere routine of walking day in and day out was both physically demanding and mentally taxing _ it soon became the greatest hardship facing the pair. "The action of walking became kind of monotonous _ but not the trip, mind you," admitted Mayberger. "We managed to get through the aches and pains that lasted from Canada to Mexico."
Each paid about $5,000 for the hike and the necessary preparations. Much of Mayberger's funds went toward maps, research and food, while Cordial had to outfit himself with packing equipment for his first-ever major hike.
While much of the Great Western Trail is already in place in Utah and Arizona, Idaho officials hope to complete their segment of the north-south trail by the state's centennial celebration in 1990. Much of the same route that Mayberger and Cordial hiked this summer will be used by the state.
The two hikers were given volunteer status by the U.S. Forest Service, with Mayberger forwarding his research and findings to the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the states' departments of transportation to help the grass-roots development of the Great Western Trail. His logs included information on trail conditions, general feasibility, areas needing improvement, alternate routes and recreational opportunities.
He said he sees the trail gaining national stature within three years.