Colin Fletcher’s 1000 Mile Summer Revisited

Hiking the Length of California

by Andreas M. Cohrs

Colorado River

Overlooking the Colorado River

Be it fate or happenstance, while perusing a flea market's varied offerings I came across a 99¢ copy of an old book, The Thousand-Mile Summer, written by acclaimed author, environmentalist, and backpacking icon, the late Colin Fletcher. Fletcher was best known as the author of The Complete Walker, the comprehensive guide to backpacking that Field and Stream magazine has called ‘the hiker’s Bible’.

The Thousand-Mile Summer documents Fletcher’s adventurous walk across the length of California, from Mexico to the Oregon border, a journey he undertook in 1958. I was so inspired reading about his contemplative hike through the deserts and the Sierra that I decided to celebrate with a 50th-anniversary voyage. I vowed to retrace Fletcher’s footsteps and find out if he was right in stating that “this trip could never be repeated”.

Through a chain of the most incredible events, I gained access to Fletcher’s belongings and was therefore able to retrace the exact route based on his original maps and notes, and hundreds of photos.

So in 2008 once again, a walker set out to “take a look at America”, comparing Fletcher’s observations from 50 years ago with an updated point of view. I repeated The Walker’s hitherto untraceable thousand-mile journey along the lengthy spine of California, across enchanting deserts and over a snow-laden High Sierra.

I was further aided by the detailed maps that Fletcher’s cartographer David Lindroth drew of the journey through one of the most varied and fascinating regions on our planet. I was lucky to be able to follow their trails and adventures, and to capture the spirit of that trip once again.

Some say that God’s last work was the deserts, and after he created those he ran out of ideas, failing creativity. After weeks along the Colorado River and then walking into the Mojave, I would say that after finishing the easy and convenient stuff like paradisiacal tropics, pleasant temperate zones, and endless tundra and taiga forests, God was indeed inspired when he created the desert.

He must have felt challenged and defiant when shaping these desert mountains, canyons, and mesas, populating them with some of the most unusual and eccentric creatures of this planet, which applies to plants, animals, and people alike.

The Californian deserts have little in common with most people’s idea of the desert as badlands. Despite their reputation for supporting very little life, I found rich flora and fauna, which have adapted to these harsh conditions. As an excuse for other arid regions in the world, from all deserts on our planet, I believe the Californian is in fact one of the lushest, most scenic, most populated and biologically most diverse of all.

Here are a few of the pictures I took on the trip. I also wrote a book about the trip and have included Fletcher's fine detailed maps and 150 full color pictures.


The Coyote

New York Mountains in San Bernardino County, CA

New York Mountains in San Bernardino County in California

Bristlecone pines

Bristlecone Pines
High Sierra

High Sierra


Leaving the High Sierra


Hi Noon in Bodie, CA

Walker River

Along the Walker River

Read the whole story in Andreas Cohr's book - California Serendipity – In Desert And High Sierra - Includes 150 full color pictures, detailed maps with each chapter, and an addendum about the equipment used.


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