Colin Fletcher’s 1000 Mile Summer Revisited
Hiking the Length of California
by Andreas M. Cohrs
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.
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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The Saguaro Video
The Saguaro often begins life in the shelter of a "nurse" tree or shrub which can provide a shaded, moister habitat for the germination of life. The Saguaro grows very slowly -- perhaps an inch a year -- but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet.
Desert Food Chain Video
A food chain constitutes a complex network of organisms, from plants to animals, through which energy, derived from the sun, flows in the form of organic matter and dissipates in the form of waste heat.
Prickly pear cactus Video
Prickly pear cactus are found in all of the deserts of the American Southwest. Most prickly pears have large spines on their stems and vary in height from less than a foot to 6 or 7 feet.
Click here to see current desert temperatures!
DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. Learn about desert biomes while you discover how desert plants and animals learn to adapt to the harsh desert environment. Find travel information about national parks, state parks, BLM land, and Southwest cities and towns located in or near the desert regions of the United States. Access maps and information about the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert.