A Man for All Terrains
Woodstock Hiker Earns Triple Crown
Pete Michelinie, of Woodstock, stops for a rest at Lake McDonald in Montana's Glacier National Park. Michelinie recently completed the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail to finish the "triple crown" of long distance trails in the U.S. (Courtesy photograph)
Bridgewater — Pete Michelinie is a man of all terrains.
Last autumn, the 27-year-old completed the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, making him one of fewer than 175 registered hikers to complete the U.S. “triple crown” of long distance hikes. The Woodstock resident had already completed the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail and the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail during previous excursions.
Michelinie, who will receive a plaque of recognition from the American Long Distance Hiking Association for his accomplishment, recently shared stories from his adventures with patrons at the Woodstock Center Corr Center Library.
“I just feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do all of these,” said Michelinie, an Andover, Mass., native who now crafts fine furniture with a company in the Bridgewater Mill. “After graduating from (Boston’s North Bennet School in 2008), I had the time to do it — no mortgage, no family, no credit cards — and just wanted to jump on it while I could.”
Inspired by former Hanover resident Bill Bryson’s popular book A Walk In the Woods, Michelinie set out on the AT the summer after graduating from North Bennet.
While rollicking over the Green Mountains along the eastern seaboard, Michelinie developed mental strategies to help guide him along the long trek.
“I learned to break up the journey and think of it in terms of a series of realistic goals,” Michelinie said. “Your job is to walk to your destination, but you don’t have to think of the end destination (reaching the AT’s northern terminus at Maine’s Mount Katahdin).
Hiking the AT in the summer inevitably becomes a social event for most — with up to 2 million users and thousands of through hikers each year, it’s hard to avoid company — and it was while conversing with a hiking party in Virginia that Michelinie learned of the other two trails. A couple of years later, he set out on the Pacific Crest Trail, a west coast path traversing the highest portions of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges through California, Oregon and Washington.
“It’s a lot different from hiking the AT,” Michelinie noted. “The views are spectacular; you can see straight in front of you for hundreds of miles, see the peaks of mountains you won’t reach for three or four days.
“There aren’t any hardwood areas and you’re not hiking through a canopy (of woodlands). A lot of it is desert, so sun protection is really important.”
Michelinie was glad he’d experienced the AT and PCT before setting out on the Continental Divide Trail, traversing New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana over the Rocky Mountains.
The longest and youngest of the three, the CDT is only considered about 70 percent complete and lacks the ample blazing and clearly defined paths of its coastal cousins.
Planning and navigation skills were vital along the path last summer for Michelinie.
“On the AT, I didn’t bother having anything mailed to myself (at post offices in towns along the way),” he said. “It was easy enough where you would either pass by stores or hitchhike into town. That wasn’t the case as much on the PCT, and especially not on the CDT. If you didn’t plan ahead and mail yourself (provisions), you might pass a place where there was a post office and a gas station. If all you had was the gas station, you might end up eating pop tarts for five days. You can do that, but it’s not very fun.”
While climbing the steep and rugged terrain of the Rockies, Michelinie said he was motivated by the idea of getting to the next town and acquiring his next box of supplies. Yet once he got them, he was eager to set back out on the trail.
“Again, you’re trying to break up the trip in your mind, and (getting to the next town) drives you a little bit. But once you get there and get your stuff, maybe get a shower somewhere and something to eat, after a couple of hours you just feel like you have to get back out there.”
Many Appalachian Trail through hikers boast of their appreciation of “trail magic” — acts of generosity by people in the towns that the trail passes through. While that may be less of a phenomenon along the under-established CDT, Michelinie found no shortage of kind gestures along the way.
“I was with someone in a really isolated area and we were essentially blazing our own trail with our compasses and GPS,” he said. “It was kind of the middle of nowhere, but we still met some people who were really nice and we sat down and had a beer with. It seems like no matter how isolated you are, you can always meet good people.”
As for his favorite, Michelinie said that he couldn’t choose. He would recommended that anyone else setting out to complete the triple crown do so in the order that he selected — the Appalachian Trail followed by the Pacific Coast Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.
“It’s kind of like going through elementary school, and then middle school and high school,” Michelinie said. “If you flipped them around, it would be pretty weird.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.