Hi there, mate," he said with an odd accent. It was a New Zealander named Luigi Paroli and two nephews from Australia. They had excitedly joined a small group of us in Grand Junction last September, just in time for the Legends unveiling of the Operation Foresight sculpture.
We all got pretty well acquainted with the trio. Luigi and two nephews had left the Aspen area after hiking Maroon Bells, Pearl Pass and several other high altitude trails. Oh, on the way to Aspen they had walked the Grand Canyon for a week or so, too.
After the unveiling, they left Grand Junction for California where they spent the next few weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Evidently, they are serial hikers. Sort of like many of us who are happy to be part of the Colorado lifestyle, where there is boundless outdoor beauty with readily available winter and summer sports.
Now, if you're a bit tired of the cold and gloom, you will enjoy following their current adventure. I guarantee it!
Go to this website - http://whereisluigi.blogspot.co.nz/
It's called "The Long Pathway."
Luigi is a remarkable Kiwi who obviously likes to hike. And not just a day hike either.
The Long Pathway is his walk, along with nephew Sam, to become the first to traverse the new Te Araroa Trail across all of New Zealand. It is 2,000 miles long and not for the faint of heart. Sort of like our own Continental Divide Trail. Oh, yeah, Luigi has hiked that too.
Luigi's venture is also raising money for Special Olympics.
Where has he walked before this special New Zealand walkabout?
Well, he reports that "along with brother Beni, we were the first New Zealanders to through-hike the Appalachian Trail. (Just 1,800 miles long and not often completed.) I then went on to through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail."
He also walked from Mexico to Canada just for the fun of it. Luigi has lived in lived in Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Jersey, Vancouver Island, California and New Zealand.
Here's one snip from his blog of the ongoing journey.
"We started Nov. 30, one day sooner than expected. Several days have passed since we started our long journey. Between the three of us we have accumulated thus far, a total of 11 blisters. Unfortunately for me I have seven of them. On top of that I almost lost the toenail from my little toe on my left foot. I had to take a couple of days rest to heal and the good news is the blisters have dried and the toenail looks like it will live on.
What next as we break our bodies in to all-day hiking with full packs?"
Beni started the trip but an accident left him with a torn knee cartilage and he had to drop out, leaving Luigi and Sam to continue.
Take a look at the site and have a firsthand look at New Zealand backcountry with our truly neat friends. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it.
Ken is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.