David Meiser isn’t great at talking. He would rather tell the story of his writing for him.
“I actually wrote this before I left,” he says, pulling out three pages at his Colorado Springs home.
He wrote this before the adventure of a lifetime.
Why leave everything behind for a nine and a half month hike? — He wrote this vision statement.
He recognized that the Eastern Continental Trail’s over 5,700-mile route was “unconventional, impractical, and expensive” and a “logistical nightmare.” Combining the Florida Trail (approximately 1,500 miles) with the Appalachian Trail (approximately 2,200 miles) was one thing for him, as he originally thought. It was another thing, he realized, to go through Canada to the northernmost tip of Newfoundland.
“From the archipelago of the Florida Keys to remote regions once settled by ancient Vikings,” Meiser wrote, calling it a “fairytale expedition.”
“Like any past hike, the idea crept into my head and I refused to get out of it.”
His first idea was the 2018 Australian 600-mile Vivalman track, followed soon after by the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Surprised by his ambiguous choice to start a thru-hike, his Pacific comrades dubbed him Outback. Outback, in 2019 he followed the 485-mile Colorado his trail, and last year he followed the 800-mile Arizona trail.
And like everyone else, his mother Rose asked the same question about the Eastern Continental Trail.
“When he decides to do something, nothing can stop him,” she says.
Last month, after a 5,749.4-mile, 287-day trip, Meiser returned to his structural engineering job in Springs, home stocked with dictionaries and encyclopedias. He returned with meticulous data and a large collection of notes and photographs. He blogs regularly on his website and continues his passion, which he calls “documenting his hikes.”
That may be the most detailed description of this particular route, but it’s about as vague as Meiser’s first thru-hike in Australia.
“We had to spend a whole year researching to figure out exactly what[the Eastern Continental Trail]was,” says Mizer. “I could count on one hand the number of people I could think of who had somehow documented their hikes.”
In his 2002 book, Ten Million Steps, the legendary MJ Everhart, aka the Nimblewill Nomad (he recently became the oldest man to complete the Appalachian Trail at age 83) lives in the Florida Keys. I documented my journey from to Quebec. Meiser has identified a route that stretches about 1,000 miles further north, covering Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, short of the Newfoundland lighthouse.
Early in our trek in Georgia, Mizer had this run by Eberhart in a bearded nomad hut. Eberhardt knew well. He just sounded surprised when Meiser said he was planning an extended trip in the same amount of time it took Everhart to cover Quebec from Key West.
“He kind of grinned at me,” Meiser says. “It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
Mizer is no joke. Serious and soft-spoken, he looks so young that you wouldn’t believe he’s 41, despite his clean, boyish face.
“People are surprised that I don’t have a big beard. I’m like, ‘I can’t be a thru-hiker,'” he says. “I don’t know. It’s a morale booster for me.”
And he discovered that nothing is more morale-boosting than a long excursion in the woods. Despite the sacrifice.
Without his own family, the expenses would be less. It still costs.
“Every long trip like this leaves him broke,” says his close friend Dave Sample.
Samples are now called Pitstops by Mizer. Eastern For several months along his Continental trails, our retired friend has been keeping up with campers. Over his 41 weeks on the trail, Mizer reported his 42 “zero days.” Otherwise, it averaged 22.6 miles per day.
Those down days were spent with Mizer’s other hobbies: reading and writing. He had a bachelor’s degree in architectural design followed by a master’s degree in biblical studies.
“His next degree probably has nothing to do with the other two,” Sample says. “There is David. A constant thirst for knowledge.”
And that’s why he keeps hiking, his friends say. And pure determination may be trusting more than physical ability. Meiser doesn’t consider herself an athlete.
“A lot of it was timing that I thought was crazy,” his mother says. “He’s just spent his two years devoting himself to his job and reading and writing to complete his master’s degree. Are you fit to do this?”
You couldn’t stop Mizer.
He writes about dodging alligators and snakes in Florida’s chest-high swamps. Avoiding and Drifting “Dog Packs” in Alabama wrote about his cicadas.
The Appalachian Trail’s infamous rocky Mahussack Notch shouldn’t be crawling with a 54-pound pack, but he did. He set himself another task. In less than 24 hours he made Shenandoah 60 miles. From the Virginia-West Virginia border to the Mason-Dixon line in Pennsylvania, he traveled through a snowstorm in less than 24 hours.
In the wilds of Maine, I’ve seen more moose than people. One charged him. The goshawk appeared to decapitate himself with its large, sharp claws, but he dodged it twice.
In a Newfoundland fishing village, he was invited to a hut of elk and rabbit stew. This is the taste of victory.
Now he’s thinking: Maybe Israel National Trail. Kungsleden in Sweden, aka “King’s Way”, maybe. Perhaps the most challenging for hiking, biking and paddling is the 15,000-mile Transhe Canada Trail, aka “The Great Trail.”
Back to what he wrote:
“We are seekers. I was living without it!” “