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From south to north: Former Journal staffer walks Lower 48’s y-axis

Former Journal staffer walks Lower 48’s y-axis

Submitted photo Richard Larson, formerly of New Ulm, stands next to a marker at the southernmost point of the continental United States in Key West, Florida, last November. Since then, he hiked more than 5,000 miles on a route he designed himself, called the Snowbird Route, that ended at the northernmost buoy in Angle Inlet, Lake of the Woods, on the Minnesota-Canadian border.

WARROAD — A former correspondent for The Journal, who has also worked for newspapers in Minnesota and Alaska and backpacked more than 30,000 miles, recently completed a 5,000-mile walk from Key West, Florida, to the U.S. buoy in Minnesota’s Angle Inlet, Lake of the Woods.

Why did Richard Larson hike from Key West to Lake of the Woods?

“I decided to do this hike because I wanted to do one that was uniquely my own,” Larson said. “I wanted a route I designed that I don’t think anybody else has ever done.”

Prior to beginning the hike in Key West, Larson worked nine years leading a wilderness trail crew for the U.S. Forest Service in the North Cascade Mountains in Washington State.

“I usually tell people I’m from Minnesota, but right now, I really don’t have a home. I guess I live on the trail,” Larson said.

Submitted photo Richard Larson, left, poses with a friend he made recently on the Gunflint Trail, north of Grand Marais, Minnesota.

A 1991 New Ulm High School graduate, Larson moved to New Ulm in the eighth grade and said his first job was working as a sports reporter at The Journal.

He doesn’t consider himself a musician, but Larson said he sang with The Menagerie in New Ulm, a youth folk group that began in 1970 under the direction of the late Bob Wirtz. The musical group spread spirit, enthusiasm and good will for several decades to places as far away as Europe.

“One of my favorite high school memories was traveling to Norway and Sweden with The Menagerie,” Larson said.

Since then, Larson said he has kept in touch with many people from New Ulm, including hikes with Matt and Chris Schmidt and Matt and Kay Hillescheim.

Larson began backpacking as a teenager, taking a trip in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and Montana with Schmidt during his high school days.

After his current hike, Larson said he will become the sports editor of the Ketchikan, Alaska, newspaper, a place he where he formerly worked.

In his earlier days, Larson worked as a journalist at the Mankato Free Press and for newspapers in Fergus Falls, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Anchorage. His longest newspaper gig was six years in Fairbanks.

He described Ketchikan briefly.

“It rains a lot! But it’s a gorgeous place on an island, in a rainforest and smaller mountains. Fishing is big,” added Larson. “It has most high school sports, except hockey.”

Ketchikan, in far southeastern Alaska, doesn’t freeze often and has been called the Salmon Capital of the World.

Larson said he doesn’t carry a gun on his hikes.

“The worst animals are dogs on road walks. I got bit by a dog in Kentucky but it was nothing serious,” said Larson. “I had bears near camp at night in northern Minnesota, but they run off if you yell. I had interesting Florida camping with alligators, but had no bad encounters. I’ve seen grizzly bears on other hikes, but none that were aggressive.”

Larson said he carried pepper spray in areas with bears.

“I have an emergency SPOT (GPS tracking device with text messaging and GPS tracking) device I can use if I need help,” Larson said. “It also lets me check in each night so parents and friends can see where I camp at night.”

Larson has a daily hiking journal at trailjournals.com/journal/entry/645830. His current hike is listed as the Skittles 2022 Snowbird Trail.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.)

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