Skico employee quits job to walk the national parks
Blake Robinson has come a long way since first walking the Appalachian Trail.
In 2007, soon after graduating from Northern Arizona University with his MBA, “the overweight, unhealthy lifestyle couch potato,” as he called himself, thru-hiked the popular route from Maine to Georgia. He was given the name “Deluxe” due to his 70-pound backpack, large two-person tent and general incompetence.
With him as well were a big smile, a willingness to learn and a love of the great outdoors.
“Nobody thought I’d make it,” Robinson said. “But I learned from that experience you can kind of do anything if you put your mind to it. You just go step by step, day by day, listen to your body and go like that.”
The worst part about the trek, which took him more than six months to complete, was that it ended. Now, a decade later, this journey is in a way continuing when Robinson begins his “Walk the Parks” odyssey Sunday.
The 35-year-old Snowmass Village resident has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for eight years. Friday was his final day as the global sales and reservations coordinator for Aspen Skiing Co.’s ski and snowboard schools. A couple of weeks ago he announced his intention to quit his job — complete with a PowerPoint presentation for his colleagues — so he can walk through all 47 national parks in the contiguous United States.
“I will start at the most famous landmark of the first designated national park — that’s Old Faithful and Yellowstone,” Robinson said. “My main message is to encourage people to chase their dream. I’m extremely passionate about backpacking. I love being outside. I really want to see where it goes and where I can take it.”
Robinson thinks it will take about three years and roughly 20,000 miles, at minimum, to complete his objective. Outside of a few stints on a bicycle, he plans to walk the entire route without any major breaks. He’s spent the better part of 18 months preparing, where he would pore over maps and save up money in order for his dream to become reality.
While he doesn’t consider himself a natural athlete, he’s spent his years in Aspen trying to get to that point. He skied 140 days his first winter here and has competed in many of the area’s top endurance events, such as the Grand Traverse, Power of Four and Aspen Backcountry races. He spends nearly all of his free time in the outdoors.
“I want to encourage other people to go outside and enjoy nature and to love your national parks,” Robinson said. “Even though my trip is national parks-focused, it’s everything in between that makes all the difference in the world, too. It’s cool to explore the towns and the in-between places.”
Robinson planned to arrive in Jackson, Wyoming, on Saturday, where he already has a buyer lined up to take his car off his hands. He also has a ride in place to get him from Jackson to Old Faithful on Sunday, where the odyssey begins. The first states he plans to knock out are Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. From the Southwest, he plans to cut across the country to Key West, Florida, and then head north.
While his first winter will likely be spent in the warm South, he plans to spend his second winter touring through the northern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. He will have a pair of skis ready for him with his parents in upstate New York when he needs them.
From there, the rest of his journey will depend largely on weather and timing.
“I’d really like to try and stay in the backcountry as much as possible,” Robinson said. “One of the most important things about this trip is going to be flexibility. If I have this rigid, set-in-stone itinerary, I’m going to fail before I even start.”
Robinson plans to document as much of his trip as possible. He has created a website, hopes to be active on social media and wants to make a “Faith in Humanity” documentary when it’s over.
“One of the real goals of the journey is just kind of connection. A lot of this is going to be through rural communities and I really would love to connect with people both online and in towns I pass through,” Robinson said. “I just have a feeling that a lot of cool things are going to come of this.”
You can follow Robinson’s journey at WalkTheParks.com. Search “Walk the Parks” to find his YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. He also is accepting financial support through PayPal and Patreon.
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