Michael “Hawkeye” Johnson

Photo by Darin Back

Over the last decade, Hawkeye has hiked nearly 15,000 miles in his quest to complete the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trail two times each He hopes to earn the extraordinary distinction of completing long-distance hiking’s “Triple Crown” twice. What’s his motivation? Hawkeye responds with one word: freedom.

Hawkeye’s inspiration for these solo, long-distance endeavors was first ignited in a Connecticut prison, where he worked as a corrections officer for 20 years. A job that he says opened his eyes to the toll incarceration takes on a person’s spirit. “I was around a lot of young men in their late teens and early twenties who had basically squandered their freedom. I think that’s what got me started,” he says.

What began as a simple means of relieving some job-induced stress by walking sections of the Appalachian Trail not far from where he grew up, eventually evolved into longer and more physically-taxing hiking trips on trails around the country. It was his way of escaping the confines of everyday life. “I loved the freedom to move every day, on my own, doing what I wanted to do,” Hawkeye explains of his extended treks. “So as soon as I was able to retire, I got into it full time.”

He left Connecticut, living on the road for a time before discovering his new home in Telluride in 1999. But despite skiing 100 days a year and spending his summers trekking, he still felt his new life lacked something meaningful. He found what he was looking for in Telluride’s Adaptive Sports Program (TASP), an organization for which he became a devoted volunteer.

But it wasn’t until 2007, when he started planning his return to the Continental Divide Trail, that Hawkeye added the fundraising aspect to his pursuits. He was inspired by a child who, in lieu of Christmas gifts, asked his family to donate money to instead. He set up a website where his Telluride supporters and those he met on the trail could make per-mile pledges and flat donations. By the end of his 3,000-mile journey, Hawkeye had raised a whopping $17,000 for the homegrown Telluride nonprofit.

Photo by Darin Back

Hawkeye is more than just a long-distance hiker; he’s also a fundraising powerhouse. At this point, he has hiked over 18,000 miles and raised over $43,000 for TASP! “People ask me why I do it, and for me, it’s really a question of what one person can do. It doesn’t have to be big-you can start by just doing something simple. I just try to be an example. I’m keeping myself happy, and hopefully, along the way, I can influence some people.”

To learn more about Hawkeye or to donate to his next endeavor, visit his website.

Watch #LuckyEnough with Hawkeye Johnson →

Locals’ Knowledge

Exciting Ways To Give Back While You Are in Telluride

When one visit’s Telluride this overwhelming feeling of compassion and good will can be felt just by stepping into the Ah Haa School for the Arts or one of the theatrical fundraisers.

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