Bart Smith Photography

​Walking Down a Dream





Bart’s love of nature was nurtured by family outings. Old family photos show Bart as an infant being held by his mother in front of a canvas tent in the woods. Growing up, his father’s career, as a world-renowned research pediatrician, provided opportunities to hike in England, Germany, the Alps,   Hawaii, and throughout the US. Bart’s Eagle Scout project was building a trail through the woods in his hometown. In 1988, while working as the Audiovisual Coordinator at a hospital, Bart met his future wife, Bridgie, at a Nursing Conference. He was given his first Professional SRL camera as a going away present when quitting his “good career job” to travel around the world to hike in 1991.

Bart returned home, after nearly a year, now with two loves: hiking and photography.         He then decided to hike and photograph the Pacific Crest Trail with the goal of having a photo coffee table book published. It took him about 5 years to hone his skills . One challenge Bart deals with is being color-blind. Four days after submitting an unsolicited book proposal with no writer, just his slides, the owner of the publishing company and renowned photographer John Fielder called offering him a contract and the opportunity to collaborate with author Karen Berger to publish his first book Along the Pacific Crest Trail.    Based on that success, Bart decided to hike/photograph the Appalachian Trail.      Then on a whim, he was able to convince Earl Shaffer,      legendary long distance hiker, who in 1948 was the 1st person to complete the Appalachian Trail in one year--his boots and pith helmet have since been donated to the Smithsonian, to join forces for his second book, The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back to the Hills.  It covered Earl’s historic 50th Anniversary Hike of 1998, which he completed weeks shy of turning 80.

Somewhere along  the Florida Trail,        Bart decided to hike/photograph all 8 of the National Scenic Trails with the goal of finishing on 40th Anniversary of the enactment of the National Trails System Act. At the time, it seemed like a reachable goal. His third book was Along the Florida Trail. The Ice Age Trail was his next adventure,        hiked during what became known as a “hundred year mosquito blood drive.” U.S. House of Representative David Obey (the former U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 7th congressional district, who served 21 consecutive terms from 1969 until 2011) wrote the forward to Along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail.
 
In January 2005, the hiking on the Natchez Trace Trail was perfect.         Upon returning in May to complete 27 added miles there was a high heat index warning. While walking along the Parkway of flat Mississippi, he nearly suffered from heat stroke. The Potomac Heritage Trail         was hiked during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Allegheny section making Bart one of the first to hike the entire trail. The next 2¼ years Bart spent hiking 4,400 miles on the North Country Trail.        While walking 1,000’s of mid-west miles, Bart used a Baby Jogger to transport his 65-pound gear along the roadways and canals stretches. 

Early spring of 2008, Bart headed into the final months of his ambitious 16-year long quest. He needed to complete a few hundred miles of the North Country Trail and 3000 rugged Continental Divide Trail miles by October 2nd which was the 40th Anniversary of the enactment of the National Trails Act, signed  into law by President Johnson in 1968.         In order to accomplish this feat he ended up flip-flopping several times to deal with bad weather such as the June 5th zero visibility blizzard in Montana.  It was touch and go from June on if he would finish on time. The hiking was only part of the equation since the whole purpose of the project was to create a captivating photo archive          of the entire National Scenic Trail System. With Herculean effort, Bart finished on October 1st at Yellowstone in front of Old Faithful--where he was warmly greeted by National Park Ranger Tim Townsend.         Tom Richardson, Bart’s friend since childhood photographed the historic moment and then they quickly drove to Bozeman, Montana so that Bart could continue his adventure. There he boarded a airplane bound for Washington D.C.. Twelve hours after arriving, he was giving a slideshow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, host of the combined 40th Anniversary of the National Trail System and Bart’s Grand Finale Celebration.

Bart found himself frequently commuting cross-country over the years from his home in the Pacific Northwest. Making the most of this opportunity, he began following the Pony Express Historical Trail. His fifth book, Along the Pony Express Trail, came out March of 2009. Around this same time, March 30, 2009, Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation and public land management legislation in decades was signed into law by President Obama.        It created for the first time in 26 years new National Scenic Trails. Not one to rest on his laurels Bart started immediately to finish the task again. Jokingly we called it Photo Finish 2. The first of the three trails Bart finished was the Arizona Trail.         Then a mad dash back to the East Coast where he hiked the New England Trail. ​       For the first time walking a long distant trail he had a hiking-buddy, Ron Strickland, founder of  Bart's next trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail.  Bart soon found himself on the PNT starting at the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, traversing west along the Canadian border and ending at Cape Alava on the Washington Coast.

During 2010, Bart spent the year cataloging his huge backlog of images and started scanning slides from his years of shooting with a film camera. There was the lure of Montana, which is “so close” to his home, to re-photograph one section of the Continental Divide Trail during the summer months. (A hiking man cannot be expected to sit at a computer during the summer!!!) 
A current focus of The Partnership for the National Trail System is on the “Decade for the National Trails”         which is leading to the 50th Anniversary of the National Trail System in on October 2018. 
Bart decided he too wanted to help promote the national trails. Starting in the summer of 2011 Bart hiked his first of the 19 National Historic Trails. He finished the Nez Perce Trail on October 1st which is the date that the Nez Perce surrendered to the US Army 40 miles shy of the Canadian border.

 
Bart’s next project was another sad Historical Trail, the Trail of Tears. He chose to follow the Cherokee braid in part because his wife hails from Illinois.       The El Camino Real de los Tejas was his final trail for 2011. El Camino Real, or "Royal Roads", were established by Spanish explorers and missionaries in the 1700's by following century old footpaths that the Native Americans had used for trade from the Great Plains to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.  

Starting in June of 2012, Bart followed in the metaphorical footsteps and existing wagon ruts left by the nearly 500,000 emigrants who traveled in the largest voluntary migration in human history along the Oregon Trail.  Bart soon realized that walking the historical trails is a very different experience than walking the National Scenic trails.  Finding a location to bed down is a nightly challenge , Bart's favorite"camp spots" are flood zones and wooded hedges. In both cases he was not likely to bother anyone and accept for one night when Bart barely missed being flooded out during a thunder squall, the locations proved to be relatively safe save for the poison ivey.         Most importantly, the big difference is the historic trails require a lot of walking into traffic on state highways and even Interstates where it is legal.  It is important to note that the National Historic Trails are NOT designed nor intended to be walked accept on a few managed sections along some of the historic trails.  Walking into the traffic is dangerous for both the pedestrian and drivers and extreme vigilance is required.   But it is possible if one walks with care and a tremendous respect for private property and takes the time to gain permissions.  An aspect Bart really enjoyed was experiencing the scale of the land and the challenges of the elements in similar fashion as the original travelers.  Watering up at the same springs as the pioneers,        relishing in the first siting of a geologic feature on the horizon, and commiserating with the spirits of travelers past about the dust, mosquitos, heat and seeing an elephant, he often felt he was traveling through a parallel universe   There are a few caveats in the "shared trail experiences" between 1850 and 2012, however. Bart didn't need to concern himslf with cholera, nor whether the rivers were to full to be crossed.  And pizza and gatorade were rarely far away.  Eight hundred of the Oregon Trail's 2,850 miles follow the great Platte River.  The river route was also shared with 3 other National Historic Trails; the Mormon Pioneer, The Pony Express and the California Trails.  While walking the Oregon Trail along the Platte, Bart took great effort to visit and  photograph the important subjects to all 4 historic trails with the intention that he would not re-walk the 800 miles when walking the 3 other trails saving himself 2,400 miles of walking. Having walked the historic trails of Indian removal prior to the Oregon Trail, it was a profound experience for Bart to share some of the hardships, hopes and joys of the thousands of pioneers with knowledge of what the Oregon Trail portended for the Native American peoples.            Bart packaged his videos and images taken along the Oregon Trail into a blog format which can be viewed at www.walkingtheoregontrail2012.com .

Just as Bart was making good progress walking/photographing the historic trails he received a call from a New York publisher which would put his historic trails project on a one year hiatus.  Rizzoli Publishers was wanting to use Barts images for an upcoming book titled  America's Great Hiking Trails.  Due in part to the fact that Bart's grandmother was a lifelong friend of adventure photographer Galen Rowell's mother,  Bart grew up hearing about Galens adventures and pouring over  Rowell's photography books which led to other photography books and a general captivation with the medium. Bart always figured he woud eventually meet Galen until Galen's tragic passing in a plane crash in 2002.   With five books of his own now published, Bart was ecstatic with the prospect of a sixth book, this one with a major publisher.  As a bonus, it provided Bart the opportunity to hike/ photograph a number of other trails that aren't in the National Trail System  such as the Vermont Long Trail       , the Colorado Trail       , the Lost Coast Trail         and the Chilkoot Trail        and a few other trails also on Bart's bucket list.  Once again Bart teamed up with musician, adventurer and author Karen Berger who contributed the text.  Bart used to joke that you won't see his books on the New York Times best seller list but "America's Great Hiking Trails" actually snuck on to the ten spot in the Travel category and went on to win the 2015 Lowell Thomas Gold Award for Travel books.

It wasn't until August 2014 that Bart was once again able to place his backpack on a baby jogger and again push his tools and belongings along the route and ruts of bygone travelers, this time along the Santa Fe Trail.        Bart knew that August was hardly the ideal time to set off from Boonsville, MO, but in order to complete all 19 historic trails by Oct 2nd 2018, he couldn't be choosey.  Air conditioning is something very few humans through history have had the luxury to take for granted.  But what 99.99% of humans have been able to rely on is good old fashioned sweat plus if ones lucky some lose garments that allow a light breeze to evaporate the sweat.  There were times when Bart's parallel universes clashed, like when he enters a restaurant soaked with twenty five miles of sweat and looks for a secluded table where he won't create a toxic situation.  Luckily for Bart, people have been remarkably understanding and welcoming.        It wasn't until reaching the arid expanses of the Cimarron region of Kansas that the humity finally subsided.        To this day, deep wagon ruts are still evident across regions that have yet to be tilled such as the Kiowa National Grasslands of New Mexico.  Unlike the smaller wagons the pioneer families utilized on the Oregon Trail, the wagon caravans that traversed the Santa Fe Trail transported trade goods overland between the United States and Mexico and were therefore massive wagons loaded to the hilt and pulled by multiple teams of straining oxen.  One hundred and seventy years later, the ruts, swales, remnants of stage houses, and more than a few graves still lay testament to the heavy use of that once vital commercial trade route.

Santa Fe was established by the Spanish in 1610, about the same time that the British were attempting to establish a colony in Jamestown on the Chesapeake. It would take just  200 years and the creation of two new nations for the european migration into the New World to connect the once fledgling footholds over the vast American outback.  Three National Historic Trails meet at Governors Square downtown Santa Fe; The Santa Fe Trail, the Old Spanish Trail         and the one that served as an umbilical cord to the fledgling outpost from mother Spain, the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.   Upon completing the Santa Fe Trail in Governors Square, Bart figured why not just keep walking the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro south to El Paso?  The Trail historically connected Mexico City with Santa Fe and today the trail is the only International Historic Trail         , much of the character and important historic subjects are along the Mexican section of the Trail.  Bart considered walking the International Trail but due to Bart's poor command of the spanish language, time constraints, and yes, safty concerns, Bart and Bridgie  thought it prudent to just walk the 350 miles of the Unite States leg.  Bart is not ruling out walking the entire route if a sponsor comes along. A phrase Bart would become familiar with along the historic trails was "Jornada del Muerto" which is loosly translated to "walking dead man" and it was prescribed to arrid, dry, broiling  and all around surly regions the early spanish travelers treaded and dreaded.  The deadliest of all  Jornada del Muertos was along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro southeast of present day Truth or Consequences.          Bart was fortunate to walk that section in November with temps at a comfortable 80s, nonetheless he past several dead cows, one very alive rattlesnake and miles of baked land.

A challenge when photographing the historic trails is how to visually bring the past present.  Bart would often coincide his walks with annual re-enactments, commemoration ceremonies or marches along the trails.  He had the first week of March 2015 marked on his itinerary years in advance, it would be the 50th Anniversary Commemortative March honoring the Voting Rights Marches of 1965 known as Bloody Sunday and the Selma To Montgomery March.  The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail honors the importance of those relativley recent marches.  Months in advance Bart contacted the 50th Jubelee organizers to request a media pass.  It took some time but eventually they were kind enough to allow him access to the Selma Bridge during the March affording him the same access as the T.V. cameras.         Experiencing the solemn yet joyous march across Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years to the day of Bloody Sunday was one of highlights of his entire endeavor to photographically document America's National Trail System. Immediatly following that joyous weekend Bart walked with roughly 150 marchers on an organized five day 50th anniversary March from Selma to the steps of the Alabama Capital downtown  Montgomery.        Entering Montgomery was again a joyous occasion culminating with prayers and remembrances from Martin Luther King III at the same location his father spoke 50 years prior.

The lure of gold.  Cortez was certain to find it. Years later the Spanish were still looking for it in Santa Fe region. Captain John Smith and the British Colonists were  looking for it on the Chesapeake.  In fact, it could be argued that the prospect of gold played a role in some way shape of form in most all of America's National Historic Trails but there are only two National Historic Trails that were direct manifistations of this lure of gold on a mass scale, better known as a gold rush; the Iditarod Trail in Alaska and the mother of all gold rush trails, the California Trail. In late May of 2015 Bart got on a Greyhound bus bound for Burley Idaho and finally was able to meet face to face with a person he had been corresponding with for years, the one and only Nimblewill Nomad.       The two shared the unique distinction of being the only souls fool hardy enough to walk all of America's National Scenic trails. Nimblewill Nomad became captivated with the lure of the historic trail while walking the Lewis and Clark Trail both westward AND the return route all coinsiding with the 200th anniversary of  that remarkable expedition.  He had walked the Santa Fe Trail before Bart's journey, and Bart had walked the Oregon Trail before Nimblewill Nomad so eventually they both figured "hey, why not share the pain and have some fun to?, Hell Yeah!"  Together, they parted ways from the Oregon Trail          at the location near Burley Idaho where the California Trail breaks southward towards Wells, Nevada.  At Wells the Humbolt River miraculously bubbles out of the desert and flows westward providing the 49ers of the 1800s H20 mixed with silt and mosquito habitat for 250 miles through the Nevada desert. The muddy mosquito infested Humbolt was both historcally and geographically crititical to westward expansion but was much maligned and despised in the journals and stories past down from the thousands of gold seekers of the mid 1800s.         Today more people traverse the Nevada section of the California Trail every few days than the all 49ers did in 1849 but today folks travel in the comfort of their vehicles cruising Interstate 80, enjoying music, drinking a cool soda or what have you but generally oblivious to the hardships the travelers of days gone by had to endure.  But every now and then a fool hardy traveler will attempt the old fashioned mode of transportation, one step at a time.  Both Bart and Nimblewill Nomad were used to solo hiking so they were pleasanlty surprised to find that they each thoroughly enjoyed the company. Bart is about 20 year junior to Nimblewill who has remained 78 years of age for all the years Bart has known him.  Each had strengths and experiences to contribute to the expedition of two.  Bart was using his still not patented method of pushing his whares on a babyjogger which allowed them to travel with several gallons of water while Nimblewill Nomad had the coordinances of every California Trail iron post in his hand held garmin allowing them to navigate the trail very directly.          The two managed to hike over West Pass, the highest point in all the Historic Trails System.  They delt with thirst, heat, mosquitos, and sore feet and for brief flickers of time walked beside the 49ers.

Upon reaching Sutter Fort in Sacramento, tanned, fit, and exhausted from walking across Nevada and traversing the Sierra Mountains in the footsteps and wagon ruts of the 49ers, Nimblewill Nomad and Bart thought, that was fun, why not walk the historic Mormon Trail/Pony Express Trail from Fort Bridger, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah.   The two rode the Amtrak Zephyr from Sacramento         to Salt Lake City, then rode a Greyhound to Burley Idaho then drove the Nomad's home (pickup truck with  with a shell) to Fort Bridger, Wyoming.  It is crazy to consider the westward wave of migration along the Platte River corridor during the early 1850s. Tens of thousands of pioneers with their oxen pulled wagons packed with family valuables and dreams of a new life along the south shore of the Platte River while camping with, playing fiddle with, eating the dust with, the thousands of 49ers heading to California, while across the river on the north shore thousands of  Mormon Pioneers were heading west in very organized teams fleeing religious persecution and hoping to create a new Zion on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.  Hopes for gold, land and religious freedom all heading west along the Platte stirring massive clouds of dust which the Native Americans viewed from afar and wondered for their future. There was often great concern along the trail that violence might break out along the Platte and further west amungst these desparate groups as they shared the same Trail westward.  More than not, they got along reasonable well and sometimes even traded, bartered and cooperated with each other.  A strain of Asian cholera traveled up the Mississippi in teh 1840's, then the Missouri and with all the humanity heading  along the shores of the Platte followed that river with tragic consequence to many pioneer families and 49ers.  The Mormon pioneers, on the north shore of the Platte were less affected by the cholera outbreak but were not immune from it's ravages.  By the time the Mormon pioneers reached Fort Bridger and bid farewell to the Oregon Trail, they were filled with anticiption with the knowledge that they were within just 150 miles of Zion.  As Nimblewill Nomad and Infinite Dust (the trail name Bart would eventually adopt) bid farewell to Fort Bridger they were still wondering just how much of the original route would be traversable through the checkerboard of private property in western Wyoming.  Once again, good fortune struck out of the blue when the two happend upon an incongruent site in the Wyoming desert, a row of 8 porta-potties.  After utilizing their discovery and wondering who could be using this many honey buckets, two gentlemen drove up in a truck and asked Bart and Sunny what they were doing out in that remote Wyoming desert.  It so happened that the Church of Latter Day Saints organizes and guides Mormon youth groups along the exact route of the Mormon Trail for roughly 80 miles between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City.  The two gentleman were guides who returned briefly to pick up a honey bucket and they kindly welcomed The Nomad and Infinite Dust to walk the Mormon Trail with their youth group. For the next couple days Nimblewill Nomad and Infintite Dust walked with the Mormons as they pulled their carts in the same fashion as many of their ancestors, up and down the same ascents and descents, camped in the same locations and prayed for guidance in the same locations.       From Bart's point of view he was delighted and grateful that they allowed him to photograph their walk with an openess and trust that was truly welcoming. Over space and timeBart found that whether walking the Trail of Tears, Selma to Montgomery or The Mormon Trail, a historic trail, with all it's spirits, will engender a kinship with the original travelers with shared horizons over dawns and dusks and hopes and fears.  In the case of the Mormon Trail, when Bart and Nimblewill Nomad reached the location on the outskirts of Salt Lake City where Brigham Young famously stated "This Is the Place" the two felt a shared sense of exhaustion and if not the raptorous joy the Mormon faithful may have experienced,  the joy that comes from having just experienced a grand adventure through space and time with a good friend.  And, they both still had the 450 miles of Mormon Trail from Nuavoo, Illinois, to Fort Kearney, Nebraska, yet to look forward to.  The Nomad, however, being forever 78, wasn't on a schedule like The Dust who was attempting to complete America's National Trails by 2018.  So Infinite Dust fondly bid farewell to The Nomad and a few weeks later bid farewell to the Mississippi from across Nuavoo solo once more,          pushing his cart west with the spirit of the Mormon Pioneers in his soles, up and down over the countless rolling hills of Iowa, sharing the horizons from every hillock.

Fresh from completing the Mormon Trail Bart had two weeks to prepare for the Ala Kahakai.  Of all the National Historic Trails, the Ala Kahakai's historic roots go back the furthest.  Some sections of trail are believed to have been used off and on for over a thousand years.  The Trail was essentially a coastal route  connecting the polynesian fishing villages that surrounded the big island of Hawaii.  One hundred and eighty miles of Hawaiian coastline?  Sounds like a dream hike right?  But upon Bart's brief research he learned that while a group of folks had section hiked the route in 2000 no one had attempted a solo through-hike and to do so would require a fair bit of road walk around private property.  Bart was very fortunate to get in contact with a few of the trails supporters who helped him immensly on his three week journey along the Trail.  The Trail extends from the Northern tip of Hawaii, down the west coastline all the way into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.       Once again carrying a heavy backpack, Bart was treated to a dichotomy of extremely harsh lava landscapes interspersed with luxurious resorts and beaches of paradise.  On one occasion Bart had been walking for miles through broken lava and was getting low on water when he rounded a bend to see a distant resort with folks splashing and swimming in a massive pool.  A group spotted him and were waving, even beckoning, but there was no way to reach the resort across the fields of broken lava so Bart could only wave back forlornly.       Bart was astounded at the amount of evidence of humane habitation along most of the route, usually in the form of foundation walls but most impressive was the miles of trail with wave smoothed rocks placed by polynesian villagers hundreds of years prior, still guiding the way through the tortuous lava fields.       

In February 2016 Bart embarked on his third of 4 National Historic Trails related to the Spanish colonial era, the Juan Bautistada de Anza Trail.  His walk from Nogales       to Tuscan        to Yuma       to Anza Borrego         to Los Angeles        to San Francisco        traced the route of Jaun Bautista and his 250 expeditionary colonists in back 1775.   While Bart was walking that trail his old buddy Nimblewill Nomad was driving the Pony Express route through Nevada placing water and food caches for their planned walk along that remote, rugged route starting in May.  On May 13th 2016, the two embraced at the Salt Lake City Greyhound station and immedialy embarked on their journey walking the Pony Express Trail from there to Fallon, Nevada.  It is reassuring to know that there are still a few wide swaths of American landscape that are largely left to the wild winds.       Nimblewill Nomad and Infinite Dust walked the Pony Express for weeks rarely seeing signs of civilization aside from a distant ranch or an occasional jet trail.         They past walls, wells and remnants of the Pony Express Stands and time and again marveled at the can-do spirit and the toughness of it's participants.  

After once again bidding a fond farewell to his hiking partner Nimblewill Nomad following another epic adventure, Bart set his sights on the east coast and was soon greeting another old hiking buddy, Pathfinder, in Boston.  Ron Strickland was kind enough to let Bart keep his Ford Windstar parked at his residence while Bart walked the Washington-Rochambeau Historic Route from Boston, MA, southbound to Yorktown, VA.  Earlier in the year Bart had walked the Juan bautisa de Anza Trail, part of which went several hundred miles up the west coast and now he was walking 750 miles down the east coast.  In 2016 Bart walked through Salt Lake City, Tuscan, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Santa Barbara, Philidelphia and San Francisco to name just a few of the "wild places" he traversed.    Bart found the Washington-Rochambeau to be the most dangerous historic trail to walk simply because of the east coast traffic and lack of shoulders.       If he wasn't so stubborn or had a higher IQ, he likely would not have walked some of the busier roads but fortuntely for Bart, the drivers were very considerate.  Many of the same roads that the 5000 French troops marched down to join forces with General Washington's Continental Army are still very much in use today.  Surprisingly, sometimes even the agrarian countryside appears little changed from 1781.      The only difference along some sections of the route were the big shiny metal carriages flying by at 70 mpr.  It is hard to imagine how the Revolutionary War would have played out without the assistance of the French. The Continental Army was being worn down to a rag tag group by the time the French arrived and the French were in fact quite astonished to see the poor shape of Washington's Troops.  The successful siege of Cornwallis's British Troops at the Battle of Yorktown and their relativley quick surrender was a masterfully planned and executed effort between Generals' Washington and Rochambeau.  Remarkably, following their rousing success, the 5000 French Troops turned around and retraced their route all the way back to Boston.  Bart, on the other hand chose not to retrace his steps back to Boston but rather ride the Amtrak. 

Another National Historic Trail that is by no means designed or intended to be walked is the Star Spangled Banner Trail        but Bart being a stubborn fellow was able to walk about 120 miles of the routes used by the British and Americans during the War of 1812.   Bart also timed his walks and visits to coincide with annual re-enactments at the Battle of North Point and Defenders Day at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD.

The Iditarod posed a major challenge for Bart, it is not possible to walk the thousand mile route of the dogsled race teams in the summer months from Anchorage to Nome, it is just tundra, river or salt water.  Should he attempt to snow shoe the route like a few hardy individuals have done? That would be cold.  Spend years qualifying to bicycle the route in the fat tire bike race? Maybe some day.  Bart chose to hire a bush pilot to fly the 2017 Iditarod dog race which due to low snow started in Fairbanks (after the symbolic start in Anchorage) and ended as always under the burled arch in downtown Nome. Flying the Iditarod was one of the highlights of Bart's entire photographic project.  His pilot, David Lee, is married to Holly Sheldon who is the daughter of legendary Alaskan bush pilot Don Sheldon so Bart heard many a story of Don's harowing landings and life saving pick-ups on Mt Denali.  Fortunately for Bart, another fellow, Bob Williams was also a paid passenger as well as being a pilot which not only alleviated some of Barts expence but provided good company and a spare pilot.        Their "bird" was a 1953 Dehavilland Beaver equiped with skiis.         They followed the dogsled teams from a respectful distance as the teams mushed along the seemingly boundless Alaskan wilderness providing great arial photo opportunities.        For the first time in Barts 58 years he was able to experience 45 degrees below zero.  He had rented cold weather gear from Anchorage Outdoor Gear Outfitter and Rentals with great relults.  The layered clothing in addition to extra hand and feet warmers worked remarkably well. The three would usually land near one of the fishing villages along the Iditarod  where it was common practice for the village to open it's school gym to race organizers, fat tire bike racers and bums like Bart, David and Bob to sleep free of charge.        The villages were all extremely welcoming and usually had food available for a donation. The name Iditarod is one of most recognizable brand names associated with Alaska and after following the entire race and witnessing the extreme cold and lack of sleep the racers and their dogs endure it is easy to see why the race so embodies the Alaskan spirit. While most folks think of the Iditarod as the world class dogsled race, many are not aware that the historic trail goes back to the last great gold rush of 1909.  Bart flew back to Alaska in July of 2017 to walk the 140 mile southern section of the Iditarod from Seward to Eagle River just (north of Anchorage)  along a mix of trails through the Chugach Range         connected by some road walk.  Bart then flew to McGrath,        and hired a bush pilot to fly him to the ghost town of Flat Alaska with the understanding that the pilot would return the next day at 2 p.m.  That would give Bart a window of time (albiet small window) to walk the 10 miles from Flat to the ghost town of Iditarod. Easy-peezy right?   Bart had obsessed with visiting the actual ghost town of Iditarod for months.  The 2017 Dogsled Race took the north route wich bypassed the old gold rush town on a bend of the Iditarod River.  Having a few days to spare upon completing the southern section, Bart threw caution to the wind, purchased the plane tickets and now he had just ten miles to walk from Flat to Iditarod.  Not expecting anyone to be in the ghost town of Flat, Bart was pleasantly surprised when a gal drove up in a pick-up truck and inquired what the heck he was doing.  She was working a gold mine 20 miles distance and just by chance was in Flat.  When he told her his plan to walk the ten miles to Iditarod she tried her best to persuade him out of such a foolish idea.       The road was decades out of use,  essentailly a tangle of Alder willows and fallen trees, not to mention grizzly habitat. Bart being very stubborn and potentially having a low IQ said she was probably right but he would give it a try and use his best judgement.   She told Bart that there was one person staying in Flat for the summer and he should talk to him and maybe he could talk Bart out of the foolish idea.  After introducing Bart to Peter she wished Bart the best of luck and departed off the her distant gold mine. Peter was a gold prospector who had lived many of his younger years in Flat and had returned for the summer to work his claim. As a young man he had driven the road to Iditarod but the road, he told Bart was long overgrown and strongly recommended Bart just relax and forget the foolish idea.  But Bart is stubborn so Peter agreed to ride Bart on his ATV for as far along the road as practical and even offered Bart the use of his ten pound revolver in case of bear issues.  Bart held the old massive pistol and informed Peter that he wasn't handy with a gun and would more likely shoot himself so thanks but no thanks. Bart did have bear spray, however.  The ATV made good progress for about a mile before they were having to get out and saw fallen trees and soon a bridge washout prevented Peter from going any further.  With some trebidation Bart bid farewell to his knew friend and headed into the alder thicket wondering if he needed his head examined.  It was July 31st with a cold wind blowing off the tundra with a spitting rain that eventually turned into a steady rain.  The last thing Bart wanted to do was surprize a bear so every ten seconds he would would have to sound off "humanoid coming through" or some other loud gibberish all while forcing his ways through the soaked alder thickets and downed trees.  Bart's one big advantage was that he had daylight well past midnight but since the whole idea was to photograph the ghost town he had to put pep in his step.  Bart tried walking on the tundra beside the ribbon of alder which was once a road but found that even slower going, sinking into unstable boggy tundra in the ever increasing rain.  Bart could see the Iditarod River off in the distance so he knew when he was finally getting closer but the closer he got the deeper the "road" sunk into the boggy water.  Bart had to walk hundred yard stretches in waist deep water until finally he could make out some build structures in the distance.  With renewed energy he made his way to the remnants of the once bustling ghost town.  In it's brief heyday around 1920, Iditarod had population of close to 10,000 inhabitants.  As Bart slogged through the soaked tundra he found about 5 and a half buildings remaining, all in a state of collapse.       The one structure that will last well into the future if it doesn't sink too deep into the tundra is the large cement and metal bank vault.        It quickly occurred to Bart that he would have to camp in one of the buildings as the ground was too boggy.         He carefully cleared off a little bit of floor in the one building that still had floor, the Northern Commercial Company Store and put up his tent. Feeling slightly hypothermic, Bart got into his sleeping bag to warm up a bit, then tied up his food in a nearby tree and commenced to use the waning daylight at 10 pm to photograph the ghost town.  The next day, after getting up early and further exploring and photographing remnants of the last gold rush, Bart knew he had to make good time in order to be back at the Flat airfield by 2pm or risk missing his plane and being stranded in the middle of Alaska.  The route back was more uphill and at one point Bart was concerned that he might have taken a wrong turn.  With immense relief Bart eventually saw his tracks in the mud from the day before. He jogged as best he could the last few miles and arrived at the airfield at 1:58 PM exhausted and relieved. And then he waited.  Around 3:30, Peter drove on to the airfield and was greatly relieved to see Bart alive because he didn't want to have to tell the autorities that he actually drove Bart a mile along the road making him an accomplice to the fool hardy endeavor.  Peter also informed Bart that the plane was likly not going to arrive due to the weather and invited Bart to stay at the house he was "borrowing" for the summer.  Bart ended up having a great time being stranded in the ghost town of Flat not knowing (no phones) when his plane would pick him up.  The weather cleared on day three and Bart was grateful to hear the buzz of and airplane but didn't have time to bid farewell to the old prospector who helped him and welcomed him in Flat Alaska.  

Bart is known for not doing much research on his forthcoming trails in large part because he doesn't have a whole lot of time in his attempt to complete all 30 trails by October 2nd 2018, the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act.  While researching his next trail, the Old Spanish Trail he read about the three different routes and decided on "the main route" because it was the most widely used route historically (as the name suggests) and it is the second shortest of the three routes.  The website Bart was using for his information listed the main route as 700 miles.  Bart thought that seemed a little short since it was a trade route between Santa Fe to Los Angeles but Bart figured maybe it was 850 or so.  On his Greyhound ride to New Mexico Bart started reading a book about the trail and was a bit aghast to see the milage for the main route at 1,300 miles, oops.      As it turned out it was a tough, hot, remote, long walk from Santa Fe to Durango to Moab to Castle Dale to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The route goes way north gto avoid the Canyonlands of Utah as well as to follow the few and precious water sources in southern Utah.         When the Spanish and eventually the Mexicans were using the trail as a trade route to exchange woolens from Santa Fe for horses from Los Angeles they utilized mule caravans rather than wagon trains.  The terrain and arid landscape was too inhospitable for oxen drawn wagons but the hardy mule caravans could usually make it through especially during the cooler winter months.  Consequently, Bart didn't see any swales or wagon ruts in the landscape until reaching southwestern Utah where the Mormon Trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles connected with the Old Spanish Trail. The Mormons did use oxen and wagons and their swales are still in evidence along places like Virgin Hill ascending Mormon Mesa in the harsh Nevada desert and Emigrant Pass near Tecopa California.               

If you want to claim that Bart didn't walk ALL of America's National Trails you would be technically correct due in part to the fact that the 3000 miles of Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is entirely on water along the Chesapeake Bay and the many rivers Captain John Smith and his expedition explored in their shallup between 1607 and 1609.  Bart was able to sail a portion of the route thanks to some serenditpity and the kindness of strangers.  While walking the Old Spanish Trial through southwestestern Utah, Bart happened to meet a another long distance walker while staying a night at the Circleville RV Park.        Labo Falcon was several months into his walk from Key West Florida to the San Francisco Bay and since meeting a fellow long distance pedestrian is about as common as finding a twenty dollar bill on the ground Bart and Labo naturally had a lot to talk about.  Somewhere in the mix of conversation Bart mentioned that he was going to the east coast and was hoping to sail part of the Captain John Smith Water Trail.  Labo mentioned that a he befriended a very nice fellow who had bought him breakfast way back in Florida and it just so happens his friend had a sailboat moored near Annapolis.  Bart e-mailed the fellow named Peter and several months later Bart was sailing the Chesapeake with Captain Peter.      Bart and Labo were able to hike a day together before Bart and the Old Spanish Trail turned into the hinterlands but Lubo did eventually make it to the dock of the bay. One thing Bart learned on the sail boat was just how shallow the Chesapeake esturay is and the importance of keeping an eye on the depth charts.        The Shallop used by the expedition was remarkbly well suited for the shallow waters of the Chesapeake estuaries but quite vulnerable to the summer squalls that can erupt.  It is amazing just how much territory the 1607-1609 expedition visited in their search for gold and a water route to the Pacific.  Jamestown represented a foothold, John Smith represented an outlier stretching the boundries.  His expeditionary force of 22 hungry and thirsty men rowing and sailing the Chesapeake in a small rocky shallop represented one small step in the clash that is human history.    

After driving  the circumference of the Chesapeake Bay and photographing the subjects relevant to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Historic Trail,   Bart drove south to Abingdon Virginia to begin Overmountain Victory Trail.  Once again Bart timed his walk to coincide with the annual re-enactments, this time commemorating the Battle of Kings Mountain.  For a number of years, re-enactors would walk much of the Overmountain Victory trail but due to the dangers of traffic they no longer walk the route but coordinate reenactments with schools in the region and public commemorations.        Bart spent 10 days photographing the re-enactments and then walked the 330 mile route including both the Overmountain and North Carolina legs.  Once again Bart had to be extremly careful with the traffic and would not recommend walking the entire Trail.  The good new is there is a plan in the works headed by the National Park Service to build a trail with connector routes following the general route of the Overmountain Victory Trail which will take some 30 years to implement.  In some ways the Captain John Smith Trail and Overmountain Victory Trail are bookends to the British Colonial era.  The Captain John Smith Trail represents the gestation years with Jamestown and beyond and Overmountain Victory Trail commemorates the Battle of Kings Mountain which proved to be a pivot point in England losing it's 13 colonies to the rebelious patriots.  


The 30th and final National Trail along Bart's walks will be the Lewis and Clark Trail,  2018.
 

Onward!     
 

In many aspects, Bart's endeavor is comparable to John J Audubon’s desire to paint the birds of America.        Both Audubon’s and Bart’s dreams required a willingness to be separated from loved ones for extended periods. Everyday comforts of life became rare luxuries to be savored. Both men traipsed tens of thousands of miles in the wilderness. Carrying the tools of their art upon their back, along with all their other provisions they were steadfast in the pursuit of their dream. In the end, John J Audubon and Bart Smith produced unprecedented portfolios to share with Americans and the world.



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