WARROAD – A former Journal correspondent, who also worked for newspapers in Minnesota and Alaska and traveled more than 30,000 miles, recently completed a 5,000-mile walk from Key West, Florida to the American buoy at Angle Minnesota Inlet, Lake of the Woods.
Why did Richard Larson walk from Key West to Lake of the Woods?
“I decided to do this hike because I wanted to make it my own,” said Larson. “I wanted a route that I designed that I don’t think anyone else has ever done.”
Before starting hiking in Key West, Larson worked for nine years leading a wilderness trail team for the US Forest Service in Washington’s North Cascade Mountains.
“I usually tell people I’m from Minnesota, but right now I really don’t have a home. Guess I live on the track,” said Larson.
After graduating from New Ulm High School in 1991, Larson moved to New Ulm in 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 young folk group that started in 1970 under the late Bob Wirtz. The musical group has spread the spirit, enthusiasm and goodwill for several decades to Europe.
“One of my fondest high school memories was traveling to Norway and Sweden with The Menagerie,” said Larson.
Since then, Larson said he has stayed in touch with many people in New Ulm, including hiking with Matt and Chris Schmidt and Matt and Kay Hillescheim.
Larson started hiking as a teenager, taking a trip to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and Montana with Schmidt during his high school days.
After his current hike, Larson said he would become the sports editor for the Ketchikan newspaper in Alaska, a place where he previously worked.
In his early days, Larson worked as a reporter for the Mankato Free Press and for newspapers in Fergus Falls, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Anchorage. His longest newspaper job lasted six years in Fairbanks.
He briefly described Ketchikan.
“It’s raining a lot! But it’s a beautiful place on an island, in a tropical forest and small mountains. The fishing is great, “ added Larson. “He has most high school sports except hockey.”
Ketchikan in far southeast Alaska doesn’t freeze often and has been dubbed the salmon capital of the world.
Larson said he did not carry a weapon on his hikes.
“The worst animals are dogs walking on the road. I was bitten 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 away if you scream. I had an interesting campsite in Florida with alligators, but I had no bad encounters. I ‘ve seen grizzlies on other hikes but none were aggressive.”
Larson said he carried pepper spray to areas where there were bears.
“I have an emergency SPOT device (GPS tracking device with text messaging and GPS tracking) that I can use if I need help,” said Larson. “It also allows me to check in each night so relatives and friends can see where I’m camping overnight.”
Larson keeps a daily trail journal at trailjournals.com/journal/entry/645830. His current hike is listed as Skittles 2022 Snowbird Trail.
(Fritz Busch can be emailed to [email protected])