Springfield man hikes in every state

Visiting all 50 American states is a pretty good feat, but hiking in all 50 states is quite an accomplishment.

Melvin Johnson, 67, of Springfield, has recently accomplished his goal of traveling to all 50 states to hike.

“When I was 16 and in Boy Scouts, we went on a three-week backpacking trip in New Mexico and I thought then that when I was old enough, I wanted to travel,” said Johnson. 

Johnson is a retired environmental education and environmental recreation leader for the Leonard Wood Youth Program in Springfield, but is originally from Indiana.

Johnson has several degrees from different universities in the recreational field and has been living in Springfield for 20 years now.

“I love doing anything outdoors. Hiking, camping, floating, kayaking and I’m lucky I was paid to do all the things I love to do,” said Johnson.

When Johnson was in college he lead a couple trips to different states and really decided he wanted to explore and travel North America in the late 80’s.

“I had several friends that wanted me to go with them and travel to other countries, but I decided I wanted to see North America first,” said Johnson.

Once he decided he wanted to explore and hike in every state, Johnson started saving all of his loose change.

“I wanted to drive and camp out everywhere I went, and the biggest expense is getting there (the drive),” said Johnson. 

Depending on where Johnson was going, the time it took to save up his loose change would vary. Some trips took longer to save up for than others because of the distance.

“There was only one place that I was not able to drive to and that was Hawaii. It was the last state that I did with a tour group in March of this year,” said Johnson.

During this trip he was able to do several things on his own, such as hiking outside of the tour group.

“They gave me the flexibility to do whatever I wanted to do, which was great,” said Johnson.

Though he has officially been to all 50 states and hiked, there are two territories in Canada that he has not traveled to that are on his to-do list.

“I haven’t been to the Northwest Territory of Canada and there is also a little territory named Nunavut,” said Johnson.

The Nunavut territory does not have any roads and can only be visited by plane, boat, or sled dogs.

When Johnson travels he is usually on his own, but every now and then his college buddy and his wife go with him. 

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In addition to hiking in every state, Johnson also tries to camp at every state.

“There are only five states that I haven’t been able to camp in, but I was able to hike in — New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, and Oregon,” said Johnson.

When Johnson camps, he has many options to choose from when it comes to sleeping.

“I drive a Toyota Sienna mini-van and I bring my 16-foot camping trailer, but if it’s nice outside, I like to tent camp or sleep under the stars,” said Johnson.

Several of his early trips out west were in September and October, and at night the temperatures were cold so he stayed in a tent.

Out of all the states, Wyoming is Johnson’s favorite state to visit.

“It was easy to get there, you can take a snow bath in September, hike the mountains, and there aren’t a ton of people there,” said Johnson.

Another trip Johnson really enjoyed was his journey to Alaska.

“I was able to drive there and do what I wanted, and I also got to see a few grizzly bears,” said Johnson. 

When Johnson was in Alaska, he saw a grizzly bear as he was driving on the road and wanted a picture of it, so the bear walked right up for him.

“His fur was touching the side of the vehicle, it was very awesome,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s least favorite state, he said, is a toss-up between Louisiana and Alabama.

“The camping and the beaches were okay on mosquitos, but the grass was awful and I didn’t enjoy the humidity,” said Johnson.

When Johnson was working he had to plan most of his trips, but now he just plans two or three days in advance depending on where he is going.

“I always stay at least one night in every state. Sometimes I have stayed a few days, and others I have stayed a week. It just depends,” said Johnson.

Now that Johnson has been to every state, he plans to repeat some of them and also drive back to Alaska and the two territories in Canada.

“A buddy of mine keeps trying to get me to go out of the country and if I get Canada done, maybe I’ll go to Australia and New Zealand,” said Johnson.

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