Local Michael “Hawkeye” Johnson, founder of the GoHawkeye Foundation, recently finished a 400-mile hike along the “GoHawkeye San Juan Trail,” which he created over the years. (Courtesy photo) 

Local Michael “Hawkeye” Johnson, an avid hiker, has already done the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail, so he made up his own in creating the 400-mile “GoHawkeye San Juan Trail,” which he recently completed for the fifth year, again raising money for his nonprofit GoHawkeye Foundation. During his 49-day trek this year, Hawkeye was able to raise just under $15,000 of his $25,000 goal in supporting adaptive athletes and organizations. 

The hike is a labor of love for Hawkeye, as the foundation is an all-volunteer group that has administered $160,000 in helping 60-plus athletes and seven organizations since its inception six years ago. 

“I was blessed with another outstanding hike,” he said. “The weather, always a challenge, offered everything it could and I always had to stay vigilant to changing skis. My hands free umbrella by Six Moon Designs was vital for protection many times, and occasionally I would ride out a squall in my shelter.” 

He left Telluride on the Deep Creek and Whipple Mountain trails toward Ouray in making his way to Chama, New Mexico, via existing trails, Forest Service roads and “some bushwhacking stretches” through the Weminuche Wilderness and the South San Juan Wilderness. Resupplying along the way in Lake City, Creede, Pagosa Springs, Chama and Silverton, Hawkeye was able see his wife Deb Madaris at several points to resupply since he couldn’t hitchhike into towns for essentials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The daily physical demands of this trail made it very strenuous with several long sections without resupply, including one nine-day stretch. Fortunately, “obtaining water was not a issue, and I used ultra-violet light to sterilize it.”

Early Tuesday morning, during his last night before the final leg to Mountain Village, he was surprised to see snow. 

“It snowed about four inches on my last camp at 12,700-feet Columbine Lake,” he said. “A bit of a shocker to discover at 2 a.m., but a pleasant surprise for my last day on the trail.”

He officially finished his hike at Track’s, where he was able to relax and reflect on another successful fundraiser. 

“I think my favorite part of this hike was being isolated with nature for such an extended period of time. I could really feel my spirit soar,” Hawkeye said. “I also enjoyed the fly fishing and the GoHawkeye Fish Camp at Platoro Reservoir of the Conejos River. This camp comprised of GoHawkeye volunteers meets at a different location every year to help me with a little rest and recreation.”

Through his passion, Hawkeye is focused on helping adaptive athletes and organizations. In July, the GoHawkeye Foundation awarded $17,000 in grants between $300 and $3,000 to nine applicants. Unfortunately, he added, some people were turned away due to lack of funds. He’s asking people to consider a donation by visiting gohawkeye.org

“We are still asking for donations to reach (the $25,000) goal,” he added. “This is a challenging time for fundraising, and we are grateful to our supporters. Our mission is to support adaptive athletes and organizations. … I donate my expenses, and we have very little overhead so over 95 percent of your donation goes to help adaptive athletes. 

The future of the grassroots GoHawkeye Foundation is solid with the hard work of some very dedicated volunteers, but we need more help especially. Contact me if you have some time and want to make a difference in the lives of people through adaptive sports.”

As for now, Hawkeye is already thinking about his next hike. 

“My next fundraising adventure may be the 700-mile Continental Divide Trail through New Mexico for this coming spring,” he explained. “To keep up with everything, subscribe to our newsletter for details and stories about the athletes we have helped on the website.”