After what he describes as a narrow escape from the East Coast rat race, Mike Coronella headed west. First finding refuge as a ski bum, he fell in love with the desert and has dedicated his adult life to experiencing and sharing the rugged wilderness of the American Southwest.
ECCO is proud to have Mike as part of #TeamBIOM while he continually explores – and shares with others – some of the world’s most glorious natural spaces.
You’re originally from New Jersey. What brought about the move out west?
I’d like to think that I came for the mountains and stayed for the desert. I was getting ready to go to Wall Street like my parents. The idea of being a full fledge member of the rat race really grated on me. I didn’t feel like that was the right course for me, even though it was what I was expected to do. When I came out west to go skiing (against the best wishes of my parents), I realised that I didn’t have to be a part of the rat race, I could be a ski bum. So I became a ski bum and started exploring the mountains and enjoying everything life has to offer. Then I pulled my pack on in the desert and that changed the game.
What is it about the desert?
What I like about the desert is that everything is stripped down to bare bones. Most people go to play in the mountains, where there’s a certain margin of security: there’s always water around, there’s shade, there’s shelter. In the desert you have to be more aware, more on your game, it’s a good place for confidence building. You’ve gotta do it right.
You’ve been recognized internationally for “pioneering” the Hayduke Trail. What is the Hayduke Trail and why did you go about plotting it?
The Hayduke Trail is an 850 mile long backcountry desert route that connects six national parks. It is extremely difficult. I’m not sure anyone has walked it end-to-end as it’s described in my guidebook that came out in 2005. My old backpacking partner Joe Mitchell and I created the trail accidentally. It was all about going for a walk and discovering that there really weren’t any long distance trails. So we decided to put together a blockbuster route that showcased everything out here. What you’ll get out of it is, first of all, it will change your life and then you’ll wonder why there are six national parks instead of one big one. That was my message going into it; why have we protected little bits and pieces?
What is the strangest, most unnecessary piece of gear any of your clients have ever brought on a trip?
Oh wow. Let’s see. I would have to say an electric razor for a backpacking trip. That one was like “What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” It’s up there with bowie knives and handguns. That’s why you’re going backpacking – to get away from that kind of stuff.
Any final thoughts?
I think the most important thing is for people to just to do. Just dream it and do it. If I can do it, so can they. There isn’t any background or special genes for this kind of stuff.