Bart Smith - First Modern thru-hiker of El Camino Real
Bart Smith – First Modern thru-hiker of El Camino Real
Bart Smith is a man on a mission to hike and photograph every trail in the National Trails System. His project, known as Walking down a dream, began as a vision to hike all of the Nation’s National Scenic Trails by 2008, the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. After hitting his target, Bart’s ambition grew and he decided to hike the entire National Trails System including the Historic Trails by 2018, the 50th anniversary of the act.
A photographer by profession, Bart’s desire is to create a photographic archive of America’s landscape along its National Trails. He already has several books to his credit including Along the Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail: Calling me back to the hills, Along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, and The Pony Express: An Illustrated History. His book on the photographic history of El Camino will be forthcoming.
Bart began his hike on the Camino at its eastern terminus in early December 2011. He pushed his equipment in a three-wheeled baby stroller along the shoulder of the road as he hiked from Natchitoches to Nacogdoches and beyond. Around the New Year, as he crossed the Blackland Prairie and began to parallel the Edwards Plateau, Bart contacted association executive director Steven Gonzales. Bart asked if there was a reporter in the San Antonio area he could do an interview with about his journey. Steven got Bart in touch with a reporter from the San Antonio Express News, and a crew followed him as he made his way through the southern end of the city, visiting the missions while experiencing the Camino along the way. By January 11th, only a week after he was in San Antonio, and a little more than a month after he started his hike, Bart made his way into Eagle Pass to finish the trail. He then made his way back to San Antonio to pick up his van, which had been left by his wife a month before.
Before heading on to his next journey, Bart drove along portions of the trail between San Antonio and Austin, again stopping to take pictures at sites along the way. When he arrived in Austin, he came by the association office and Steven accompanied him to McKinney Falls to photograph trail resources in the park. The two captured many images, and Bart began his journey home to Seattle, where he will rest for a month before beginning his next adventure.
Needless to say, Bart is a fascinating man with a wonderful personality and grand vision for capturing in photos what many of us will never experience in a lifetime. A quote from him sums up his life well, “I may not make money, but so far I’ve had a rich life.”
To see the San Antonio Express News Article about Bart and his journey along the trail, please click here.
Bart Smith at El Camino Real de los Tejas NHT Assn. office