Redlander Michelle Markel decided to hike every single one of Redlands’ trails and open parks, and, in doing so, completed the full Emerald Necklace on Monday, Feb. 8. It took five days including a day of rest to cover a total of 54.5 miles, including roads connecting the 40 miles of Redlands Conservancy’s trails in and around Redlands.
Markel grew up in Redlands and graduated from the University of Redlands. She has worked as an investigating social worker for San Bernardino County Child Protective Services as well as in consulting in the same field. She retired in 2013 when her passion for hiking took over and she started her current nomad-style living adventure.
Her hiking experience is expansive. She has thru-hiked (hiking from one end to the other) the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, visited trails in South America as well as completed numerous long-distance hikes in the United States.
“I feel way more unsafe in civilization than I do in the woods or on a trail or in the backcountry. I am not concerned about people out there. In civilization, the creep alert is going off all the time,’” she said. “That’s why I prefer the forest.”
Markel started “Support Public Lands” in 2017 when she “…abandoned plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail to instead visit several National Monuments in our western states that had been targeted for possible reduction, re-designation or elimination entirely,” she states on her website. She wanted to document our national monuments in order to make people aware that these public lands were worth protecting. Her documentation includes recording videos while hiking.
“[Hiking] is a lot more fun and a lot less detrimental to my health. When I worked for the county my hair was falling out, I wasn’t sleeping,” she said while talking about her job with Child Protective Services. Her passion for protecting the well-being of people has shifted to preserving nature ⎯ a place that everyone can benefit from spending more time in.
Her goal includes “Helping people and educate people to get them comfortable with and capable of going out by themselves, especially women,” she said. “If it wasn’t for public lands, we wouldn’t have any trails. Virtually none of these trails would exist.”
On Christmas she was visiting family in Redlands.
“I’m trying to work on my website. But I really miss walking. I didn’t get to thru-hike last year because of the pandemic,” she said.
She found out about the Fresh Air Challenge, which gave her the idea of hiking all of Redlands trails now. A feat she had been meaning to do for some time while also raising money for the Redlands Conservancy.
The Herngt “Aki” Preserve in Oakmont Park was her favorite hiking experience during this thru hike. On her second day of hiking, she ran out of water and picked up some bad water from an exterior hose at mile 10 and started to feel sick. She still finished the 17 miles for the day.
“This stuff happens on trails all the time,” she shrugged.
The last day she hiked 8.5 miles.
“It was actually much nicer doing slow miles that last day. I am not really used to doing that, I am used to trying to get 20 to 30 miles behind me in a day, because I am trying to walk across the country. Doing something like this actually gave me the opportunity to take my time a little bit more and really kind of just enjoy my surroundings,” she smiled, grateful for these days in Redlands.
In 2018 she hiked for Guthook Guides by Atlas. It was a collaboration to get all the data sets for the Pinhoti Trails in Alabama and she created a video series about it. This month Markel worked for the Redlands Conservancy, and next she will be heading to Arizona to thru hike the Maricopa Trail: A total of 315 miles in three weeks, she is hoping to do a collaboration there too.
By hiking in Redlands, she hopes to spread the word and encourage people to get out and enjoy nature right where they live.
Kathy Behrens, coordinator for Redlands Conservancy said of Markel’s accomplishment: “I was delighted to learn of Michelle's interest in working with us and I am excited about the prospects for her new enterprise. It is fun to think that the open space we manage in Redlands rises to the level of recognition in her nationally focused organization. It's also exciting to think that it will be featured online in the context of other nationally known parks, preserves, and open spaces.”
The Emerald Necklace
The Emerald Necklace concept was created in 1987 in Redlands by a citizen committee that wrote the report titled, “Redlands Park and Open Space Plan.” The committee envisioned a swath of green – citrus groves, parks, natural open space, San Timoteo Canyon and Creek, Santa Ana River Wash – that would encircle the city of Redlands, defining it from neighboring towns and providing it with a setting unlike that of any other town in the inland area.
Learn more about Support Public Lands:
She will add trail videos and information about the 16 parks and preserves in Redlands to the website supportpubliclands.com.
How to support her fundraiser for Redlands Conservancy: Mention her name with a contribution to redlandsconservancy.org
Follow Michelle Markel’s hiking adventures: Search ‘Super Classy Adventures’ on youtube.com/superclassyadventures