Lil' Buddha Adventures on the Pangea Traverse

Lil' Buddha is a 2023 FarOut Scout

Map of Pangea Traverse
Photo provided by Lil Buddha

At the end of 2022 I’ll be starting a multi-year thru-hike called the Pangea Traverse. I’ll be flying down to Key West, Florida, and will make my way to the Southernmost Point Buoy. As its namesake suggests, the buoy marks the southernmost point of the continental United States. From there, I’ll begin walking north on the Eastern Continental Trail.

The Pangea Traverse is a transatlantic thru-hike across the geographically separated spine of the ancient Central Pangea Mountains. The proposed route is an amalgamation of several long-distance thru-hiking trails, established hiking routes, a cross-network of walking and cycling paths, and route finding.  

The route includes three continents, crosses 18 countries, passes through 21 different regional and distinct indigenous languages, routes 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, and over the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Africa. Some notable established long trails that make up the Pangea Traverse include: Eastern Continental Trail (Florida Trail, Pinhoti Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Appalachian Trail, International Appalachian Trail); Arctic Circle Trail; Laugavegur Trail; Fimmvörðuháls Trail; The Ireland Way; West Highland Way; United Kingdom National Trails Network; The European Paths (E-Paths: E1 and E9); and the Camino Frances to Finisterre. 

The western terminus of the Pangea Traverse is Key West, Florida, which is also the southern terminus of the Eastern Continental Trail; and the eastern terminus sits atop Mount Toubkal (توبقال ⵜⵓⴳⴳ ⴽⴰⵍ). Standing at 4,167 m (13,671 ft), Toubkal is the highest peak in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the tallest mountain in North Africa. 

Lil' Buddha Leaning up against the southern terminus Florida Trail sign

Early Inspiration

The idea for the Pangea Traverse began 38 years ago while I sat in Mr. Goodman’s third grade classroom at Union Valley Grade School in Hutchinson, Kansas. Mr. Goodman, while using a learning resource globe with removable continent and ocean pieces, demonstrated how the land masses of North America, Africa and South America “fit” together like a giant puzzle. He explained how millions of years ago all of the Earth’s land masses once formed a supercontinent called Pangea before drifting apart. As a young child with a spirited imagination that was already daydreaming of far-off lands, the idea of Pangea, or “the whole land”, thrilled me. 

Lil Buddha at the peak of Katahdin
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha
Lil Buddha leaning up against the southern most point in the continental US sign
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha

Alas, an Ocean Apart

Around 340 million years ago, a tectonic plate that attached West Africa to South America collided with the North American plate. This collision formed the supercontinent Pangea. During the Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic periods, a massive mountain range similar in height and mass to present day Himalayas, formed a northeast–southwest range called the Central Pangea Mountains. 

About 200-250 million years ago, Pangaea began to shift and break apart. This tectonic breakup wrenched apart the continent, formed the Atlantic Ocean, and remnants of the Central Pangea Mountains ended up in eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Western Europe and North Africa. 

The similarities between rock layers of the Ouachita Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, Caledonian Mountains, Scottish Highlands, and the Anti-Atlas Mountains indicate that they were once part of the same massive mountain range. 

Lil Buddha hiking on a beach
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha
Lil Buddha sitting under a tree
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha

An Old Friend, and the “Trail Forward”

The start of the Pangea Traverse in North America is an old friend I know well. I have thru-hiked the Eastern Continental Trail twice. In 2010 I hiked north from Key West, Florida to Belle Isle, Newfoundland (6,000 miles). I repeated a version of this thru-hike 10 years later in 2020-2021. That season I chased the cool weather and autumnal leaves, hiking south on the International Appalachian Trail. I started hiking in Quebec, took an alternate down Vermont’s Long Trail, onto the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and hiked along the eastern seaboard of the United States to reconnect with the Florida Trail (5,600 miles). 

In 2023 my goal is to re-hike the Eastern Continental Trail from Key West, Florida to Belle, Ise, Newfoundland, officially kicking off the Pangea Traverse.

An overview of the Pangea Traverse with mileage:

  • Year 2023: United States and Canada, Eastern Continental Trail (6,077 miles)
  • Year 2024: Greenland, Iceland, UK (5,800 miles)
  • Year 2025: Western Europe and Morocco (5,932 miles)
  • Total Pangea Traverse mileage: 17,809 (miles)

Giving Back and Paying-it-Forward

In my early and restless teen years, I picked up a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at a bookstore in Wichita, Kansas. I read the book cover to cover in one sitting. Several years later, inspired by Jack’s words and the wild antics of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, I started hitchhiking back and forth across the country, and eventually ended up on California’s iconic John Muir Trail. Hitchhiking across the country, exploring the American west and hiking the JMT changed me—it taught me the beauty of motion

That’s why in 2023 I’ll be fundraising for the Jack Kerouac Foundation, in support of the effort in developing the Jacker Kerouac Museum and Performance Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. 

My hope is that Jack’s words continue to inspire a generation of Madness, of sensitive dreamers, truth-seekers, adventurers and thru-hikers. 

Always Wander

The Pangea Traverse may very well be my last true “long” walk, but I’ll never stop exploring or settle for commonplace things; but continue to, as Jack once wrote “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” 

Lil Buddha with leaves in his mouth
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha
Lil Buddha standing under a New Brunswick
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha
Lil Buddha on a beach
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha
Lil Buddha sitting on a ledge
Photo provided by Lil’ Buddha