Summer was just winding down when Lyle Lidholm, an 87 year old Korean War veteran embarked on his journey to become the first person to complete walking the entire 320 miles of the Rock River Trail. He started in Theresa, WI on September 1, 2019 and when he finished on October 22, 2019 in Rock Island, IL, autumn was upon him, with fallen leaves crunching under his feet and coloring his journey with their fall brilliance.
Lyle took a few days off for his grandson’s wedding, but other than that, he walked every day no matter the weather. He walked between 6-9 miles per day, and until he got through Rockford, he was driving back to his home in Watertown, WI to sleep and driving back to start his journey each day. Once he got through Rockford, he stayed in motels and later with family in Rock Island.
Lyle is a really fascinating person who has walked over 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail and the 1200 mile Wisconsin Ice Age Trail. He’s a talented barn builder who helped to disassemble historic buildings and reassemble them for Old World Wisconsin. He was born in Moline, IL in 1932, but his parents moved when he was 4 years old to Wisconsin. He has fond memories of driving along Highway 2 to visit grandparents in the Quad Cities, and really enjoyed walking that path again.
Lidholm says his mission is to not only explore the scenic surroundings of the Rock River, but to promote the trail that is attracting hikers, bicyclists, paddlers and motorists.
As quoted in a feature article the Wisconsin State Journal wrote about his journey, “When I read about this several years ago, I thought, ‘Wow, a trail, all the way to my hometown, Moline,’” Lidholm said. “I’m not getting any younger so I figured September and October would be nice. I’m kind of calling it my going-home hike.”
In a Janesville Gazette article Lyle said he hopes he will motivate others to walk on the good earth and enjoy the miracles of the day. “I feel good when I walk,” Lidholm said. “I walk a couple of miles every day at home, usually at dusk when everything quiets down and I can see the sunset.”
Trail Angels Along The Trail
Many people helped Lyle along the way, offering hospitality, rides to move his car forward on the trail or meals. Upon reaching Moline, he was greeted by Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri and a welcome gathering of friends, media and Rock River Trail representatives at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center. The next day, on Tuesday, October 22, he continued his final leg through Rock Island, and ended his journey at the historic Black Hawk State Historic Site overlooking the Rock River. In Rock Island he was greeted by Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms and council member Mark Poulos. Poulos, who is a fellow Marine veteran, walked with Lyle the last half mile, which is a steep incline up a scenic bluff, saying it was his honor to accompany a fellow Marine, with “no man left behind”. Due to flooding, Lyle was not able to actually get to the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi.
Lyle said he wants to sit down for a few weeks and relax, but perhaps not for long, as he would love to hike in Great Britain.
The Rock River Trail coordinators are so proud that Lyle added the Rock River Trail to his list of hiking adventures that include the Camino de Santiago, Appalachian Trail, and Wisconsin Ice Age Trail.
Media Coverage of Lyle’s Walk
Lyle’s journey attracted a lot of attention and media coverage. Please see links below.
Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Quad-City Times Editorial Board, Oct 26, 2019 | Thumbs Up to Lyle Lidholm, the 87-year-old from Wisconsin who became the first person to hike the 320-mile Rock River Trail this week. Read more.