Local man walking nearly 1,200 miles

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mark Hainds walks during his excursion. | photo courtesy of Southern Documentary Project

Mark Hainds walks during his excursion. | photo courtesy of Southern Documentary Project

A local researcher has embarked on a nearly 1,200-mile journey along the Mexico-Texas border.

Mark Hainds, who works at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center as a research associate for Auburn University and research coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance, said he began his walking journey on Oct. 27, at in El Paso, Texas, at International Mile Marker No. 1.

Hainds said he plans to make it to Boca Chica Beach, Texas, by Christmas.

“I have had previous experiences in remote areas,” he said.

Hainds said he’s previously traveled to Brazil and spent time in the Amazon and Peru.

“I do this when I’ve had enough of being at one place,” he said. “I reached that point. Areas in West Texas have a certain mystique that I found interesting. I wanted to do something that I’m not aware of anyone else doing. No one has walked this route in modern time.”

Hainds said his general rule has been to follow the road or trail closest to the border and along the Rio Grande without trespassing onto private property.

His journey is being filmed by Rex Jones and the Southern Documentary Project and will air on PBS.

“(Rex) was doing a film about longleaf pine, which is my specialty,” he said. “I was putting together a session on longleaf for a regional conference. I asked him to be in there. While there, I told him about my walk. A few weeks later, he called me up and asked if he could film me.”

Hainds said before he began his journey he was warned of rattlesnakes in Texas, but said he’s seen more venomous snakes in Alabama than he’s seen so far in Texas.

“I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff,” he said. “I’d been walking three days in the rain and I saw a bunch of tarantulas.”

Hainds said he also had the opportunity to see scorpions up close and personal.

“I’ve only seen a couple tiny ones,” he said. “I was able to get some really good pictures along the route.”

Another animal Hainds came in contact with is a javelina, a member of the peccary family.

“A javelina looks like a pig, but they are not related,” he said. “There is also lots of interesting bird life. You get to see birds that only come to the Mexican border from Central and South America.”

Hainds said he has also been meeting with all kinds of people along the way.

“I’ve met farmers, ranchers and artists,” he said. “Anyone who has an interesting story to tell. Oftentimes, Rex will record the interview.”

Hainds, who is on a one-week break from the adventure, plans to fly back out on Nov. 21 and begin walking again on Nov. 22 or Nov. 23.