Lil' Buddha Pioneers the Pangea Traverse

Ali Becker

Lil' Buddha stands in front of a trail sign on a rocky mountain top

On October 5, 2023, seasoned long distance thru-hiker Lil’ Buddha completed the first leg of a three year, 18,000 mile, triple continent odyssey across the geographically separated spine of the Central Pangea Mountains on a route he has aptly dubbed the Pangea Traverse.

The Pangea Traverse, which crosses 18 countries and passes through 21 different regional and distinct Indigenous languages, has its western terminus in Key West, Florida, goes 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, over the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Africa, and has its eastern terminus 4,167m atop Mount Toubkal in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco. 

lil buddha standing on a wall in the ocean that says "free" painted on it

The route links together a series of existing long distance thru-hiking trails and established hiking routes with networks of cycling and walking paths, and includes a hefty dose of navigational route finding, something Lil’ Buddha loves to do. 

But Wait, What's Pangea?

North America as we know it today was once contiguous with South America, Africa, and Europe in a single continent known as Pangea, which formed over 340 million years ago. This supercontinent contained a massive northeast-southwest mountain range called the Central Pangean Mountains, similar in height and mass to the present day Himalayas.

About 200-250 million years ago, the tectonic plates that held Pangea together began breaking apart, eventually shifting and separating into the continental structure that exists today. Remnants of the Central Pangea Mountains ended up in eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Western Europe, and North Africa, and now Lil’ Buddha plans to "link them back together" on one long walk.

hiker lil buddha stands looking into the distance with iron work behind him

Early Inception 

Inspired by an enthusiastic third grade teacher who introduced him to the world of Pangea, mixed with his love for long walks and the support of mentors he's met along the way, Lil’ Buddha (L.B.) decided to launch into the Pangea Traverse in December of 2022, after logging many miles on various long distance thru-hikes over the years.

“The plan for 2023 was always to re-hike the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) for a third time,” said Lil’ Buddha. “I’ve been working on completing a Triple-triple since 1998, when I first hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. I hiked the ECT in 2010, 2019/2020, and then again, this year.” 

The ECT, which was conceptualized and routed by one of L.B's friends and mentors, Nimblewill Nomad, shares a common terminus with the Pangea Traverse at the southernmost point of the continental USA at Key West, Florida's famous striped buoy, before connecting the Florida Trail, with the Appalachian Trail, and finally, the International Appalachian Trail which ends at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula on Canada's Island of Newfoundland. 

lil buddha stands under a New Brunswick sign in Canada

“Since I first started researching, and ultimately corresponding with Nimblewill Nomad, I discovered the International Appalachian Trail (IAT),” explained L.B. “In that planning, I learned about the proposed IAT route across the Atlantic to Morocco, following the ridge of the ancient Central Pangea Mountain Range.”

“While today the IAT does have more co-branded trails along the Pangea Traverse route, nearly all of them are unlinked, and don’t follow the geological spine of the Pangea Mountains,” said Buddha. “My plan is to use the IAT as an outline and connect the trail(s) as a continuous route or thru-hike."

lil buddha walks away from the camera on a road in the sunshine

The Breakdown

Below is a mileage breakdown of the walk Lil’ Buddha completed this year and the mileage of the next two legs to come. 

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)

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 First Year

Lil’ Buddha successfully completed the ECT this summer after braving one of the wettest seasons on record for New England and the Maritime regions of Eastern Canada.

“The trail was wet, slippery, boggy, and extremely muddy, and it rained everyday essentially from Massachusetts up through Maine,” reminisced Buddha. "Some of the river fords and crossings were reminiscent of waterways out west, and were especially dangerous. Unfortunately, there were even a couple of deaths due to flooding.”

lil buddha sits on top of the Mt. Katahdin sign

Prior commitments also kept Buddha off Trail for a total of 1.5 months this season, meaning he had to maintain an aggressive, 33 mile a day average distance from Florida up to the Shenandoah’s to finish on Newfoundland, Canada by October.

But, as always, Lil’ Buddha was rewarded for his efforts. “The last time I hiked on Newfoundland, I was not able to hike the Long-Range Traverse in Gros Morne National Park, an alternate off the official International Appalachian Trail, because of bad weather,” said Buddha. “On this thru-hike we had a three-day weather window, so we chose to hike Gros Morne first, and then hiked north to L'Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland, before flipping back and hiking south to finish Newfoundland. Gros Morne NP on Newfoundland is not to be missed!”

For The Love Of Motion

It's no doubt that the Pangea Traverse is a giant feat to undertake, but Lil’ Buddha keeps a humble outlook on his grand adventure. “I’m really just going for a walk,” he said. “In all my thru-hikes and ultra-thru-hikes (like the ECT), I’ve always just wanted to “go for a walk.”

“I’m not really interested in recognition or accolades” he continued, “and while I understand the significance of Pangea Traverse, both in terms of BIPOC and Asian-American representation and as an outdoor 'first,' it’s not the most important thing to me. I’m much more interested in connecting with the people that I will ultimately meet.”

lil buddha hangs from a sign in the woods

Lil’ Buddha has already made an imprint and impact on others who are interested in embarking on this heroic feat. “I know of two other hikers, one of which I’ve hiked several hundreds of miles with, that plan to start on Key West, FL in 2024 and start the ECT as part of the PT,” said Buddha. “I hope Pangea Traverse inspires people to take a chance on a goal, adventure or something that ultimately inspires them to be their authentic self.

On The Road

Deeply impacted by the words and work of Jack Kerouac throughout his life, Lil’ Buddha decided to raise money along his 2023 walk for the Jack Kerouac Foundation in support of the effort to develop the Jack Kerouac Museum and Performance Center, both located in Lowell, Massachusetts. His efforts garnered over $3,500 so far, and will remain open to donations until 2025 when he will begin to raise funds for the Allen Ginsberg Foundation. 

Jack Kerouac has been and continues to be a major source of momentum for Lil Buddha's endeavors and his deep love for being in motion. 

“I’ll quote one of my favorite literary inspirations: 'Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.' -- Jack Kerouac. The essence of the quote is about not living a life of regrets, and more importantly, to live in the now,” explained L.B. “My intent is to keep living a life of authenticity, which means staying true to myself and to the trail.”

a selfie of lil' buddha in front of a sign for the Viking Trail

You can follow Lil’ Buddha and his adventures on the Pangea Traverse on Instagram @lilbuddhahikes



Ali Becker is a freelance adventure writer and narrative storyteller who shares compelling conversations about personal transformations, overcoming limitations, wellness education, and adventurous situations. You can follow her rambling adventures on Instagram at @thisisalibecker.  


The 1st through 3rd images and the 5th image were taken by Out & About

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1 comment

Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Good story! Impressive hiker! fascinating route.

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