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The Onion vs. Mr. Magoo

On your mark, get set ... hike. Inside a 5,600-mile footrace on the country's hardest trail.

The Onion made Mr. Magoo sweat New Mexico. Earlier in the trip, Magoo had envisioned his return visit to the state as a slowly hiked victory lap. But with less than a week’s lead, he scratched his leisurely itinerary and moved his finish date up. That meant going as hard as he’d ever gone, hustling through places like Ghost Town and El Malpais, and walking well into the pitch black as the autumn days turned shorter. "The Onion was on my back," he later said. "I hiked into the night because I knew that’s what he’d be doing."

At least Magoo didn’t do it all alone. Five thousand miles into his journey, he finally found a hiking partner who could keep up. Clint "Lint" Bunting, a 30-year-old roofer from Portland, Oregon, was a fit and good-humored southbound CDT thru-hiker. He cracked funny jokes and bantered with Magoo about women and the art of Dumpster diving. They walked together for five days. "We had a blast. He was super friendly," Bunting later said. "Although Francis did try to tell me about the time wasted by stopping to pee. At one point he busted out some math formula."

Magoo arrived at the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, on October 25, 201 days after he started. The Onion finished on October 28, 178 days after he began. The two of them never joined in a victorious, grimy handshake. Mr. Magoo preferred it that way.

"I thought that we did sufficiently different hikes that I didn’t want to be classified together. You know–pictures of the two of us," Tapon said shortly after he finished, estimating that his route had been about 300 miles longer than the Onion’s. "There can only be one Neil Armstrong."

"I’m still one of the first," Christensen would later say. "And I’m the fastest."

Awards night, so to speak, came a few months later at an REI in Berkeley. Tapon had created a highly inspirational, 90-minute multimedia presentation out of his CDT adventure that he would present at several of the co-op’s stores. The lights dimmed, and Tapon launched into his script.

"When I was in the corporate world, I would walk down these corridors and think, ‘Is this what life is about?’" he began. "Then I said, ‘You know what, I really don’t want this anymore.’"

The digital film rolled, and Tapon wowed the respectably sized crowd. There was beautiful footage from the trail and triumphant self-portraits, although at times the latter were overdone and resembled Viagra ads. Tapon also flashed his sponsors’ logos on the screen and warmly mentioned that his book was for sale.

Christensen was there, too. In the front row, holding his bicycle helmet, after having ridden from his low-rent home (he doesn’t own a car). Tapon, however, failed to introduce his CDT foil to the crowd.

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