‘Cave Dog’ Keizer on quest to hike all 50 states in 100 days

Posted: Friday, October 07, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. — Ted Keizer is slight, soft-spoken and bespectacled — nothing you’d expect from a guy known in hiking and running circles as Cave Dog.

Keizer — who got his nickname because he once slept in caves to save money — is an ultrarunner, or ultrahiker, or ultramountaineer. Some call him a speedhiker. Even he finds his sport hard to classify.

‘‘It really is hard to put labels on me, but mountaineer, probably, is best. Hiking is my passion,’’ he said.

Basically, Keizer goes on long run-hike-climbs through wilderness areas, and up and down mountains, to break records.

Last summer in New England, Keizer completed the 273-mile Long Trail in 4 days, 13 hours, 15 minutes. That time was 2 hours, 3 minutes faster than the mark set by Ed Kostak in 2000 for the nation’s first long-distance hiking trail, which spans Vermont north to south along the Green Mountains.

It wasn’t easy: Keizer collapsed and promptly fell asleep at the finish line.

Keizer, 34, is on a new quest to hike at least 50 kilometers (31 miles) of all 50 states in 100 days to honor a founder of the Wilderness Society, Bob Marshall, who lived from 1901 to 1939 and was a recreation and lands director for the U.S. Forest Service.

The quest, sponsored by performance apparel maker Duofold, started recently in Portland and wraps up in New York state at the end of November. It takes Keizer through the streets of San Francisco, to a portion of the old Iditarod Trail in Alaska, the Appalachian Trail and ends in the Adirondack Mountains.

Keizer first came to Duofold’s attention about a year ago, when he was spotted wearing the brand in a magazine article. Later, a proposal was made for a 50-state hike to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary.

‘‘We thought, ‘Hey, what about that Cave Dog dude?’’’ said Jeanne Wilkinson, Duofold’s director of marketing. ‘‘It was really two separate things that came together.’’

Keizer was raised in Coos Bay, Ore., a town on the state’s southern coast best known as the birthplace of the late runner Steve Prefontaine. He went to Brown University, where he was student body president and was on track for a political career in Washington, D.C.

‘‘I had some friends who sat me down and said, ‘You’re going off to D.C. and you’re going to be influencing laws that tell other people how to live their life, and you haven’t lived your own,’’’ he said.

So Keizer took off, living in and out of his car for the next 10 years. At one point in his post-Brown ramblings, Keizer was a ski bum in Crested Butte, Colo., and he cut corners by sleeping in a rock cave in the mountains for two months. Eventually, he learned to make snow caves wherever he was for a night’s rest.

‘‘It caused a bit of a sensation in this little town,’’ he said.

Keizer was pals with a local cook nicknamed Scurv E. Dog, so people started calling him Cave Dog, and the name stuck.

It was about that time that Keizer discovered the Colorado 14ers, the state’s 55 peaks that are more than 14,000 feet.

‘‘So I thought, well, maybe one day I’ll go out and find somebody to drive me around and I’ll run up and down them,’’ he said. ‘‘I just had no idea how incredibly involved it was. It was 4 1/2 years between that moment and when I felt I was ready to challenge the record.’’

Cave Dog studied endurance, nutrition, mountaineering, hiking, running and just about anything else he thought would help him. He trained tirelessly.

‘‘If you want to break records you’ve got to really know your routes — so you don’t need a compass or a map — you’ve got to know it like the back of your hand,’’ he said. ‘‘You have to be able to do it in foul weather, day or night. And when you’re tired, you’ve got to still keep moving.’’

Dubbed the Mighty Mountain Megamarathon, Keizer completed the task in 10 days, 20 hours, 26 minutes, breaking the record by 43 hours. That was five years ago.

‘‘I thought, well, if I don’t break the record and I don’t have a good time, I’ll move on to something else,’’ he said. ‘‘I had no idea how incredibly fantastic it was going to be. It was amazing, it was the highlight of my life.’’

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