On November 11, 2015 · 12 Comments

I thought I’d sliced-and-diced my county counting exploits in every way imaginable by the time I posted Counting Down, my account of barely crossed and airport only captures. Loyal reader and fellow county counter Andy begged to differ. He discovered one more dimension when he noted, "Probably 99% of what you or I color in on the map has been driven over or flown into, even if we got out of the car to touch ground with our own feet. But — have you visited any counties /only/ on foot?" On foot, eh? Now that was something I’d never considered.

I knew it couldn’t be very many instances. I’ve lived a pretty sedentary life devoid of strenuous hikes over vast distances. Friend-of-12MC Steve from (formerly Connecticut Museum Quest and now much more broadly focused) once completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I created an article on counties he’d hiked through hoping he’d pick up the county counting hobby, although it just wasn’t his thing. I’m sure Steve drove through a few of the 87 AT Trail counties on other journeys although I’d also guess that his "only-on-foot" tally would be substantial. Mine, not so much.

San Juan County, Utah

4 Corners
Four Corners – Summer 1992.
Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona come together at a single point

I think I have two only-on-foot counties. One for sure. That would be San Juan County which was Utah’s contribution to the sole state quadripoint of the United States, Four Corners. Notice my right foot touching said county in the photograph above from a long-ago road trip. I circled around the marker any number of times, traveling through that tiny bit of Utah on foot each time.

Four Corners

I had confidence in my memory although I consulted maps extensively to confirm it. Apparently I drove on all sides of San Juan Co. without actually crossing the border except on foot at the Four Corners marker. Even the road leading up to the marker remained completely outside of Utah. So that’s ONE. Absolutely.

Nantucket County, Massachusetts

Cisco Brewers
Visiting Cisco Brewery.
That is NOT the pedaled vehicle we used.

Might it be possible to bend the rules a little? I’d have a second example from one of my more recent travels if that wish were granted. Massachusetts’ island of Nantucket fell within its own county. I never used a motorized vehicle anywhere on Nantucket. However, we rented bicycles and pedaled a few miles into the countryside to the Cisco Brewery for an afternoon of tastings and entertainment during our stay (map). I think I deserved at least partial credit or an honorable mention for getting everywhere on Nantucket under my own personal muscle power.

Incidentally I couldn’t make the same claim a day earlier in Dukes County (Martha’s Vineyard, primarily). We rented a car in Oak Bluffs and drove all over the island.

Municipio de Juárez, Chihuahua, México

Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing
Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing by Aquistbe on Flickr (cc)

I wondered if I could expand the game into foreign countries. I’ve been to México twice, neither time using engine power so I felt I might meet the rules for an entire nation. It involved two separate Mexican states so I should also get credit for Chihuahua and Coahuila. However I decided to focus on counties for this exercise, or in this instance their Mexican equivalents, municipalities (municipios).

Several years ago on a business trip to El Paso, Texas, a group of us decided to walk across the bridge into Juárez (map). The smarter bunch hopped into a taxi as soon as they crossed the border and went to a restaurant in a nicer part of town. Others, myself included, just sort-of milled around the border area checking out the scene. I thought it was pretty seedy, with a bunch of shops selling liquor and discount drugs that would need prescriptions back in the United States. I lasted about ten minutes before I grew bored and walked back into the U.S., although apparently it added Municipio de Juárez to my very short only-on-foot list.

Municipio de Ocampo, Coahuila, México

Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, Mexico
Boquillas… and the burro I rode in on

How about an even better rule bender than Nantucket? Several years ago I wrote about my technically illegal (albeit tolerated) dodge across the border into México while visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas. I visited tiny Boquillas del Carmen (map) in Municipio de Ocampo. I never used a motorized vehicle during that visit although I didn’t remain entirely on foot either. I rode a burro into town after disembarking a rowboat that ferried me across the border. Yes, a burro. I’m fairly certain it was the only time I’ve even ridden a burro. I should get double points for that effort.


Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls. My Own Photo.

I couldn’t think of any other examples. I’ve traveled into Canada using seven different border stations. For a moment I thought I might be able to claim the Regional Municipality of Niagara in Ontario because I walked across the border from New York for a better view of the falls. Then I remembered I drove up to Toronto on a different trip and would have passed through the same municipality by automobile. No dice. I also looked at my travels to Europe, Asia and Australia and found nothing.

The final tally in the United States: one county solely on foot; one on foot and bicycle. In México, one municipio solely on foot; one on foot and burro.

On November 11, 2015 · 12 Comments

12 Responses to “Footloose”

  1. Voyager9270 says:

    Is open ocean between two counties considered to be split between the two counties, or is it part of neither county? If the former, than you would have been on a motorized vessel in Nantucket County beginning approximately halfway through your ferry ride from Cape Cod to Nantucket. If the latter, you wouldn’t have been in Nantucket County until you stepped off the boat and onto the dock (or, arguably, once you stepped off the man-made dock onto natural dry land).

    The same situation applies to me and Richmond County, NY. I’ve taken the Staten Island Ferry across from Manhattan a couple of times, only to disembark, walk around the front of the ferry terminal, and right back inside and onto the boat. If Richmond County is only the dry land and not any portion of New York Harbor, then I have been there exclusively on foot. I believe that’s the only U.S. county that qualifies for me.

    • Everyone has their own county counting rules. I subscribe to the dry land theory: riding over it in an airplane doesn’t count; floating over it in a boat doesn’t count; driving or walking (or riding on an animal) *does* county.

  2. Fritz Keppler says:

    Same here as far as the three purely island counties of Nantucket, Dukes and San Juan. I first entered Koochiching County MN on foot over the bridge from Ontario, because I was unwilling to pay the bridge toll for the car! Enjoyed walking around International Falls, thereby getting the county seat too, but in subsequent years I have entered the county by vehicle to cross the lines.

    I did once take the ferry between Dukes and Nantucket for the sole reason of crossing the county line in both directions.

  3. John of Sydney says:

    What about visiting another (that is not your own country) on foot?
    The only time I’ve done that is visiting the Vatican City in Rome -every other country I’ve visited is by car/bus, plane, train or ship.
    Of course, you can easily walk over most European borders and into Canada and Mexico, but how many of us have done so?

  4. Andy says:

    Oh yeah, biking counts. Foot power, after all!

    Water’s a grey area — can’t say I disagree with your approach there. I’d probably count it the same as you do.

  5. Mr Burns says:

    I’ve done the same in San Juan County, Utah. But I would also get to count Lee County, Virginia. On a recent road trip to eastern Tennessee, I stopped at the Cumberland Gap overlook. The road up there and the parking lot are in Kentucky, but part way along the footpath to the overlook, one crosses into Virginia.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    I tried to make a careful list of “counties” (second-level subdivisions, presumably) I’ve only been into by non-engine power… I’m assuming a kayak (which is mostly pulled by the river) sounds as “non-engine power”, but even then, I could only figure out four places I’ve only been to in the middle of kayaking trips – Chadogoshchensky District in Vologda Oblast (2009), Duminichsky District in Kaluga Oblast (2012, I think – might have been in Sukhinichsky District too), and Andreapolsky District and Toropetsky District in Tver Oblast (2005); even then, some cases are uncertain (because I’m not sure where exactly the access roads were).
    On an unrelated (non-kayaking) trip in 2000, I took a ferry across a river (which, at that particular point, might have actually been a reservoir) into Belozersky District, Vologda Oblast, walked a lot there, then took the same ferry back. Whether that counts depends on your specific type of the “dry land theory”.

    In other countries… well I’m not even trying to figure out the districts of Kiev, Sevastopol, and Belgrade (the answer would probably be “none” for Kiev, due to the Metro, but I’m less sure for the other two). Come to think of it, I didn’t really try with Saint-Petersburg, either (again, probably none, but I didn’t even check).
    Not figuring out the fiddly municipalities of Armenia either (again, probably none, we mostly went by taxi). I’m not sure what passes for counties in Lithuania (which dissolved its first-level subdivisions two years before I went there). And I’ve crossed enough of Israel by car (or bus, or the occasional train) on my multiple trips that I doubt there’s anything I’ve been to by foot that I hadn’t been to by car.
    That leaves Bulgaria, where the answer is “99% sure there’s none” (if I *had* been to Gorna Oryahovitsa municipality, it was probably by foot, but best I can tell I stopped a bit short), and my hike in western Ukraine; specifically, Dolina Raion in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast – I can’t figure out whether I ever actually crossed the boundary, but if I did (and from a glance at the map, I probably did), I was definitely there on foot only.

  7. Steve Spivey says:

    I’ve taken a canoe trip down the Suwannee River and did stop often, visiting most counties, but I still think I’ve driven in each one.

    There are trees with rope swings, if one was long and close enough you could swing out and land in another county.

  8. Kevin K says:

    I actually have a designation on my map for this scenario, marked in red. ( ) My only trip into Wallowa County was up a trail about 200 yards while boating on the Snake River, and in fact remains my only trip into the state of Oregon. I experienced a similar opportunity into Rainy River in Ontario while canoeing on the boundary waters during my scouting years. This was also my only trip into Ontario (and in fact, Canada) for years until I went to Ottawa for work several years ago.

  9. Steve says:

    So proud to be featured by Tom yet again! And he’s right, IF I were to spend time sorting all of this out, several counties of mine have only been visited on foot. of the 87 AT counties, I’d guess that about 35 or so qualify for the purpose of this page. A few in GA, every one in NC & TN (except, if you’re a psychopath about purity, the two that I got rides hitch-hiking in), and a bunch in SW VA.

    Block Island and perhaps some others. But like Tom said… this just isn’t my thing.


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