In 1999, a rugged, spirited, and uncommonly welcoming character known affectionately and admiringly amongst the trail running community as Bushwacker invited me to come run the Timberline Trail, a distance substantially farther than I’d ever run before. By the time I made it back to Timberline Lodge, I was beyond wiped out. Bushwacker & Bob “The Beast” Lynes were still waiting for me in the dark parking lot. Fun was certainly had at my expense, but I laughed and cried all the way home. Many years and countless miles with Bushwacker later, it is obvious that few people have ever so profoundly changed the course of my life as a runner and person like Mike “Bushwacker” Burke.

 

Bushwacker with Cheryl, Marissa, and me on the Dark Divide course.

 

To me, Bushwacker was a larger-than-life ultrarunning legend (“Sand Legend,” as Scott Martin & I called him for some inexplicable reason). Yet he was one of the most approachable trail runners I knew. He could certainly be crass and blunt, but what shone brightly to me was his abundant and inexhaustible joy for the wonders of nature and life and his equally abundant and inexhaustible generosity to those he loved. Whether trying to keep going on an in-over-my-head adventure run, trying to keep myself together through my divorce, or trying to get my own trail races off the ground, Bushwhacker was unwaveringly there. He did not need to advertise his kindness, his strength, or his love for life… he just WAS those things.

 

 

Bigfoot 100k Finish

 

The miles, adventures, and stories with Bushwhacker are too countless for this space. Many other people have many stories about how Bushwacker touched their lives, both on and off the trail. Perhaps a retelling of stories is not really the purpose of writing this anyway. The purpose is much simpler than that. This is an invitation to reflect on what Mike meant to each one of us in our own time and our own way. I think it is also meant to remind myself ~and all of us~ of the beauty and preciousness that is this life. Bushwacker lived that way fully and right up the very event horizon of his time on Earth.

 

 

Bushwacker was always up for group explorations.

 

I’m not sure what else to say, and Mike would have been the first to let me be okay with that. I do know that trail running and the world is an infinitely better place for his existence. Long may you laugh, love, and run, dear friend.

 

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