Many of the monarch butterflies that Forrest Meyer raises in his front yard will eventually travel up to 3,000 miles on their yearly migration to the southern United States and Mexico. For miles traveled, though, Meyer beats them by a long shot — the 77 year old has walked enough in his daily strolls to circle the world twice. That’s 49,802 miles.
Meyer keeps quiet about his accomplishment, which he hit in mid-July.
“I just like to walk, I don’t need people to know about it,” he said. “I enjoy it. In fact, if I don’t walk I feel like I missed something for the day.”
His 12-mile-a-day habit started as a way for Meyer to think through a challenge at work. As an electrical engineer at Seagate Technology in Shakopee, a stroll helped him clear his thoughts.
“Whenever I would have a problem, I would usually go out for a walk to think about it,” Meyer explained. He began tracking his mileage when the company handed out pedometers during a wellness seminar, logging it weekly in a spreadsheet. He divides up the miles, taking a longer stroll in the morning and a few shorter walks throughout the day. Meyer occasionally walks with his wife, Jean, but most often his company is “me, myself and I,” he said.
When the miles started stacking up, he got curious about how far he’d traveled.
“I know it’s about 600 miles from here to Denver, let’s see if I can reach that,” Meyer recalled thinking.
In reality, Meyer sticks close to home. He frequents trails around Round Lake and on Minnesota’s North Shore, near his family’s timeshare cabin, and has helped lost travelers, found all varieties of roadside trash, and been followed by wildlife along the way. One fox on the North Shore followed Meyer on his walks for four days in a row, perhaps because it had kits nearby, Meyer suggested.
“It was scouting me out,” he laughed.
Unlike walking, which is a solitary activity for Meyer, the butterflies are a passion that he shares. Meyer started raising them 20 years ago, when he noticed their eggs on the wild milkweed that grows in his front yard. The survival rate for the average monarch is around 3%, he estimates, and he began collecting the caterpillars to keep them safe.
Once they reach the metamorphosis stage, he hangs the bright green-and-gold chrysalises on the porch, where they slowly darken until a mature butterfly emerges. In past years, Meyer gave chrysalises to neighborhood children to hang in their yards so they could watch a butterfly unfurl its wings for the first time.