Starting March 1st, 2017, I will be undertaking a lifelong dream to better understand my own country at the speed of one step at a time.
For much of the past fifteen years I have been traveling to every corner of the globe. I sort through photos and find myself running a Norwegian ridge line, ascending a volcano in Uganda, sleeping alongside my motorcycle in Tierra del Fuego, floating the Amazon on a banana boat. Running has brought me to many of these places. Motorcycles, bicycles and odd jobs and a have brought me to many others.
It has occurred to me that I have seen more of France than I’ve seen of South Carolina. I’ve explored the Alps more than the Ozarks of Arkansas. I know the Antarctic Plateau better than Colorado's neighboring state of Oklahoma.
They say that you cannot know the world without knowing your own backyard. In a time of uncertain politics and a crescendo of differences, I have chosen to slow things down, simplify my life and get to know my country at a step-by-step intimacy.
I consider myself fortunate that I am not only able to pursue this dream, but that I am able to do it by the means of my own choosing. Given this freedom to choose, I feel that it is important to create parameters for myself - this becomes the lens through which I view and experience the world. The way you choose to travel changes the way you see a place and the way a place sees you.
I have chosen to go un-supported for this trip - no RV with a cozy bed and cold beers in the fridge, no chef providing me with calories - just me and a pack. This will allow me (force me) to get close to strangers, make friends, share bread, be uncomfortable, be happy and carry on.
I am imposing upon myself a financial restriction of $5,000 ($1000/month) which is enough to cover food and little more. The challenge of daily life will be simplified to that of a migrant, wanderer, journey man, pilgrim. Food, miles, food, shelter. Repeat.
Though I will not be carrying a GPS tracking device, I hope that people will be able to follow this journey through regularly posted photos and words either HERE on my website or via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
America has a deep history of east to west migration - one that begins before European ancestors even set foot upon this soil. From Lewis and Clark to the Pony Express Trail, from the Mormon Trail to the Trail of Tears - over the past several centuries, this migration has solidified who we are as a people - a people driven by curiosity, adventure, manifest destiny and ultimately, freedom. We are the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We are steeped in success and failure, pride and shame, misunderstandings and assumed truths.
I will begin my journey in the South to both accommodate changing seasons and to explore the part of the country that is most foreign to me. From the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, I will take advantage of the Palmetto Trail - the first of many long-distance hiking trails that are scattered about the US. I will continue on into the Southern Appalachians and link up with the Appalachian Trail for some time. Venturing up into Tennessee, I plan to purchase a canoe and take the Tennessee River down through Northern Alabama and back into Tennessee. From there I will return to the trails and back roads across the Mississippi River and on into Arkansas where I will link up with the Ozark Highlands Trail. Across Oklahoma and into Southern Colorado, I will venture towards the Colorado Trail. I will visit my home in Aspen, Colorado for a warm meal and good company before setting off for the desert. The Kokopelli Trail will take me from Grand Junction to Moab where I will undertake a second river section down the Colorado River. Across Utah and into the remote desert of Nevada. The Tahoe Rim Trail will take me to the Western States Course. I will follow this for the full 100-miles down into the Central Valley of California. The Bay Area Ridge Trail will take me from Sonoma, into Marin and finally across the Golden Gate Bridge where I will finish the approximately five-month, 4000-mile (6400km) journey across the country.