Walking Across America
Meet Skyler, a 20-year-old Canadian/American dual citizen who is walking across the United States. Well, that's not totally accurate - Skyler isn't just walking across the US, he's zig-zagging his way from his current home in Toronto all the way to San Francisco where he was born. This gap-year trek will put around 5,000 miles under Skyler's belt.
Appalachian Trail eat your heart out.
I met up with Skyler at Jimmy John's (his first!) in Albuquerque while he was passing through.
Hi Skyler, thanks for meeting with me. First question: Why?
Well it all started as a joke with some friends that I played Minecraft with, and grew from a joke to "why not?"
Wait, Minecraft? How do you go from Minecraft to this?
The people I played with regularly were all over the US and I thought it would be cool to go meet them. The only catch is, I don't drive. I don't even have a license. So when I got serious about it, I decided that walking would be a nice cheap way to see them all (I don't really care for cycling), and I let their location determine my route.
How long is this trip going to be for you?
It's going to take the better part of a year, I started on August 14th last year, and it will end up being about 5,000 miles total. A bit over 3,000 of that will be walking, I have a few rides planned and sometimes get lifts from folks I stay with to help me get out of town.
Do you have any previous experience with anything like this?
I was in scouts and growing up in the Bay Area I've done a lot of hiking and camping. Although not much recently.
What kind of preparation did you do?
[Skyler laughs] Definitely not as much as I should have! I started about 2 weeks before I left just trying to hit 10,000 steps every day. I highly recommend doing more if you want to try something like this.
10,000 steps, that's only like 5 miles. How much are you walking now?
About 150 miles per week on average.
Well that's certainly a respectable pace. What all do you carry with you?
Really just standard camping supplies. Some clothes, a tent, a stove, and about a week's worth of food. I did stop carrying a water filter though. I mostly walk along roads and there's enough places to stop and get water that I haven't used it. I do have a few emergency purification tablets though.
So you're mostly camping?
And staying with friends, a few couch surfing stops here and there, some churches (mostly outside to pitch a tent), fire departments, and an airplane hangar.
A couch surfing host was an EMT and knew an air-EMT in the next town I was stopping in, so I spent the night with a medi-vac helicopter.
Have you changed anything since starting this trip?
A few things. I used to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day, but I was talking to a couple of people doing a cross-country bike ride and traded them for some, uh, cheesy grits? Yeah, so now that's all I eat for breakfast! I started collecting license plates when I found one on the road somewhere in Ohio. and I'm up to OH, KY, LA, TX and NM - some found and some given. It's kind of funny since I'm walking, and can't even drive if I wanted to!
What kind of challenges have you faced so far?
I hurt my hip a while back and had to switch from fully backpacking to pushing my bag in a jogging stroller. The weather has been another issue, but I've learned to deal with it. I've found I'm much more easy going now and don't worry about little things. On my way into Albuquerque I was walking through some rain and my tire popped, but it didn't really affect my attitude much.
Okay, last few questions - What have you missed most and what has been the best part of your trip so far?
Honestly, I miss doing nothing sometimes - just wanting to sit back and play videogames all day - OH! And my friends and family, I definitely miss them too! And poutine. As far as Highlights? Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Caverns have been my favorite places so far, but I'm really looking forward to Utah. The people I've met have been awesome, just so many cool people.
All right Skyler, my beach club is almost done and your bootlegger sandwich has been gone for a while, any parting thoughts?
I met a guy who biked across the US after retiring from teaching - age isn't a barrier. I met another guy, a retired dentist, who has MS. He's still taking trips and exploring. He's been to 48 states and is planning on ticking off the last two as well. I want to encourage everyone, young or old, to do a longer trip, a month long or more. Whatever it is, it's not just for young people.
Thanks Skyler, and happy trails!