What is Dudetrek?
Dudetrek has become a way a of life for me. Not only is it the name of my blog, but it symbolizes what I want to be in the present and what I want to do in the future. Dudetrek began when I walked across America from 2012 to 2013, loosely following the American Discovery Trail. I learned many things while trekking from ocean to ocean, like how to camp and pack a backpack, what I was capable of physically, that there are a stunning amount of kind and compassionate people in this country, and that life requires balance: between society and nature, working hard and taking it easy, and having good times and bad times alike. Above all, I learned how to be totally self-sufficient, which is something I had never truly done before, being 18 and fresh out of high school at the time. I quickly became addicted to the minimalist hiking lifestyle and have since completed a 1,000 mile section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, the Florida Trail and Appalachian Trail in 2015 .
Why Walk Long Distance?
The simple answer is “For Fun!”, but there are many reasons for embarking on such quests. The idea crossed my mind during my senior year of High School. I felt pressured to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and I didn’t feel ready to make the decision, so I concluded that I would just focus on making the next year the most ambitious and fulfilling year of my life. I have always loved the outdoors, staying in shape, meeting new people, and trying new things, so the idea of traveling through so many different landscapes and communities on foot seemed like a natural choice. Having completed a few long hikes, I know now that the fulfillment and self-confidence that follow a successful adventure also come with a sense of compounding wisdom. Without the mind-numbing minutiae of modern, mainstream American life, a long-distance hiker can enjoy the liberty of self-reflection, the freedoms of adventure, and the beauty of the nature and the cultures that are a part of it. In short, it is mainly about having fun and learning along the way.
Where Did You Go on the Walk Across America?
I walked through Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. I walked through the flat farm lands of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern shore, through the marshland near the Chesapeake Bay, along the rocky Potomac River, up and over the remote Appalachian Mountains, through the hills of Eastern Ohio, into the sandstone cliffs and caves in the Ohio River valley, over the surprisingly rolling hills of Indiana, past the massive bluffs and open farmland in Illinois, up the Mississippi during a time of drastically low water levels, through the forested Northern Ozarks of Missouri, across the great plains of Kansas, up and over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, in and out of the canyons in Utah, through the sweltering desert heat of Nevada, and among the lush greenery and seaside cliffs of California. Not only did I see hundreds of state parks and forests, and dozens of national parks and forests, but I walked through the downtown areas of Washington DC, Morgantown (WV), Columbus (OH), Cincinnati (OH), Louisville (KY), Bloomington (IN), Evansville (IN), St. Louis (IL, MO), Kansas City (MO, KS), Colorado Springs (CO), Denver (CO), Provo (UT), Reno (NV), Sacramento (CA), and San Fransisco (CA).
How Do You Prepare?
I wrote a pretty comprehensive post about planning and preparing for my PCT hike that may shed some light on this subject. In hindsight, I did set my daily goals way too high and should have been more relaxed with my schedule, which is something I’m still learning to be good at. Nonetheless, the training regiment and map-work are pretty similar.
What Do Your Parents Think?
When I first told my parents, they were worried that I was making the wrong decision. I didn’t apply to college anywhere and they worried about how this may impact my future, especially if I wasn’t able to make it past the first week of walking. As I made more and more progress towards preparing for my departure, their questions changed from “What if…” to “How can I help?”. Now that I’ve made it this far, they have embraced the idea and support me 100%. Ultimately, they still worry about me constantly, whether I’m on the trail or not but that’s their job. It took time to show them that I was serious and very dedicated, but now they are my biggest supporters and I find great motivation from that.
What Gear Do You Use?
Check out my Gear Page.
What Do You Eat?
My diet is anything but consistent. During the Walk Across America, I used military MRE’s and dehydrated Mountain House food that I ordered online, had my dad ship to a post office, and picked up whenever I get there. Most of the time however, I just ate whatever was available at the stores in the towns I pass through. Usually, this meant Pop-tarts, bread (I’ll squash it down into a ball so it saves space), dry cereal, trail mix, occasional fruit, and sometimes a can of soup. In towns with a population of a few hundred people and one general store, I just ate whatever they had. On the PCT, I ate almost nothing but Clif Bars and granola because I got great discounts on them and I needed the calorie content badly. For the 2015 hike, I relied on whatever high-calorie foods I can find in town and generally cooking as little as possible. This means tortillas, nutella, trail mix, summer sausage and cheese, chex mix, knorr pasta and rice sides, etc.
Where Do You Sleep Each Night?
I am honestly not sure what the true proportion of outside to inside sleeping was for the coast to coast walk, but I’d say it’s close to 50-50. On the nights I slept outside, I most often stealth camped. The sun would set and I would be nowhere near a town, so I had to find an inconspicuous spot where I could avoid being seen or found. This meant ditches next to railroads, sections of dense forest between farmland, under bridges, etc. When there was public land to sleep in, I would always go there first. If I could make it to a town by the time it gets dark, I would usually head to the local police station, fire department, or church to see if there was a safe place for me to get some shelter. Usually, they would help me find somewhere out of the cold to sleep for a night. I slept in churches, under pavilions, in sheds, fire halls, public parks; anywhere I can lay down without being disturbed or feeling in danger. Other times, I would meet people and they would open up their homes to me, letting me crash on an extra bed, on their couch, or even just on their floor. Those were my favorite nights because I get to meet awesome, friendly people, eat home cooked meals, and get a good night’s sleep. The PCT, FT, and AT were simple because I could basically set up camp anywhere I wanted- I was almost always on public land. There are also Trail Angels on most National Scenic Trails- just kind people that live or or near the trail that help out thru-hikers however they can- that often let people stay with them too.