It is so nice to be home! Yes, I am currently posting from the comfort of my own bedroom in Maryland after finishing my walk across America. I am very tempted to jump right to recalling my last day of walking, but I will resist the urge. There were 12 epic days of walking in California before I reached the beach, so let me begin with the first day.
I could practically smell the saltwater and I was itching to get to it as fast as possible. I caught my first glimpse of California as I walked up the windy road to Spooner Pass, leaving the desert, and entering lush, elevated wilderness.
The coolness of the shade felt unreal after being directly exposed to the sun for so long. At the intersection of a busy street, I officially crossed into California, distracted by the adjacent panorama of Lake Tahoe. I passed by ski shops, casinos, head shops, restaurants, gift shops, but was not very interested in any of that. The only thing on my mind, in that moment, was reaching the Pacific Ocean. I walked straight through town at a fast pace, only stopping for a quick lunch and a picture or 2, then began my climb up the next pass. The carpet of pine needles that coats the ground in the Eldorado National Forest made for a very comfortable night of sleep that night.
The next few nights would be my last on route 50, the “Loneliest Road in America”, the road I had walked for over 450 miles through Nevada and California. I was now walking into the valley towards Sacramento; surrounded by beautiful hilly landscapes, vineyards, streams, tree farms with cedars and pines and firs; but so many cars on the roads! So many houses, so many people! Maybe it’s California, or maybe my perspective has changed somehow, but I felt suddenly surrounded by humanity. How many people had I met since I left last August? How many people walked or drove or flew or rode or sat right by me as I moseyed along, plucking the strings of my worn little guitar at a whopping 2-3 mph? Maybe hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions? How could I ever know? I was not distressed, but rather awed, by the innumerable sights, experiences, and people I had encountered in one year’s time. I felt small, but not weak, as though the rest of the world was moving much faster than I was. Everything was in clear focus, as if my mind was putting in extra effort to instill these new memories into the recesses of my brain.
A new day, a new level of heat as I walked into Sacramento, but the “City of Trees” kept it nice and shady. I was feeling much more at peace with the hustle and bustle, likely because I was walking on a sidewalk and not on a yellow line. Plus, I was excited to stay with a host family that I met weeks ago as they were driving through Nevada. I snapped some pictures and brushed my hand against the palm trees in passing, then arrived at the family’s house in the early evening. It was a great night: I felt clean, well fed, and in good company. The highlight of the night was jamming to some trumpet tunes with their youngest daughter. While walking the next morning I thought of the many people that have hosted me, the stories I will never forget, the shear kindness of strangers. There are so many good people out there and fortunately I got to meet a lot of them. The next morning, I continued walking on one of the many bike paths in California. Only a few miles down the path, thousands of people were running, biking, and kayaking by, during the world’s oldest triathlon in Sacramento. The gardens around the capitol building were phenomenal! This day was even hotter than the one before, so hours later, while walking through Davis, I made sure to soak my bandana in the cool water of the public park’s water fountain. I ate an apple and had a quick conversation with a Trader Joe’s employee about good music, then walked until sunset.
Walking shirtless on the road, hot as hell, zig-zagging uphill and into the mountains alongside a swift river; What a morning! It didn’t take long to find a rope swing, and I soon discovered that the water was cold, but refreshing. The road follows Putah Creek to Lake Berryessa near the dam, and the vertical rock walls that lead straight into water are an amazing sight. My legs were carrying me through these last few days, pushing westward with the strength they had gathered over nearly a year of walking. I will always love walking- it is my meditation, but I most definitely will not miss having semi’s and Mack trucks whiz by an arm’s reach away from me. Napa Valley was no exception to this frightening phenomena. The wineries are beautiful, but inaccessible to me for various reasons like age and budget. Admittedly, I did try one green and one purple grape right off the vine. Neither were great, but the purple was much sweeter and not as sour and bitter as the green grape. I figured they probably weren’t fully ripe yet. As I got closer to the shore, the more often I was offered rides. This forced upon me the realization that I would soon be walking my final miles towards the ocean. “You headed to Point Reyes?”, they would say. Yes, actually, but no I do not need a ride. I was surrounded by a feeling, as if I knew the sea was close and I could feel the waves crashing just over the next hill. Or maybe the next one… Or the next one… The last few days, and especially the last few miles, were spent hoping that this would be the hour that I would finally glimpse the Pacific ocean. In Point Reyes Station, the dudes at the surf shop gave me a tip on where to find a secluded part of the beach. On a Thursday morning, I woke up early, laughed while rolling up my sleeping bag, and started walking.
It was a glorious moment, walking on the beach. Before I dug my toes into the cold morning sand, I descended through the thick coastal wilderness and into a valley where I got my first foggy glimpse of the ocean. I wanted to yell out, to have an overwhelming and sensational moment of bliss. However, I suppressed my emotions; there were a couple miles to walk along the cliff’s edge before getting access to the beach. I stared out at the water and at the long, distant curve of land and sea. The lighthouse was made invisible by a mass of heavy grey fog. Time moved slowly. I took a deep breath when taking off my shoes and socks, slung my backpack over one shoulder, held my guitar by my side, and took slow and light steps through the sand. I was the only person on the beach for miles.
The backpack and guitar slid away from me and I fell to my knees. In an instant, all my energy was gone and I felt exhausted. Flashbacks whirled through my mind, good times and bad times too. I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to sleep out in the cold this winter, that I could have milk with my cereal, and that I was soon going to sleep in my own bed.
I thought of what I had seen this morning, trying to imprint every second of this day into my mind: redwoods, firs, Spanish moss, mule deer, rabbits, a big banana slug, vibrant birds I had never seen before, pelicans, gulls picking at a dead crab, sandpipers, kelp washed up onto the sand, and a rogue seal that popped his head above the water for a split second. I sat on the beach for hours, the fog lifted and people came and went just like the tide.
I kept glancing at the walkway to the parking lot with anticipation, waiting for my best friend James to arrive. He had been on a road trip for 2 weeks already, driving to the nation’s most scenic landscapes and taking time to explore them. Today was the day that we were to meet on the beach and both of our trips would turn towards home. A whistled bird call sounded to my right and I whistled back as I stood up and walked to embrace him. We talked for a few minutes, telling favorite stories from epic mountain climbs and the sort, then quickly agreed that we should toss the frisbee.
Thus began the trip home. From Point Reyes, we made our way toward San Fransisco on scenic route 1. It was hard to keep my eyes off the crashing surf hitting the cliffs below. By the time we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, we were completely surrounded by a cloud of dense fog. James sang “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky” as we passed through the urban sprawl. We were to meet up with the support driver for a couple that had also walked across America, whom I met back in Indiana. I had kept in touch with the couple (John and Kate) and read their blog posts, but now I was going to get a whole new perspective on their adventure from their driver, whose name is also John. While looking for a place to park, we nearly rear-ended a car when trying to stop on the extremely steep hills, but managed to get straightened out and parked safely. Our host could not have shown us more kindness. The first thing we did was jam. Turns out John is a very talented singer and musician, so naturally James and I brought in our guitars and commenced a jam session. Later, we went to a vegan pizza party and got to meet a few of John’s friends. The next day was our day to explore, so we drove around the city, looking at the all the beautiful people, landscapes, and architecture that San Fransisco has to offer. We took John’s dog, OBD (Old Brown Dog), for a walk on the beach. At Haight Ashbury we saw people camping in the parks, and smoking and playing music on the streets. Only in California could such a place exist. Next stop, Yosemite!
James drove to Yosemite, and would end up driving the entire way home. Walking everyday had made my body accustomed to using heinous amounts of energy, and now sitting in the car for hours on end was making me tired, or sometimes restless. Walking around in Yosemite Valley was refreshing to say the least. Half Dome on one side, El Capitan on the other; truly marvelous! Everything I had ever read by John Muir instantly became crystal clear. “The grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”, indeed! A good night’s sleep under the giant Sequoias left us well rested, and the following morning we made a long drive to visit a close friend. Bagdad, Arizona was our destination; Dave “The Cave Doogler” Kueglar was our friend currently working in the copper mine there. We still had nearly 600 miles to drive before we would arrive, though. Perhaps it was the music, or the scenery, or chatting with one of my best friends that I hadn’t seen for months- I wasn’t tired or restless now, I was excited. The profusion, or rather the diversity of life in the desert is what is most striking. It is unfathomable to those that have not witnessed the intense dry heat of the sun, and the plants and animals that manage to adapt and survive in it. At one point, while stopped on the road for construction taking place ahead of us, James and I got out of the car and jammed on our guitars. One guy even got out of his car to come and listen. We were trying to make the most of this trip, enjoy every second. If there was any opportunity whatsoever for adventure, we seized it. Off in the distance, past the Ponderosa Pines, the visibly distant, unknown and stoic mountains were calling our names. In a split-second decision, we turned onto a backcountry road and made way toward adventure. The road was rough, but James’ Chevy Cruze was doing pretty well for a few minutes, until the sand became too deep. Tires spinning, sunken into a few inches of earth, under the beating sun, invisible from the road. For a moment, we were discouraged. Should we call AAA? Where the hell are we, anyway? The situation soon became clear to us, however, and we knew what we had to do. We got on our knees and started digging the car out of the hot sand. Turns out, using your hands for that kind of work is very painful. Luckily, being avid frisbee enthusiasts, we used our frisbees as shovels and quadrupled our efficiency. Even at that accelerated pace, it must have taken us over an hour to finally gain enough momentum to make it onto solid road. There was sand in our pockets, in our ears, in our hair, but no longer under the car. As much as our delay had dismayed us initially, our ability to deal with a crisis made us feel doubly clutch. We arrived at Dave’s just before dark, and immediately went out to toss the disc while we could still see. I had visited Dave last summer when he was working a coal mine in Western Maryland, and now I got to see him in a whole new element. Even with a bigger house, in a different state with different friends, Dave is still the same Dave and could still throw the frisbee like a boss. We all had new skills, new stories, and new wisdom to share with one another, and we talked it out that night in Dave’s big house. He showed us his pets- a tarantula and a scorpion. The plan was made that James would finish the drive to Maryland with me, then fly back out to Arizona and co-pilot Dave’s road trip home. Dave still had a week of work to do at the mine before he left to go to school, and by the time we made our way back onto the road the following morning, Dave was already Cave Doogling somewhere underground.
We were on our way to the one, the only, Grand Canyon. Dave had given us a tip about a free campground not far from the National Park and we made our way through Flagstaff to get there. After seeing the plethora of Ponderosa Pines in the Prescott National Forest, James expressed surprise at life’s capability to survive in this arid ecosystem. We came upon the Grand Canyon suddenly, as if it had just appeared. We were eager to explore and quickly found a spot to park. The rim trail took us right along the edge of the highest part of the canyon, and we walked it’s entire length, scoping out every route down into the canyon to see which one we would walk the next day. At a few of the overlooks, we climbed down the rocks and stood with our toes on the very edge of the immense cliff face. Only a fraction of the entire canyon is visible from any given lookout; whoever first used the term “grand” really put it well. We went to the open campground and began setting up for the night. The benefits of having a travel partner are numerous. We took turns collecting wood and tending the boiling pot of hobo soup on the camp stove. The sun set, spreading sweet and vibrant hues across the summer sky. We ate, savoring every bite of the vitalizing stew, knowing that every carb and calorie would be burned off tomorrow when we hiked to the river and back up. Our plan was bold, considering the signs along the trail that specifically say not to hike from the rim to the river and back, but if anyone could pull it off, we could. The trail descends 4460 feet in elevation over 7.8 miles of steep switchbacks, then of course there’s the climb back up. We set off at a hearty pace down the trail, under rock arches and along mighty, multicolored vertical planes of rock. There were many people on the trail, but as we predicted, the numbers dwindled as we trotted deeper and deeper into the heart of the canyon. Layers of rock from millions and billions of years ago can be read like a book from top to bottom, a testament to the powers of erosion over time. Somewhere way down where the canyon rim was no longer visible above us, we spotted a cave, or maybe an old mining tunnel, 35 feet above the trail, in a tall and foreboding wall of stone. It was almost the hottest part of the day, but we felt ready to overcome any obstacle in our way. Not only would we climb up and get to explore, but the insulated earthen tunnel would no doubt provide a cool place to rest in the midday heat. We scrambled up a hill of loose rocks and James offered to begin climbing first. I kept my distance from the base of the wall to avoid the falling rocks that inevitably came crashing down from around James’ feet. He scaled the wall confidently and yelled for me to come up, adding a tip about how to best tackle the awkward angle of the last high ledge. The handholds were pretty solid and gave me a lot of leverage with my upper body, but the slope made me somewhat unsure about my footing. Nonetheless, I hoisted myself up and over the last ledge and came to the entrance of the tunnel. My eyes adjusted to the lack of light, and I could feel my heart beating in my ears from the intensity of the climb. We sat down and pondered what this may have been used for- the tunnel was in the shape of a cross, and each inlet was about 10 feet deep with the entrance 20 feet from the back wall. There were bats hanging from the ceiling, and it made me think of how nice it was going to be to finally sleep in my own bed. It was considerably cooler in here, as we had expected, and we took the chance to rehydrate for the rest of our long hike. To say that the climb down was difficult would be an understatement. We had no ropes, no safety gear, and were carrying pounds of water with us- the danger was real. There was a moment in which I stretched my leg down too far, and my other foot almost slipped away from the rock. When I found my balance again, I had to breath deeply to stop myself from shaking. I was first this time, and got to watch James come down after me, which he seemed to do with little effort. He did say later, though, that he had gotten that same shaking feeling.
We weren’t very far from the Colorado River and after finishing our descent, we stood, reveling in its glory. When we had our fill, we turned around and put our calves to work on the 7.8 mile uphill back to the rim. The grade is steep, the ground is rocky, and it is nearly 100°, and we were going to conquer this trail! Our overconfidence was kept in check by the people that passed us at a running pace, including a dude with a heavy backpack and no shoes. Hours later, we made it back to the top, thirsty and exhausted. One woman unexpectedly congratulated us after asking where we had walked today. Back at the campsite, we prepared for a hearty meal and a rousing jam around the fire, talking about where to go next. We hadn’t really planned beyond this point yet, and needed to decide which direction to head from here. We immediately connected on the idea of going to Colorado, and decided to head towards Durango to see Mesa Verde National Park and the Needle Mountains in the San Juan National forest. With our plans squared away, we feasted. The most rewarding feeling in life is to eat rich, warm food when hungry and drained at the end of a taxing day. We went to sleep under a sea of stars and the unconfined milky way.
I was very excited to be going back to Colorado, the state that I most enjoyed walking through for its shear natural beauty and the chill people that inhabit it. We drove through the desert, this time with barely any sign of life around us, talking about what we were going to do when we got home. We passed by the Four Corners and slowly circled around Mesa Verde in Colorado, entering from the Northern entrance of the National Park. James had a National Park pass that allowed both of us to get in for free to any park this year. We drove through the park, stopping to see the various dwellings and kivas of the Pueblo peoples. To stretch our legs, we went on a 2.4 mile loop trail to see some petroglyphs and other Puebloan dwellings. The trail was not considerably long, but it was no walk in the park (no pun intended).
The Pueblos would notch steps into the rocks to make them easier to climb, but the steps had to be just right. The step of a left foot would not fit easily into a right foot notch. James and I did some more free climbing and looked out from the top of the mountain. You know you’re up high when you’re looking down at hawks and eagles flying below. James brought up the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was done with school, and I brought up the notion of going to school when I was done hiking. We left the park with our minds in the future. Through Durango and into the San Juan Forest we went, bumping along noisily in James’ Cruze on a rocky forest service road. Somewhere at the base of the Needle Mountains, we decided to set up camp.
The entire environment was damp from a recent rain, but we managed to start a fire and soon were warming our hands and feet and backs to it. Then, the drops started falling; light, but steady. We had already set up a tent and a tarp for shelter, but when standing next to the fire eating nice warm stew, it felt like no rain at all. The lightning and responding thunder, however, was ominous and trepidation overtook me. When our eyes grew heavy and the rain started coming down, we decided to hit the hay- James chose the tent, I chose the tarp. I definitely underestimated the power of the storm, and the intense winds ripped the stakes out and sent the tarp flapping like a flag in the middle of the night. Luckily, I managed to grab my sleeping bag and run into the car for cover before I was soaked to the bone. That night, the lightning shook the mountain itself, flashing and banging simultaneously around us. The cows previously grazing below had come up and were wandering around our campsite, probably scared and looking for shelter from the storm. At sunrise, the rain had ceased, the cows were now grazing on the wet grass among us, and I got up to see if I had lost the tarp or my groundcloth in the storm. Both were there, but both were soaking wet and the groundcloth was muddy. James’ tent, too, needed a chance to dry, and we took our time with breakfast and packing up in the morning to allow everything to dry out as thoroughly as possible. It was futile, and we ended up packing up our wet things into the car and bouncing down mountain side that morning. Today, we were headed straight through Colorado, and into unseen territory. Our destination was the corner of New Mexico/Oklahoma/Texas to see the wide open farm and ranch land. I was excited to see the Oklahoma panhandle, even though I had no idea what was there. There’s got to be something important there, otherwise Oklahoma wouldn’t be shaped so strangely, right? Mountains seemed to whiz by us as we drove through Colorado, and I was pleased to be able to see them without feet of snow in every direction. We passed Great Sand Dunes National Park, both of us recognizing the lost opportunity, but ready to finally be home. Not much later, we had come down from the last mountain and into the grasslands below. Memories from Kansas flooded my mind and I realized how much I missed the place, despite once thinking I would never like it. We pulled into Clayton Lake State Park, payed the camping fee ($8 is a fair price), and pulled into the site. The lake was an oasis sunk into the earth; the sandstone around our campsite was grooved by wind and water over tens of thousands of years. A gang of vultures nested in the tree above the lake, dark clouds blew cold air on our backs, and we watched the last rays of the day’s sun reflect across the surface of the water. We formed a plan of action in case it started raining, but our efforts quickly became unnecessary, as the sky opened up and a fantastic rainbow shone across the horizon. Each of the 7 colors was distinct and could easily be separated from the adjacent colors with a focus of the eye. With the clouds gone, the night sky displayed its brilliant luminescence, and we slept.
Straight through Oklahoma the next morning and into Arkansas that evening. My mom’s parents live in Russellville, and I’ve been itching to get back there ever since I went to visit them last summer. From New Mexico, we decided to head there. When I called my grandma on the phone, she was excited to see me, especially since my brother and sister had been there not too long ago. We drove clear through Oklahoma that day, practicing our freestyle rapping skills in the car to kill time. We drove through OKC, near the site of the recent EF5 tornado disaster, then paralleled the Arkansas river. The “Welcome to Arkansas” sign passed by, and I knew we were close to Russellville when I could see the steam from the nuclear plant. Lake Dardanelle appeared next to us and I knew exactly where we were just then. My grandparents welcomed us as we pulled into the driveway and I got out quickly to give them each a big hug. As usual, my grandma totally outdid herself and made one of my favorite dishes- baked ziti. My grandfather (I call him papa) recollected stories from Vietnam, including one in which his roommate accidentally shot a gun in their room and almost killed him. They both asked James about where he had been and what he was up to, and asked how I felt now that I had completed my journey. I asked about family and we talked late into the night. Tonight would be my first night of sleep in a real bed since I had finished walking, and I was more than ready for it. The moment my head hit the pillow, I was out cold. We woke up late to a big breakfast and moved slowly to pack up our things. James and I took turns shooting the BB gun in the back yard and commented on how much we could feel the humidity now after just being in the desert a few days ago. My grandma gave me a tin of chocolate chip cookies for the road and cried as I waved goodbye like she always does. Tonight was going to be our last night on the road, and we wanted it to be somewhere amazing. The Smoky Mountains seemed to fit the bill perfectly, and we knew of some Appalachian trail shelters we could stay at, anyway. The farther East we drove, the more it started to look like home. Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville flew by in no time at all and we pulled onto a side road where we could park by the trail head. It was already dark, but we knew the shelter was only a mile or so from the road. We stumbled along on the muddy trail, clearly traveled by thousands of hikers this year, and came upon the shelter- a log cabin with a fence covering its open face to protect its inhabitants from black bears. This shelter was remarkably similar to the ones we slept in during our hike on the AT in Maryland nearly 2 years ago. I wonder what I would have thought if I knew I would be here now, having reached my dream. Sleep came easily that night.
We wasted no time packing up and hiking back to the car in the morning. The faster we hit the road, the sooner we would be home. As we drove through Virginia, I thought of how puny the Appalachians seem in comparison to the colossal Rockies. We had Subway for lunch, and I thought about how nice it was going to be to have access to a kitchen everyday. We filled up on gas and I thought about how I no longer have a car, yet now have a sturdy pair of legs to get me where I need to go. We crossed into Maryland and I saw the state flag I have come to know and love. We passed towns I had seen many times and I thought about how much of even Maryland I had yet to see. Finally, we rounded the corner into the center of town. New Royal Farms? Ok. New Chick-fil-a? Ok. What else has changed? We drove down the road, coming up to my house, then drove past it. Before I could do anything else, the first thing I wanted to do was jump off the cliffs, into the reservoir, and swim to the other side. The cliffs were once jumpable, but DNR cut a tree down and people have gotten hurt when landing on it. The so called “Indian Trail” is another spot to jump from, though it is done blindly through trees and shrubs with no view of the water directly below. James and I met up with our fellow cul-de-sac compadres, Austin and Collin and we hiked to the cliffs on the trail I could never forget. Hurricane Sandy had flooded all of the streams and rivers, so all of the makeshift bridges had washed away on the fire trail. There was an overabundance of spiders and getting webbed in the face was a constant. We hopped over the big fallen log and came to the shoreline where the water was noticeably lower than usual. From the top of the cliffs, the reflection of the forest and clouds on the water was a sight for sore eyes. I chose to jump off the Indian Trail, James off the main cliffs. We prepared ourselves, and suddenly leaped 30 feet down into the warm water, adrenaline rushing through our veins. We began swimming to the opposite shore, where the trail would lead back to my house. It is about 1000 feet from one side to the other, and we were taking it at a backstroke. A call of exhilaration spread across the water, the sound echoing all around us, our homies calling back. James beat me to the other side; he has always been faster than me. How glad I was to be walking up this trail, soaking wet, smiling, this summertime evening. I walked slowly down the road back to my house, letting the familiarity of my own neighborhood sink in. The road I live on is very straight and I could see my mom standing in my lawn from a quarter mile away, waiting for me. When I was within hearing distance, she yelled for me to “hurry up!”. I hugged my mom and dad and came around to the deck where my friends and family were waiting. Maya, my Siberian Husky, got a long overdue back rub, then I walked inside and did something I had been waiting to do for months now: open the refrigerator. An unexpected mood struck me. My friends were here, I had achieved my dream, I finally had the things I missed, but my time on the road was now done. It was so rewarding, I feel as though I could have kept going without a problem, had there been more land to go West on. Now that I am back into reality, what in the world am I going to do next? The thought was vexing, and it made me yearn for the freedom of walking.
The following week was full of merriment and mirth, and that Friday, there was a Welcome Home house-show at my house. All the bands were friends of mine from the local music scene, including my brother’s band, Flagship, and I would play a set of songs I had picked up from walking across the country, too. The show was totally nuts. So many people showed up that I know I couldn’t have talked to everyone that was there. I let my dreads loose and started banging my head to the beat. When it came time for my set, I was very nervous to perform in front of so many people I know so well. I sang a groovy blues tune straight from my soul for my first song, with all the passion and might I could muster. Feeling good so far. I played a jazz lick I picked up from a dude in Kansas, Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again which I learned in Colorado, Bob Marley’s Jammin‘ which I also learned in Colorado, then a friend of mine helped me sing Zeppelin’s Going to California, and I finished with 2 original songs- How the West was Won, and Wings and Kings and Things. It was an overall success. Despite my nerves, I managed to pull through and now got to enjoy Flagship, whom I know always puts on an awesome show. For their last song, as everyone in the room sang the words at the top of their lungs, I was lifted up by the crowd of people trying to grab the microphone and held up in the air.
I’ve been home for almost a month now, adjusting to the real world again. Some things were hard to adjust to at first, like watching TV too much, or eating with the voracious appetite I had become accustomed to. Other things took no time at all to adjust to, like sleeping in a comfortable bed, or walking my dog every morning. The world around me has changed and I probably have, too. I see Dudetrek like a river- one solid mass of flowing time, space, and experience. Some stories from my trip are hard to tell because, like the water in the river, each memory naturally flows into the next, and its hard to tell where one story ends and another begins. Doubtless I have become stronger, but have I become any wiser? Has the arduousness of my journey taught me anything at all? Certainly. If there is anything I have learned from walking across the country it is this- America rules! My faith in humanity has been entirely restored by the overwhelming kindness and compassion I was shown in every state, without exception. The fragility of our ecosystem has become quite familiar to me, and I have gained a solemn respect and appreciation for the wildness of Mother Nature. Most importantly, my sense of freedom has never been greater. I feel more patriotic than ever in my life, and I feel truly privileged to be able to live in, and explore this beautiful country. I have met preachers, hobos, college kids, artists, accountants, farmers, housewives, cops, glassblowers, soccer players, piano players, COD players, dog-people, horse-people, mule-people, type A, and type B. I have seen the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware, followed the Potomac River in Maryland, crossed the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, followed the Ohio River Valley through Ohio and Indiana, came up the mighty Mississippi River in Illinois, climbed in and on the river-side bluffs in Missouri, crossed the Great Plains of Kansas, ascended the legendary Rocky Mountains in Colorado, meandered among the canyons in Utah, marched through the desert in Nevada, and blissfully strutted through the Sierras and into the Pacific Ocean in California. I have seen so much, and yet I feel as though I have seen so little of what is out there in totality. I do not think I am wise yet, but I think my experiences have given me a solid platform on which to build a life of wisdom. Now that I am back in the real world, if only for the moment, the important thing is to apply what I have learned, so that all the struggles and triumphant moments would mean something. So… What next?
Well, frankly, I am not sure. I feel more confident about going to school now after visiting so many colleges along the way, and I know that I am the determiner of my own success in that type of environment. However, I have an insatiable desire to go back to the road, this time somewhere new. It seems necessary for me to get a job in the meantime, as a little bit of cash will help me no matter what route I decide to follow. As far as Dudetrek.com is concerned, I will be using my blog as a forum for publishing my journals. The next post I make will be an edition of my journal from the first 50 days of my walk. I have no desire to monetize from my writing, and if I could, I would take all that I have learned and hand it to the world for free. Seeing as this is impossible, publishing it all for free online seems like the next best thing. To bring this all to a close for now, let me reiterate a few very important points I am trying to make from telling you my story. First, the American Dream is attainable, and a combination of willpower and fortitude will get you there. Second, although I was by myself for about a year, I was never alone; I was supported by my family, my friends, my community, and complete strangers- without them, Dudetrek would have never lasted. Lastly, to bring my entire adventure full circle, I will say what I have been saying all along…
WISDOM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE