Well, I’ve walked through the mountains as well as Thayer MO, and I’m sitting in a truckstop in Cabool, MO, thanks to the kindness of the owners who have allowed me to pitch my tent on their property for several days free of charge. As I’m doing my laundry I am reflecting on things that a person making a journey like mine will encounter, and for which there is simply no way to prepare in advance. In no particular order here they are:
Roads that are banked kind of like corners on a race car track: There are a lot more of these then you realize, and they basically force you to walk in a very uncomfortable manner. You end up putting all of your weight on your inner leg, and you have to walk short legged with your outer leg. Walking like this quickly results in leg, hip and back pain.
How much water you need on a daily basis to walk like this: basically I consume or use at least three gallons of water a day. Most of it I drink, saving a little to pour over my head when I feel like I’m overheating. Walking over mountains like I have there is no way to carry that kind of a load (1 gallon weighs over 8 lbs), so I end up having to ask homeowners if I can get some water from their water hose or I load up with as much as I can carry when I stop at a gas station.
How important it is to never put anything off: you learn this very quickly. When you have a chance to top off your water supply, you do it. When you have a chance to shower, or do your laundry, you do it. When you have a chance to eat, you do it. When you have a repair you need to make to your cart or equipment, you do it, regardless of how tired you are, because it you don’t you’ll end up hungry, filthy, thirsty, or with equipment that is no longer usable.
The importance of starting early: I try to get started a half hour after daybreak. I then try to walk at a steady pace until around noon, when I’ll try to find a shaded place to stop and either relax or sleep until around 3pm (if I can find a grassy area in the shade I pull out my ground cover and sleeping pad and go to sleep) when I once again resume my walk. Walking in the midday sun with the humidity that goes along with it here in the south is absolutely brutal, so I try to avoid doing so at all costs. I then continue walking until around six, when I will begin looking for a place to pitch my tent for the night.
Learning to talk to everyone you encounter during the day: meeting and talking about what you are doing to complete strangers is never easy, but doing so can benefit you in so many ways. Most people are eager to help or offer advice, and their help and advice have been beneficial to me in so many ways. Stopping at local police stations, churches and gas stations have provided me with great places to camp for the night, and initiating conversations with bikers and truckers has given me first hand information as to the roads that lay ahead, and any bridges or road construction that I may run into that could prove difficult to navigate.
Rotting carcasses and debris on the side of the road: you quickly get used to walking by dead carcasses of animals that have been hit and killed by oncoming traffic, and the awful smells that come with that. I seldom walk a more than a couple of miles before encountering a dead animal of some kind. The amount of debris left by passing vehicles is mind boggling. Everything from plastic bottles and aluminum cans to shredded tires and even old furniture can be seen almost daily. Our countryside is so beautiful, and it’s such a shame to see it’s beauty marred by the garbage we so thoughtlessly throw away.
The amount of effort it takes to do even little things after you have walked all day: even the easiest tasks take a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish. You learn to waste no effort or movement, Simple things like setting up your tent or starting a fire can be absolutely exhausting.
Always being aware of your surroundings: failure to do so can be devastating. Failure to pitch your tent at the highest point possible will result in you sleeping in a pool of water. Not noticing the ants near your campsite can be a very painful learning experience. Not hanging your trash or food from a high tree branch will almost always result in an unwanted visitor looking for something to eat, and failing to notice standing pools of water near your campsite will result in some very painful bites. And failure to look for immediate shelter when you see storm clouds forming can also result in some very miserable walking or camping conditions.
Well, those are just a few of the things that come to mind as I sit here this morning. I’m sure I will have more I can add to this list as I go along. Until then…
Always Onward I Walk,