Note: This post was written in late April, 2011, a couple of months before I arrived in the United States to begin the 12 Long Walks.
If the blog ends up attracting a wider audience than my immediate family and friends, I may upgrade from “infrequently asked questions” (IAQ’s) to “somewhat frequently asked questions” (SFAQ’s).
A. There are a lot of beautiful natural places in North America; I can’t think of a better way to experience them than on foot.
B. I love the simplicity of backpacking in the wilderness. Wake up with the sun; go to sleep when it gets dark; walk, listen and observe in between.
C. We live in an increasingly sedentary society. Obesity levels are through the roof. It would be pretty cool if even one couch-bound, horizontally challenged person who read this journal, was encouraged to put on a pair of shoes, grab a pack and go for a walk. Hopefully skinny folk will like it too.
2. What is the overall distance?
Approximately 15,000 miles or 24,000 kilometres. Due to the fact that some of the walks contain considerable amounts of cross country travel, in addition to multiple alternative route options, the aforementioned figure should only be taken as a “best guesstimate.”
3. How many miles a day will you be covering?
On easy to follow, well established trails I will average between 27 (43.5 km) and 37 miles (59.5 km) per day. When hiking off-trail and/or in largely snowbound terrain, I will average 17 (27.4 km) to 27 miles (43.5 km) per day.
4. How much weight will you be carrying?
At lower altitudes during the warmer months my base pack weight will be 3-4 kg (6.6-8.8 lbs). In snowbound terrain and/or during the winter months, I will generally be carrying an extra 1.5-3 kg.
In regards to “total pack weight” (ie. base weight plus consumables), this will vary considerably depending upon the amount of days between resupply points and the quantity of water I need to carry for any given section. For example, starting out on a five day stretch with 1.5 litres of water, my pack will weigh in the vicinity of 9.5 kg (21 lbs).
5. How will you resupply?
A combination of maildrops and buy as I go. The breakdown will vary for each hike, depending on the frequency and quality of resupply options. Overall, I estimate 75% maildrops and 25% buy as I go.
6. How will you get from walk to walk?
Hitch, bus, car, train and plane. Think Steve Martin and John Candy (from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles), but without the shower rings, watch pawning (although I do own a Casio) and “pillow sharing”.
7. How long is all this going to take?
Hopefully about 17-18 months, including rest days and travel time between walks.
8. What are the biggest obstacles?
Injuries and Mother Nature. Both are wild cards to some extent. Experience and thorough preparation can only take you so far. The reality is that on a trip of this length there are never any guarantees.
Irrespective of the final outcome, I plan to enjoy every moment (even the shitty ones). If I finish then great, if not, I will be content in knowing that I gave it my best shot. Many years ago I remember reading a quote from Leon Spinks’ mother, just before he fought Muhammad Ali for the second time in 1978 (love my boxing). It went something like this: ” I don’t care whether he wins or loses. I’m still goin’ go out and boogie.” I can’t say it any better than that.