Why are we doing this?
Ever since completing our thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail in 1987, Laurie and I have longed to be back on the trail, doing a long distance trip. We contemplated hiking the A.T. again, this time from north to south. After thinking about it we realized we wanted to try something different. We also saw a need to publicize some alternative trails to the A.T. The A.T. is very popular and is getting loved to death. We feared that a repeat trip might not live up to our memories that we had of our first thru-hike.
On the ADT, we hope to discover the real America. We want to meet the people in small towns and learn something about them. We will also pass by thousands of historical and cultural sites that should enrich our lives. By publishing reports of our trip on the Internet, we thought we could introduce the ADT to others. We liked the idea of something that challenged us physically and that would get us back into top condition. We also really enjoyed life on the Appalachian Trail — one where the basic necessities of food, shelter, water, and weather are really important. We feel there is a lot to be learned in living a simple life style and we wanted to get back to that.
After discussing the possibility of hiking the American Discovery Trail with Reese Lukei, the National Coordinator and a good friend of ours, we decided upon this trip. Where the ADT makes a loop between Cincinnati and Denver, we would travel the southern route. The southern route would include both the River to River Trail in Illinois and the Katy Trail in Missouri which we were interested in seeing. We hoped to be among the first people to travel coast to coast on the ADT completely without motorized travel. With about 4,800 miles to travel and since we don’t want to spend the better part of two years hiking the ADT, we chose mountain bikes as our primary mode of travel. Our Trek 7000 aluminum frame bikes should do well on the many miles of gravel roads and rail trail.
Parts of the route are located in areas where mountain bikes are not permitted or where they are not suitable for the rough terrain. We vowed to never ride bikes on trails that might be adversely impacted by bike tires. For these sections we will be hiking and backpacking. The hiking sections will total around 1,000 miles of the trip. During our planning phase, we even found some areas where horseback riding might be the most appropriate mode of travel. In the arid west, Nevada and western Utah, we learned of segments where it is 100 miles between access to water. This will necessitate having part-time vehicle support to meet us between hiking and biking segments.
The trip is filled with a number of daunting challenges. The first challenge would be to figure out the route and to get maps showing enough detail to make it possible. Having 6 months to plan this trip would not be wasted. Would gaining experience on mountain bikes heavily loaded with panniers full of gear be possible during the winter? How could we arrange for our bikes and backpacks to be at the right place at the right time between hiking and biking segments? What if our bikes broke down miles from civilization? We couldn’t leave on our trip too early — the high elevations of Colorado and even of West Virginia would still be snowed in. A winter of heavy snowfall could slow us down or stop us in our tracks if attempted too early. If we started too late, the high Sierras in California could get snowed in. How would we get across those deserts in Nevada without support or water? Would we tire of riding 400 miles of Kansas’ gravel roads? Our planning efforts would hopefully surmount these obstacles plus many more we would meet along the way.
Our journey will be continuous with three exceptions. We hiked a section of West Virginia’s high country in late December due to an unexpected warm spell. We plan to hike 210 miles of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail during early March. We theorized that it would be easier to hike in cold weather conditions than to bicycle in cold weather. After these two con-contiguous segments, we plan to start from Delaware on our bikes around March 22st. The only other planned alteration would be to return home after reaching St. Louis in mid-May so we can attend our daughter’s graduation ceremony at the University of Virginia. By carefully planning the mileage, studying the terrain, and selecting the right mode of travel, we hope to reach California’s Limantour Beach by the end of September. We shall see.
The trip will be primarily an extended camping expedition, but we will utilize motels, and bed & breakfast inns within the means of our budget. We will also be staying at the homes of many friends and relatives. Several people, through the Internet, have already offered us bunk space when we get to their town. For these offers, we will be forever grateful.
A number of people have expressed interest in joining us for some portion of the trip. “Tinfoot” and “Burning Daylight” plan to join us on Ohio’s Buckeye Trail in March. Some ADT folks plan to be with us at the Delaware sendoff and travel part of the route with us. Some America Online friends and a cousin may join us on the Katy Trail in Missouri. One or two cousins in Kansas may ride across that state with us. In Colorado, some friends and relatives plan to join us for portions of the trip across that state. We have received two offers for some support in the state of Nevada already. So, yes, if you have any interest in meeting up with us, we’ll love to see you. Give us a call or send an email message.
We agreed that this trip will be difficult but we will have fun doing it. If and when we stop having fun for long periods of time, that will be the end of this trip. However, Laurie knows that I am so goal oriented, that I’ll probably never admit to not having any fun!
Anyway, that’s what this trip is all about. Please call or write if you have any questions. Chapter 3 will be sent within a few days.
© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet