This was an unseasonable trip involving numerous stops for interviews, so the numbers describing it are a little peculiar. I do find them interesting, though – particularly in contrast to the corresponding stats from my walk across Europe. It’s one of the few straightforward ways I have of comparing two very different experiences.
Time and Space
Between the morning of August 9, when I walked down to the shore of Elliott Bay, and the evening of March 10, when I reached the brackish waters of Lake Pontchartrain 214 days later, I walked just over 4,000 contiguous miles, or 6,440 km. Through desert heat, winter snow, and injury, I covered an average of 18 miles / 30 km per day for seven months.
For the most part, I made halting progress. Of the total 214 days, only 124 days were full days of walking. I spent 38 days partially at rest, and I took 52 days off entirely. That’s a ratio of about one day off and one partial day for every two or three full days on the move. My longest blocks of consecutive full days were the final sprint from Austin to New Orleans (17 days), the stretch from the Pecos River area into Austin (13 days), and the detour from El Paso to Artesia (8 days). I think the issue was that I kept meeting cool people.
The full days were pretty consistent in length and difficulty, but they did get longer toward the end. My average full-day distance for the trip as a whole was 28 miles / 45 km. I did 79 days that were marathon-length or longer. One week I averaged 34 miles / 54 km per day, and there were a few other times when I topped a hundred miles over three consecutive days, which was gratifying. As for the longest day of the walk, there are two ways to pick it. The longest day between waking up and falling asleep was about 42 miles / 67 km on the way through Llano, TX. The longest 24-hour stretch was 50 miles / 80 km from Pasco to Walla Walla, overnight.
The middle of the journey really was a tipping point. I unknowingly spent my halfway evening on November 23 in Monticello, UT, and passed my halfway distance on December 4, in the vicinity of Yellowjacket Pass, on the way to Pagosa Springs, CO. This was not a happy time, but things did slowly start to improve from that point on.
How about splits? I hit 1,000 miles on the way to Idaho Falls on September 29 (day 52); 2,000 miles on the way to Pagosa Springs (day 118); 3,000 miles on January 31 (day 176), the day before I reached Fort Stockton, TX; and 4,000 miles on the way to Lake Pontchartrain, on March 10 (day 214). The first thousand miles took 52 days; the second, 66 days; the third, 58 days; and the fourth, 38 days – which makes an average of just over a marathon per day for the last thousand miles. I’d originally hoped to do the whole trip at that rate. Maybe next time.
On 129 nights of the journey, I slept in a room with a roof; on 82 nights, I slept in a tent; and on two nights in August, I slept in the open. Of the 129 nights I slept in a room, only twelve involved paid accommodations, which says something pretty impressive about the willingness of people in the West to welcome a stranger into their homes. Most of the time, if I was sleeping indoors, it wasn’t because I needed to get out of the elements – though this was certainly an issue on many cold occasions – but because I’d met someone with an open heart. There were only three stretches in which I spent so much as a week between nights in rooms: from Provo to Moab, from Iraan to Austin, and from Austin to Silsbee. The average roofless interval was only two or three nights long, with an average stay of two nights beneath a given roof.
On February 21, in the middle of what turned out to be the highest-mileage week of the walk, I kept track of everything I ingested. It was the only day of the whole trip that lent itself to this kind of scrutiny, because on February 21, I subsisted entirely on single-serving packaged snacks given to me by a friendly convenience store owner. Those brightly-colored jolts of jet fuel amounted to about 2.7 pounds / 1.2 kilograms of food and 3.7 liters of fluids, yielding about 5,700 Calories. That week, I was essentially eating some kind of snack every half hour that I was awake; I was rarely not eating.
From Seattle to New Orleans, the walk cost about $4,000 / €2,900 / £2,400. That’s an overall average of about $1 / €0.73 / £0.61 per mile, and about $19 / €14.02 / £11.40 per day. It turns out my walk across the American West was only half as expensive as my walk across Europe. I didn’t expect this, but I’m not complaining. Note that this doesn’t include considerations like the value of gear already at hand, gifts received along the way, or the cost of starting life over afterward.
From a farthest north and west in Seattle (48°N, 122°W), I walked to a farthest south and east in New Orleans (30°N, 90°W).
The latitudes and distances involved would vaguely resemble a walk from Paris to Cairo.
From Seattle to New Orleans as the crow flies is about 2,100 miles / 3,400 km. I’m no crow.