Catch a glimpse of what it’s like walking across America with the first video compilation of my adventure!
My name is Edward Mjelde, I am a 24 year old recent college graduate from sunny San Diego, California.
This is my story about how I gave away and sold nearly all my possessions and left home with a backpack to walk coast-to-coast across the country following the 5,100 mile American Discovery Trail in pursuit of beauty, truth, and a life of risk and adventure.
My goal is to share the stories I have gathered from my adventure in hope that it will inspire people to take risks in order to chase their own dreams and aspirations.
I have dubbed my epic adventure as WalkUSA, ”A Walk to Discover America and its People”.
In this article I explain the steps I took to prepare and educate myself about my journey and share the incredible stories of the people who helped me figure it out. I will share how I prepared myself with primary information, expert knowledge, and provide the process I went through in preparing my guide book and maps.
In my last article I introduced myself and shared the story on how I came up with my cross-country backpacking adventure, I explained how I physically prepared for my journey, and delivered some tips that helped me achieve my fitness goals that might work for you.
Feel free to catch up and read it by clicking here: WalkUSA’s Adventure Series: Physical Training
In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think “Dude, why in the world did I tell people I was going to walk across the USA!?” I really had no clue on what walking across the country would really be like!
Fortunately, obstacles like this get me excited, I love challenges. The moment the idea hit I began to surmount the problems. The silence in my room was broken from typing and tapping away on my computer keyboard, conducting a grand symphony of information. Google searching, Wikipedia reading, Article hunting and Blog sniffing, I tunneled my way through the information on a quest to get a snapshot of the big picture.
Immediately, I knew I needed the insight on others who have walked across America in order to get an understanding of what a long trip like this would be like. In my Google searches I came across three names that stuck out to me, George Throop, Peter Jenkins, and Jonah Boyer. These are the incredible people have helped me understand what I might encounter during my own walk and have added inspiration in my own adventure. Primary information about my walk across the country came from reading Peter Jenkins books and through following George Throop’s and Jonah Boyer’s adventures.
George Throop is a cross-country walker who has just finished his journey last year after over three years on the road, and he still continues to walk. He walks in honor of his mother who died from cancer. His goal is to inspire others to live a healthily lifestyle and promotes that you can start by walking just 20 minutes a day. View the video above to hear his story.
You can also view George Throop’s Website by clicking here: EnjoyTheWalk
Peter Jenkins is a popular travel author who has inspired many people to get out and explore. A Walk Across America was the first book he wrote as an account of his cross-country adventure in his 20s.
Fresh out of college he hiked across America with his dog Cooper, an Alaskan Malamute. He started in New York and hiked his way down to New Orleans, met and married his wife, and then turned north to finish in Florence, Oregon.
Peter Jenkins still travels and writes, in fact he just finished a two year trip across America in an antique station wagon and plans to share his adventure in another book.
Jonah was 19 years old when he started his adventure across the country which he titled “DudeTrek”. He just recently completed the American Discovery Trail (ADT) and is now planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I found out about Jonah after he had just started his hike on the ADT. I actually started WalkUSA while he was still continuing his adventure. Along the trail I would hear about him from those he encountered, read notes he lift in trail journals, and even stayed in the same houses with people who have invited him in along his travels.
If you want to learn about this young mans incredible adventure you can checkout his website by clicking here: dudetrek.com
Following the stories about others was very inspirational and gave me drive, however I also knew I had to start acquiring the skills that would allow me to feel prepared and thrive during my adventure. The following three books are the titles that have helped me understand backpacking and survival principles.
SAS Survival Handbook
The SAS Survival Handbook is a compressive survival book and digital application (Android and Apple) which details how to survive in dangerous situations. The book includes many photos and examples, is fun to read, and covers various topics. After reading the SAS Survival Handbook I felt much more prepared to take on problems I may encounter. I understood prevention, the signs of trouble, and had greater ability to recognize quickly my best survival options.
The Advanced Backpacer: A Handbook of Year Round Long Distance Hiking
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka provides an overview of backpacking systems. He is thorough in describing the advantages and disadvantages of gear in clear language and charts. It’s a quick read loaded with information and also a great reference guide. When it came to selecting gear and knowing options this book was one of my greatest resources.
Andrew Skurka is an amazing long distance backpacker and a huge inspiration. Check out his website by clicking here: Andrew Skurka’s Website
Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes
Before leaving on my trip I did my due diligence to figure out what the main cause of hikers failing to complete their long distance goals. I found that overwhelming numbers of hikers quit because of foot related issues. Fixing Your Feet is a comprehensive look into foot care starting with the premise that prevention is the number one goal. I credit this book in helping me make great decisions for selecting foot related purchases and teaching prevention and first aid. Due to this book I have had zero foot related issues.
Preparing the Trail Guide
Many long distance trails have guides. Before leaving on my trip I prepared the guide book for my hike along the ADT using advice that I have gathered from backpacking experts. I did not know exactly what to expect during my journey, so I made every effort to provide myself with tools that I could use to make the planning process during my traveling be more effortless. The following video is the planning model that I used for my trip.
During my first month of walking I found my planning very helpful, however as I gained more confidence and knowledge of the trail-life I found that I could have been prepared doing less. With that said, I would never consider my planning process a waste of time, going through this extensive planning required a deeper look into the trail to identify problem spots which were much easier to solve at home with access to a computer. There are many ways to approach the planning process, the intent of this video is to help show one way of going about it and hopefully spark ideas.
Having a map and compass, and more importantly knowing how to use them, has saved me many times from getting into sticky situations.
Some great sources for online maps come from Google, USGS (http://www.usgs.gov/), and MyTopo (http://www.mytopo.com/). If it is important to have detailed information of the area you are traveling I recommend using 1:24,000 scale maps which are available on USGS and MyTopo. I also highly recommend using map resources at libraries, ranger stations, and state/national park websites. Finding resources from these providers usually creates less hassle then having to find maps from other resources and may also alert you about trail conditions.
There are also a number of great apps for both Apple and Android, one of my favorite is Backpacker GPS Trails. Although it can run a little slow at times, it has the ability to overlay two different types of maps to reveal more detailed information about an area. You can also upload coordinate files to their website so trip plans can be pulled up on multiple devices easily. Maps can also be save for offline viewing, however it is limited in storage.
For those who are seeking to find hiking trails around where they live I recommend the app AllTrails. It can be used to find a wide variety of hikes. One of my favorite features about it is that it compiles a lot of information about the trails including reviews, pictures, difficulty, and even may include map coordinates to the trailhead, very useful.
Survival Note: Not all phones connect to GPS without a working phone signal, if you are expecting to use your phone as a navigation tool consult your providers network map in order to see if you will be in service.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for my next article where I will be sharing what gear I will be using during my next 2,700 miles of my coast-to-coast hike. I hope to share how you can choose and organize gear for trips of your own, large or small. Till next time, “Cheers!”.