The Path Ahead

The Path Ahead

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It is hard to know exactly what the next 12 months have in store for me. As it stands now, I will be leaving my home in North Carolina in June to return to Madison, WI. From there, my Dad and I will travel to England to begin our month long Coast-to-Coast hike. After we’ve had our fill of the English countryside, we will return to Madison where I will begin preparations for my solo venture through the National Parks of the Lower 48. While each element of my journey will play directly into the content of this blog, it will deal most directly with my exploration of the United States.

It is hard to know when I became so enthralled with this expansive and diverse country that we call home, but I can guarantee that our family’s western road trip, my NOLS course in Wyoming, summers on the shores of Lake Superior, college in Maine, and countless other trips around the country all play into that fascination. We are all lucky to have such a diverse and beautiful world to inhabit, but Americans have almost unfettered access to snow capped peaks, pristine lakes, desert canyons, and old growth forests. America has protected just about any vista you can imagine, just so that you can go appreciate them. Yet very few of us take advantage of this invaluable gift. I was raised appreciating those landscapes and the experiences that they offer. I hope that, if nothing else, my adventures inspire others to see what our country has to offer.

These days, all we hear about is the impending water crisis, decreased visibility due to air pollution, species going extinct, etc. Our world is changing quickly. It is hard to know what America, or the world, will look like in thirty years, or even a decade. Can the environmental protections put in place in the 60s and 70s continue to protect our wild and natural spaces? I am not sure. Recently, that uncertainty has made me all the more confident that now is the time that I should be exploring America. I may not have enough money, time, or know-how to do it perfectly, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.

That is why, now more than ever, I feel that I must break with tradition and explore what our country has to offer. Ever since the invention of the Model-T in the early 20th century, Americans have had the ability to uproot themselves from their everyday lives and explore the world around them. You don’t need to buy a plane ticket. You don’t need to check-in with the world around you. You don’t need to have a timetable or schedule. All you need is the open road and some gas in your tank. In similar fashion, I will take to the road. I will leave behind my life in North Carolina and take my home with me.

Sadly, I could not find a Model-T, but I am hoping to get my hands on a Honda Element. In a world full of plush, feature-rich cars, the Element is a Spartan-like vehicle with more than enough character. Where other cars focus on bold designs, automatic braking systems, or the newest dashboard technologies, the Element maintains its versatile and simple design. It showcases minimal design and usability, which is exactly what I am looking for. While the Element alone is a formidable little vehicle, I intend to make some minor alterations to better suit my needs. My goal is not just to drive the Element around the country, but also to live in it. In a separate post, I will outline my plans for a modular box-based storage and sleep system. After I have outfitted it for long-distance travel, the Element should be able to take me just about anywhere in comfort and style. Well maybe not that much style… It is an Element.

A man and his car are nothing without a plan. Where will my Element take me? My plan is relatively simple. I will return to the United States in August, spending a few weeks outfitting my car and prepping for travel. Then, I will hit the road. On paper, my route has been designated by the National Parks. I will hop from park to park, spending at least two days in each park. But National Parks are not our Nation’s only treasures. I will be hunting down State Parks and protected areas that merit exploration as well. First, I will go North through Michigan, winding my way East and continuing North through the Adirondacks into New Hampshire and Maine. Once I have seen the tides of the Bay of Fundy, I will work my way South, frequenting friends and family down the Eastern seaboard into Florida. After visiting the Keys, I will move North once more, traversing the Gulf States and following the Mississippi all the way back up to Wisconsin for Christmas. Phase One: Complete.

Phase Two: The Great American West. From Glacier, to the Olympics, to Yosemite, to Big Sur, to Joshua Tree, to Grand Canyon, to Zion, I will be going North to South, traveling Westward. But, 2016 is many months away. I still have some time to plan!

What do I expect to learn or take out of this trip? I’m not entirely sure. I have goals. I have ideas of what I might experience. I have ideal outcomes. But I can’t tell you how or where this journey will end. Maybe it never will. That is where this blog comes in. I don’t need to have it all figured out now. There wouldn’t be any point in doing that. I’ll keep you updated as I discover America, its people, and myself!

It is hard to know where the path ahead will lead, but I will follow it wherever it may lead.

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