Sea To Shining Sea, With Sore Feet: Man Makes Way Through Utah On Walk Across U.S.
BOULDER MOUNTAIN, Utah – Imagine setting a goal and then walking nearly 7,000 miles to get it done. That’s exactly what Brad Marro is up to right now as he makes his way across the state of Utah. And it’s not hard to imagine one of the hardest parts about walking coast to coast: sore feet.
“I mean it hurts,” Marro said, “walking 20 miles a day, 15 miles a day, over this rough terrain with a 50, 60-pound pack with all the water I’m carrying.”
Hiking over Boulder Mountain near Torrey, with only three states to go, Marro said, “There are days I’ve had to just stop because my feet are killing me.”
And yet, he pushes on, walking sea to shining sea on the American Discovery Trail. It stretches across a dozen states from the Delaware shore to the California coast. Marro is walking it all, including two different routes that parallel each other for about a thousand miles across the nation’s mid-section.
“I’ve walked about 59-hundred (miles) out of the 7,000 that the trail covers,” Marro said. “And I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Although Utah’s Boulder Mountain presents a 10,000 foot slow-motion hurdle, Marro admits that even the flatter states are a challenge with their unchanging scenery. And it’s no picnic, camping alone in a hammock almost every night for many months on end. “I’ve learned,” Marro said, “what a mental game this is. It’s not a physical game as much it is a mental game.”
Although some might be tempted to write him off as completely crazy for doing a hike with so many challenges, it’s a good idea to consider the good things about his epic walk to see America. For one thing, the scenery.
“This is just ridiculously beautiful,” Marro said as he walked across a mountain meadow, rampant with wildflowers, bordered by quaking aspens, giving him a high-altitude view of a vast swath of redrock cliffs and canyons. He won’t name a favorite among the many states he’s fought his mental battles across, but in 593 miles of Utah, he’s finding something very special.
“It blew my expectations away,” he said. “I thought it was desert and look what an oasis it is. This has definitely been the most exciting and rewarding part. And the hardest part.”
The trans-continental route was established more than a quarter-century ago but there are very few signs marking the American Discovery Trail, especially in Utah. The trail’s backers have struggled for years to win official recognition comparable to more famous routes such as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Earlier this year, Congress finally made the American Discovery Trail slightly more official by inserting approval for trail signs into a public lands bill.
“This law says that signs will be put along the trail on all federal lands,” said Bob Palin who serves as the trail’s coordinator in Utah and is vice president of the American Discovery Trail Society. He hopes Congress will take it a step further and create a new category of national trails overseen by the National Park Service, recognizing “discovery trails” that connect cities, towns and rural landscapes.
In the case of the American Discovery Trail, only a few people have ever hiked the entire route.
“We believe it’s between 20 and 30 people have completed the entire trail,” Palin said. But he believes official status will get more people out to walk bits and pieces.
“Isn’t it good for people to meet people of different kinds across their country,” Palin said, “and see their country?”
Marro was eager to talk about the best thing he’s encountered on the American Discovery Trail.
“The Americans,” he said. “It’s been the people. You know we have a kind of perceived divide in our country. And I have not experienced any of that. Strangers, people stop— we call them ‘trail angels’— the people stop constantly to check on me. For me, it’s the most important part, is the connection with people. Because for me, people are my oxygen.”
Marro started his hike two years ago, intending to walk the whole trail in one continuous effort. But the plan was interrupted by the sudden death of his father. He dropped out for nearly a year, and then resumed the trek. While walking, he’s using his cellphone and a drone to shoot a documentary and also to update his progress on “Brad Treks America” sites on Facebook and Instagram.
Marro is on his 4th pair of boots and expects to wear out two more before he sees the Pacific, possibly by late August or early September.