East Coast man backpacking across the U.S.
Not everyone has the ambition or desire to backpack across America, but that is exactly what Josh James of Charlotte, N.C., is doing.
“I felt I was lucky enough to have the freedom to do it,” James said. “I saved up the money, quit my job and took off.”
He is not being sponsored because, as he said, that would detract from his purpose of seeing the country. He walks about 10 to 30 miles per day.
In early March, James began his journey along the Appalachian Trail near the town of Damascus, Va., and 500 miles later picked up the American Discovery Trail in Washington, D.C. The American Discovery Trail stretches across more than 6,800 miles. It is the only coast-to-coast, non-motorized recreational trail that links communities, cities, parks and wilderness allowing people to hike, bike or ride horses.
James is traveling the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas as it follows the same general path as the American Discovery Trail. He said the route is 60 to 70 percent back roads, but there aren't a lot of trails in Kansas, so he has been on roads most of the time.
“What would make Kansas better is the completion of the Flint Hills Nature Trail in eastern Kansas,” James said.
He lost his way trying to find Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. The map he has for the route is a little rough and has the wrong numbers for the county roads, so he followed the Santa Fe Trail markers to Lehigh and then walked along U.S. Highway 56, even though he prefers to stay off the main roads.
James camped in Canton on Monday night and then rested for a while in Galva before reaching McPherson, where he spent an evening of luxury at the Red Coach Inn. He only gets a room in a hotel two or three times per state.
Although James had been told he wouldn't like Kansas “because there is nothing here,” he found it to have as much beauty as any other state.
“It's a lot more beautiful than people said it would be,” he said. “One of the prettiest places in Kansas, so far, is Council Grove. I am looking forward to seeing the Cheyenne Bottoms area.”
One of the experiences that stands out for him is the two days he stayed with an Amish family in Indiana.
“They eat the most amazing food,” he said. “It's almost like Thanksgiving for every meal.”
James said enjoys being able to travel at his own speed and not having to be anywhere by a certain time. He plans to stop in Colorado for the winter, when he will get a job to replenish his funds before continuing on to the West Coast. He estimates he will reach San Francisco sometime next fall.