ADT Day 83: 40 mi/18 hrs to Illinois

5:00 am

I wake in yet another field of corn just off the road, the early light reminding me I can ill afford to sleep in, surrounded by private land (including where I’m pitched).  “Stealth” has been a tricky thing the last couple days.  I’ve spent most of Indiana walking on bike paths with reasonable opportunities to catch a night’s sleep, often with a picnic shelter and port-a-potty (occasionally water and electricity too!).  None of these spaces have technically been “camping permitted,” but nobody has fussed about this solitary hiker hanging out for a night, always quiet, always respectful, always gone by morning without a trace.

The night before I walked out of Rochester, Indiana as the sun was getting late and low in the sky, a severe thunderstorm threatening on the horizon and forecasted with scary warnings by the National Weather Service.  I had good visibility on the horizon, now walking through increasingly flat and mostly unobstructed land.  I could see the storm moving eastbound and to my south.  In fact, I spent that entire night right on the edge of the behemoth, the line of demarcation, my tent pitched on the side of the road, the opening facing south to give me a theatre like perspective on the night’s screening of Doom and Gloom in the Sky.  Behind me, to the north, the sky remained fair.

I slept very little but photographed plenty.  I also received a “wellness check” from the local Sheriff before the sun had set.  I explained my endeavor along the American Discovery Trail, he asked for my ID and ran a quick check, then smiled and said, “technically I don’t think there is anything wrong with this.”  He also encouraged me to “call if you need anything,” and I went about my night.

5:30 am

I just finished packing everything up.  I’m no longer in the field, but on the shoulder of the road, a little bit of a pullout space, finishing the final straps, lashes and checks to ensure all is present and secure (I’m a little paranoid about things being left behind, though I’ve only lost a single pair of sunglasses early on, week 2, in a moment of disarray).  I hear a car coming to a stop next to me.  I prepare for the usual: “I’m walking on purpose, Delaware to California…”  I quickly see I’m being greeted by another police officer, “are you okay?”  I indeed repeat the usual refrain.  His demeanor lights up, almost star struck to have encountered such a daring asshole.  He floods me with questions, some pragmatic and typical (“what do you do about food?”), but also “you must have some crazy stories” and “you should blog it, it’d go viral.”  This is a young guy, probably late twenties.  

I enjoy his unbridled enthusiasm for my insanity.  I enjoy more getting back to the paces of the road and the prospect of reaching another bike path where nighttime might be a little less stressful, never “permitted” exactly, but a little bit less “danger to society.”  I know this routine, I work to alter such irrational fears within our culture, but the “wellness checks” wear on me as I know they are never really about me.  If they were, a background check on the side of the road would not be necessary, as my wellness (or lack there of) is contained within me, not in the recorded logs of hyper-surveillance, a data set, not a diagnosis, and certainly not a comprehensive and holistic evaluation of my condition nor my place within society and community.

5:30 am to 2:00 pm

I walk, taking short breaks to drink, snack and photograph.  A lady scowls driving past as I sit up against a large tree on the side of the road, a cemetery behind me.  I leave no trace, as always.  I value and respect the space and the place, as always.  But it’s hot, highs in the low 90’s, and I need shade.  I can’t wait on a bench in a public park “between the hours of dusk and dawn.”  Those can be days away.  I’m walking through a lot of private space, “owned” space, but I still need to rest and restore.  I have many miles and many hours to walk, just to arrive and do it all again.  You’ll have my care during my short stay.  I just need a little understanding as I travel along an ancient path, that is, the path traversed by labored step.

I carry just enough water (2 liters) to reach my midday destination, Crown Point, where I will fill my belly and flush my tissues with fluid before carrying just enough water to reach my day’s final destination, the Indiana/Illinois state line.  I take advantage of opportunities along the way for any extra I can drink, though few present (and none are needed).  I must keep my pack as light as possible.  I’m only carrying enough food for the day and beyond 3-4 pounds of water, the added weight will labor my step and cripple my longevity, especially the wear on my feet over such a long trek in a single day.  I’m walking by houses all day, so if I miscalculate I can always knock on a door.  My calculations are correct though and I comfortably reach the store where I will buy my lunch.

2:46 pm

As I come into town dry and hot, a nice gentleman pulls up behind me on a bicycle, “you on the Great American Trail?”  

“The American Discovery Trail, yeah.”  

He lets me know easy places to fill my bottles, offers some snacks, asks about my trip and how many miles I have planned for the day, and finally wishes me well.  I walk a little further to the grocery store on my map, my mouth watering and all the fruit looking “must have!”  I struggle with full-size grocery stores out here.  They have too much.  I want it all.  But I know I have to pound it or carry it, and I’m not much for feeling sick as I walk.  I rarely get it right, though I’m getting better with each passing week.  I end up packing the apple, nectarine and orange for later.  The potato salad and the strawberry milk I definitely finish.  

I get lucky too, there’s an outdoor outlet turned on next to the bike rack!  Crown Point is big enough, urban enough, these are usually turned off, the fear of “the homeless” too often and too deeply entrenched.  I setup my foam pad as a seat and settle in for some recharge all around.  A nice young man working in the grocery store, really just a kid, asks me where I’m hiking and if I blog it on social media.  Later he adds a follow to my instagram, a fellow and aspiring artist, theater especially.  He’s an artist!  I definitely follow back!!

3:47 pm

When I passed through Cincinnati I had the opportunity to buy shoes on the cheap, light running shoes…so naturally I bought two and strapped one pair to my pack.  I paid too much for the last pair.  I’m buying local unless I can’t, and my last shoe resupply I had very limited options on-trail.  I decide during my lunch break to swap on the new shoes I’ve been packing to ease the blow of the mileage as the evening wears on.  The decision would pay off, my feet surprisingly resilient on such a heavy day of pounding pavement with a loaded pack.

4:54 pm

I’m not quite out of Crown Point yet, but back on my feet and getting to it.  I encounter some of that “irrational fear” I’ve been talking about.

I take this picture and post sitting in the McDonald’s on my exiting end of town, just before I will hop on the bike path that will take me most of the way to the state line.  I’m about two miles from where I sat for lunch, but the beating sun as I passed through town convinced me I hadn’t yet rehydrated enough and I’m carrying enough water only if I start fully flush or find more along the path.  It’s been around 90 all afternoon.  I’m not taking a chance.  I sit down with an ice cream cone and a large ice water!

6:10 pm

I’m now a little ways down the bike path carrying me to the Indiana finish line, about 27 miles in.  My pack is feeling a bit heavier than I like, but I remember I’m also carrying that fruit I bought but never intended to load on my shoulders.  It’s time for a short sit down anyway, so I take to enjoying an apple and a nectarine while I’m at it!


What a difference it makes; I guess I know how the camel feels about straws…my back certainly does!  I am amazed, though, how precise that threshold can be between “I can’t even one more step” and “let’s dance this party all night long.”

8:45 pm

33 miles in, such beauty, amplified further by mounting fatigue.  My feet are starting to balk a bit.  I’m both surprised and thankful for their resilience tonight.  I’m arriving quickly into the sprawling urban outside Chicago, though for now still in Indiana.  I’m in no hurry.  I’m always happy to pause and pull my camera from its waterproof bag for another opportunity to breathe and shutter, plus my “camping” tonight will be sketchy at best, so…

9:36 pm

Highland Meadows.  I’m no longer on the bike trail and have taken to the dark streets, now 35 miles and counting.  I stopped for a few moments where the bike path met the street, sat down on the available bench and massaged my feet, knowing the challenges that remained, including the rapidly spiking mileage.  I’m listening to Linkin Park to take my mind off all that hurts and keep my energy and adrenaline flowing.

11:41 pm

I made it!  I’m in my tent at the state line.  40 miles hiked from 5:30 am to 11:30 pm.  I’m feeling a bit of sensory overload, bordering on what I have come to call a sort of “body mania.”  In an instant I can feel everything my body has been chemically suppressing all day long, along with psychological suppression too no doubt.  It’s all flooding into me, right here and now, crammed into my tiny tent in a hidden space amongst the bushes and power substation near the bike path that leads me across the state line into Illinois.  I’ll cross officially tomorrow.  Right now I need to hide out and decompress, return my body to a functional equilibrium, because right now everything is freaking the fuck out.  I know what to do.  This isn’t my first time, won’t be the last…

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Comments 2

  • Christian Brisebois : Jun 21st

    I need to read up on this. Sounds like a lot of the ADT doesn”t provide for safe + décent places to set up your tent. I’ve read a lot about the AT and took for granted the ADT was the same. But I realize now its impossible for america to have a green strip of wilderness from atlantic to pacific.
    Good luck Leif !

  • Judith E Johnson : Jun 22nd

    So glad to get your updates. You’re making great progress! Glad you’re able to get through the many challenges you meet along the way. Sending you lots of love and hugs!


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