We were lucky enough to catch up with Jake from Jake Does America and get some of his hiking advice. After hiking over 10,000 miles across the country, we figured he might have some good tips to share…
10,000 miles is an unbelievable distance to travel on foot – how did you start down that path?
It started in 2012 when I sold everything I had to walk from Maryland to California. I didn’t have a route planned, though. It’s hard to explain how but here’s a list of the states I went through lol. Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.
Some of these states more than once because I made a ridiculously sized loop for some reason. That’s the freedom of it, though, I guess!
What’s some advice you wish you had known before starting and any essential survival skill that you kept coming back to throughout your journeys?
I grew up hunting, trapping, foraging, building shelters, starting fires, and purifying water. When I turned 18 I joined the army as an infantryman and that just upped my survival training. I never had any worries or issues there but it came in handy. I’d recommend carrying a survival book or app to anyone doing something like this. I had an app just in case. For me, personally, the only advice I wish I had in the beginning would be to carry some sort of sign that would let people know what I was doing.
What kept you motivated to keep going?
At first I did it just because I wanted to but when I ran out of my own juice I began walking for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That definitely gave me the boost! If you’re going to do this I definitely recommend doing it for a cause. You’ll have a reason larger than yourself and it’s a great feeling.
Is there any one experience that stands out in your mind as the most unforgettable?
I was walking through Nevada and the time went from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. I lost 12 hours of time without blinking an eye; without missing a step. The sun came up when it should’ve been going down. Totally freaked me out.
Any pointers on how to be away from civilization for an extended period of time and how to stay organized when living out of a pack?
As far as being away from civilization goes, you get kind of lonely at first but you learn to love it. When I came in to any towns I would try to make it as quick and painless as possible. People would treat me like a homeless beggar or a criminal. I would get harassed by the police. People would throw things at me from their vehicles. Avoid places that have a high homeless rate or you’ll be mistaken (unless you have a lot of money and can afford a hotel and laundry every time you come into a town).
How did I stay organized? Well, after a while you figure your pack out and you know what goes where.
- Main compartment: Sleeping bag, clothes, tent, rain gear, survival pack
- Removable top compartment: Food, toiletries, 550 cord
- Chest strap: Bowie knife, bandana, sunglasses
- Back compartment: 3L water bladder, solar panel, sleeping pad, camera stand, tent poles
- Hip pocket 1: External battery, usb cables, batteries
- Hip pocket 2: Bear spray, Camera
- Side strap: Machete
- Side pocket 1 and 2: 1L steel water bottle
What was your most important piece of gear that you took with you?
That would definitely have to be my pack. I used the Osprey Aether 70. Not only was it large enough to take me anywhere I wanted to go, but it is the most comfortable pack I’ve tried.
So what were your favorite places?
Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska were my favorite places. So many good views from all of them!
What did you take away from the experience that you hope other hikers would gain on their own travels?
Don’t worry when things go wrong. Just keep going. It’ll work itself out!