Walkers take the long way home

Hannah Wood and Canyon Hunt share a laugh during an interview with The Times-Independent. The pair decided to walk across the country. Photo by Doug McMurdo

From Ocean Beach in San Francisco to Sunset Beach in North Carolina, Hannah Wood and Canyon Hunt are about one-third of the way through an epic walk across America.

In Moab for a few days to enjoy “the coolest place we’ve been so far,” the former AmeriCorps volunteers decided to take the long way home back in January. They didn’t know each other. Hannah worked for the Bureau of Land Management. Canyon’s team worked in different places. Hannah overheard Canyon nonchalantly tell his friends he intended to walk home to Washington, D.C. Hannah gave him a look that told him she was going with him.

They go to great pains to tell an interviewer that they aren’t a couple, but like many couples, they are best friends when they aren’t busy being enemies.

The entire trip was planned while on the phone with each other. From January to Aug. 10, the day they began their trek, they discussed the trip. The places they would see. The time they would take to get to know their fellow citizens.

The “Walk for Sole Freedom Across America” is part lark, part adventure, and part bringing awareness. For Hannah, taking the long way home is extremely personal. Her best friend from college committed suicide after joining the military, an event that Hannah, 23, continues to struggle with. Her friend Rachel McKay was a sergeant in the U.S. Army at her time of death.

Hannah Wood and Canyon Hunt share a story and a cup of coffee at a Moab coffeehouse. Photo by Doug McMurdo

She said the planets have aligned for her since the journey began. She can speak with conviction on the importance of mental health, of taking responsibility, of being bold when all you want to be is left alone.

For Canyon, 21, it was time spent on the Nez Perce Reservation while with AmeriCorps that helped him realize that the earth, like its inhabitants, is fragile. We’re walking for mental health and environmental health,” he said. “If the earth is dying, so are we. We’re destroying the planet along with ourselves.”

The road has been “all love,” he said. They haven’t encountered any bogeymen.

Their parents are OK with the literal path they have chosen. Hannah said her parents are “very open.” Mom is a hippie and they have both been “very supportive.”

Canyon’s parents, he said, “didn’t say I shouldn’t, they said I couldn’t.” And while his mom has come around after initially being against the plan while his father was more supportive, the roles have reversed.

Neither walkers have concrete plans for the future, but both are keeping journals and could collaborate on a book down the road. For now, Hannah is feeling the pressure of student loans and hopes to gain employment working outdoors in the fields of geosciences or environmental studies.

Canyon spent a year in college but left due to the high cost. He has a vague goal of teaching English in Spain or Brazil, but he admits with a laugh that he doesn’t “know a lick” of Spanish or Portuguese.

The pair has won some hard-earned philosophy points during the journey. They’ve realized much of what we fear is taught to us. “We go to sleep every night not scared of a single thing,” said Canyon.

“I’ve learned a lot of times we go really fast and we don’t slow down to take it all in,” said Hannah. “Consumerism, our need for material items … I’m just realizing we need to slow down. It’s all connected.”

Said Canyon, “We’ve learned our worst days end up being our best days. We get to our breaking point and somebody takes us in for the night. We get to take a shower for the first time in days. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Anyone who wishes to donate to this adventure of a lifetime should visit sole-freedom.com and click DONATE at the top of the page. The money donated will go toward food and organizations that help with mental and environmental health.

To receive daily updates, follow them on Instagram @sole.freedom and on Facebook: Walk for sole freedom.