‘Left foot, right foot, one foot at a time . . .’
by Jim Stewart, Contributing Writer
Three hundred twenty-one days. Twelve states. Approximately 4,000 miles.
All on foot. With a 40-pound knapsack on his back. Valderi, valdera.
When Alastair McCandless ’97 waded into the Pacific Ocean October 13 at Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco, he completed a journey along the American Discovery Trail that gave him a sense of personal renewal and an opportunity to make a statement. Bolstered by the encouragement of friends and family, the kindness of strangers and the determination to raise funds and awareness for a worthy cause, he persevered to the end.
His cause: the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides support for injured members of the military. His inspiration: Ken Dwyer ’98, his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brother at Furman, who lost an eye and a hand when hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2006. The Wounded Warrior Project was instrumental in Dwyer’s recovery and return to deployment status, and McCandless raised more than 12,000 for the cause.
Leigh Gauthier Savage reported on McCandless’ walk in the Winter 2012 issue of Furman after he had completed the first leg, a five-month trek (April to September, 2011) that took him from Delaware’s Cape Henlopen to Omaha, Neb. He then returned to his home in Greenville to avoid having to cross the Rockies in the dead of winter. He returned to Omaha in April 2012 to resume his odyssey, during which he weathered elevations of as much as 12,000 feet and lonely stretches between towns that sometimes lasted more than 100 miles.
When he finally arrived at the Pacific, Dwyer was by his side. They were joined by McCandless’ brother Colin and friend Mark Normington ’98.
Alastair provided a running commentary about his trip on his blog, www.thoughtsaskew.blogspot.com. He also received a healthy dose of media coverage along the way — just Google his name.
What’s next for him? To start, a lot of home cookin’ to help him regain the 40 pounds he lost. A job search will likely be on the agenda for the 37-year-old — although probably not in the restaurant business, his former profession. And it would surprise no one if he writes a book.
Maybe one more project could emerge from his adventure: a CD of inspirational road songs. His list of top traveling tunes is headed by Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” — which he called his theme song, no doubt because he learned “what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.”
Photo courtesy Colin McCandless. Story first appeared in Furman magazine, Fall 2012.