Hiking Around Texas
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NAME: S. Matt Read | AGE: 33 | HOMETOWN: Corpus Christi | QUALIFICATIONS: Hiked 3,200 miles along the perimeter of Texas in 2009 and 2010 / Completed the 2,179-mile Appalachian Trail in 2003 / Wrote about his adventures at texasperimeterhike.blogspot.com
• I’m mildly athletic, and I like doing anything—biking, hiking, walking—with a purpose. Even if the purpose may seem incomprehensible to someone else, to me it validates itself.
• I had the original idea to hike the perimeter of Texas in 2003, and it kept coming back. Even though I didn’t understand why I wanted to do it, it got to the point where I just kind of went with it.
• I ended up doing the trip over a period of twelve months, in a chunk of 100 miles, a chunk of 600 miles, and then a chunk of 2,500 miles. I usually walked about 20 miles a day. I went through six pairs of footwear. The first five pairs were either hiking shoes or tennis shoes, and I ended up wearing Chaco sandals.
• It was like one big camping trip. I had a back-pack with spare clothes, a camera, a cell phone,a sleeping mat, and a tarp. I hiked with whatever food didn’t drive me crazy: beef jerky, peanut butter and jelly, tortillas, bagels, crackers. The change in texture is an important detail for keeping sane.
• The first six weeks were the hardest. I had some intense loneliness. And there were only so many phone calls I could make before it was just me and the road.
• I found my dog, Raisin, in Fabens, when she jumped out of a bush and wagged her tail. She was untagged and totally alone, so I invited her along.
• The entire trip cost about $5,000. I funded it by writing columns about it, one in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and a self-syndicated column in seventeen other newspapers across the state. In addition, I got adopted halfway through by a family in Waka; they became my biggest unofficial sponsor. Their contributions—in the form of books, food, and money—saw me through over 1,600 miles.
• I was hiking a stretch of beach on the Texas coast, which I later learned is an unofficial nude beach. I didn’t see any colonies, but I did see one particular gentleman. Not to get too graphic, but I basically ran away.
• My two favorite areas were the Panhandle and West Texas. Conditions weren’t conducive to safe traveling—you might not get water for forty miles—but people in the local communities were more curious about what I was doing in, say, the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert.
• People often asked where I was from, and I felt it mattered that I was from Texas. It was an instant bond. They didn’t want to hear that I was from Australia or Canada. They wanted to know I was one of their own.