By Lyndsie Kiebert
Laurie Clauson is in the middle of walking across the United States. With her she carries a modest pack containing water, snacks, rain gear, a fold-up stool and a knife, which she’s already had to use a couple of times — to peel fruit.
She’s been walking for two years, though not every day. A week at a time, with the help of rental cars and a knack for planning, Clauson is taking the cross-country expedition in bite-sized chunks as to give herself time to recuperate and work her day-to-day job as an accountant. It’s not the most conventional way to see the country, but for Clauson, it comes down to a simple love for walking.
“I’m not in a hurry,” she said. “I find that you notice so much more when you’re going on foot. I can drive through a place at 20 miles an hour and miss all kinds of things, but when I walk through I see so much more.”
So far, Clauson has done 10 one-week stints of walking, starting in Vancouver, Wash. outside the hospital where she was born. She started her 11th walking week Monday in North Idaho, and reached mile 500 of her journey in Hope. This week is the first time Clauson has someone shuttling her to where she left off walking — most weeks, she drives the rental car to her halfway mark for the day, then retraces her steps, effectively walking across the U.S. twice on most legs of the trip.
One thing is certain: that’s going to be a long walk. So what does Clauson, who lives in Phoenix when she’s not on the road, do to pass the time? Aside from picking up change and keeping track of the running tally — about $23 as of Monday — Clauson simply walks, observes and thinks.
“I find that I like just being alone with myself and my inner thoughts,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just, ‘Geez, my feet hurt,’ and other times it’s, ‘Wow, it’s just so beautiful here, and I’m so happy.’ I think about a lot of things. I replay moments of my life, think about future moments. Stuff like that. I never get bored, and I’m surprised at that myself.”
All of that walking and thinking is then geared toward writing a journal entry each night, which Clauson then emails to a list of about 50 friends. She recounts the discoveries and reflections of the day, partly for her audience’s benefit but also for her own. Each journal entry serves as a time capsule she hopes to open years from now.
“They are what I am going to read when I can’t walk anymore,” she said, “so I can relive the experience.”
It’s an experience largely still in the making, as Clauson uses those weeks when she’s not walking to plan exactly where she’ll go next. The route is mostly uncertain, though she knows she wants to see the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and ultimately end up in Bangor, Maine. For now, she’s working her way through western Montana one day at a time.
“If anyone reading this is driving east on Highway 200 into Montana, they should throw out their loose change on the north side of the road, because I get a thrill with every coin I find,” she said. “But don’t throw it at me if you see me. Just go seed the shoulder.”
Jokes aside — though she would genuinely enjoy adding to her roadside change total — Clauson is seriously in it for the long haul. It’s a prologue to her impending retirement, which will consist of exactly what she’s doing now, just without such long breaks.
Clauson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a great way to stay healthy, see the country and amuse myself,” she said. “And to be honest, I’m having just a hell of a good time.”
If you’d like to follow Clauson’s journey, email [email protected] and she will get you connected.
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