A glance at who and why of cross-country walkers

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Associated Press

Posted on December 21, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Updated Saturday, Dec 21 at 1:36 PM

At any given time, a couple of dozen people are attempting to cross the U.S. on foot, figures long-distance trekker Nate Damm, who maintains a must-read website on the subject.

Who are these folks? Do they have a cause they promote along their way? And what made them decide to do this?

Here are sketches of a few who recently finished their journeys, and some who are still walking.

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Jonathon Stalls, 31, Denver.

Started: March 1, 2010, Lewes, Del.

Finished: Nov. 13, 2010, in San Francisco.

Cause: Kiva, a nonprofit, micro-lending organization.

ON THE "HEALING COMPONENT" OF LONG-DISTANCE WALKING: "It's what our bodies are engineered to be doing. And so the mental, physical, spiritual, communal benefits that come from us moving at 3 miles per hour, at a pace that we're built to, for THAT amount of time, is connecting us with what are bodies are built to be doing — way more than traveling at the higher speeds, from one interior to the next."

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Matt Green, 33, New York City.

Started: March 27, 2010, Rockaway Beach section of Queens, N.Y.

Finished: Aug. 25, 2010, in Rockaway Beach, Ore.

Cause: None.

NOT SOME MAGICAL WAY OUT OF AN UNSATISFYING LIFE: "That's a dangerous attitude to have going in. Because it kind of sets you up for failure if you don't figure out your whole life in the few months you're out there walking. ... But if you go into it just understanding that it's going to offer you some new perspectives, you're going to come back much richer in experience and in knowledge of other people, then you can't really fail."

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Nate Damm, 25, Augusta, Maine.

Started: Feb. 26, 2011, Lewes, Del.

Finished: Oct. 15, 2011, in San Francisco.

Cause: None.

HAD TO SEE FOR HIMSELF: "I feel like all the things I was hearing about were kind of negative and bad. And I was like, 'The world can't be as scary as it seems,' I guess. And I thought that going slowly on foot through small towns and meeting regular people would be a cool way to kind of discover if that was true or not. And I discovered that people — the majority of people — are really good."

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Steve Wescott, 34, Seattle (and his goat, LeeRoy Brown).

Started: May 2, 2012, the 20th anniversary of his father's death, Seattle

Destination: New York City.

Cause: Uzima Outreach in Nairobi, Kenya.

ON SELLING INSTRUMENTS HE'D USED IN HIS MUSICAL CAREER BEFORE LEAVING: "I always kind of kept a plan B in the back of my head, like I was going to go (back) to music. The Lord was saying, 'You don't GET a plan B. You've got a plan A. That's it. This is what you're doing. Sell your guitar gear.'"

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George Crawford and Mike Ross, 19, Manchester, Conn.

Started: April 21, 2013, in Danbury, Conn. (joined in Chicago by buddy Drew Babcock)

Destination: Huntington Beach, Calif.

Cause: Livestrong Foundation, cancer research.

ON WHAT WALK HAS TAUGHT CRAWFORD: "It's really restored my faith in humanity. I believe more in the whole good karma thing. The more good you do for people, the more good people give back to you."

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Benjamin Lee, 25, Melbourne, Australia.

Started: May 18, 2013, San Francisco.

Finished: Nov. 30, 2013, at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

Cause: Oxfam America.

BIGGEST REVELATION: "I was very surprised at how nice people were, from all the countries I've visited ... I haven't met an American I didn't like."

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Malene Comes, 41, Eldridge, Calif.

Started: Aug. 29, 2013, Santa Monica, Calif.

Destination: Florida, and back again.

Cause: Obesity awareness.

LARGER GOAL: "In some ways, I feel like I'm trying to recover both myself and my relationship to God."

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