For more than a year a North Carolina man has been putting one foot in front of another to walk from Ushuaia, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Holly “Cargo” Harrison hopes to complete the 15,000 mile trek in a year and a half, which will set a world record.
Out with a pulled hamstring, the 58-year-old has been held up in Williams Lake since Valentine’s Day, staying in the Walmart parking lot.
And speaking of hearts, he suffered a heart attack on Dec. 17, 2017, yet only stopped walking for four days.
“I thought I was healthy,” he said of how surprised he was by the heart attack. “I just happened to be lucky that I was going through a town near Reno, Nevada when it happened where there was a small hospital.”
From the small hospital he was flown by helicopter to Reno where there was a medical team waiting to operate on what was a complete blockage in his left artery.
Before the heart attack, Harrison had already walked 11,000 miles on his own without a support vehicle.
Since the heart attack, his brother-in-law Ian Smith has been accompanying with a camperized van and will for the remainder of the journey.
Ideally he covers 30 miles a day, Harrison said.
Up until the heart attack he carried everything he needed in two walking poles he fashioned out of recycled bottles and fibre glass.
They have a suspension system in the bottom to absorb the fact he is walking on pavement.
“I had to repair them several times because I was attacked by dogs,” he said.
Because he was travelling light, for the first year he ate what he could buy on the road and for the most part slept on the side of the road, often in culverts under the highway.
A former U.S. army ranger with a special forces unit stationed in Savannah, Georgia, he spent most of his career working in recreation as a camp director for youth.
“I have always been an avid hiker and enjoyed travelling and biking.”
In 2015, Harrison made the decision to do the 15,000 mile-trek after doing some research and learning it had only been attempted once before by a British man who completed the walk in six and a half years.
“I decided I could do a continuous walk and finish in a year and a half,” Harrison said.
His stop in Williams Lake has been his longest one yet, and he finds it hard to believe his heart attack slowed him down for less time than the pulled hamstring is.
But, he knows he has to let it heal because he still has a long way to go.
Canada has the nicest people, he added.
“At the 108 Golf Course resort they gave us a free room to stay in — the owner really went overboard,” he said.
The “old coach” they are travelling in has done a good job.
Originally from Australia, Smith hastened to find a vehicle that could work and said he is enjoying accompanying his brother-in-law.
“His legs are hollow,” Smith said of Harrison’s appetite.
When they stopped in 100 Mile House for some work on the van last week, many people approached asking if they needed help.
Normally they are just walking through, averaging 12 to 13 hours, and focusing on the walk so they don’t always meet a lot of people.
This is Harrison’s second time in Canada as he travelled to Juneau, Alaska one year with Girl Scouts.
After the walk is completed, he may write a book, but in the meantime he is really enjoying himself.
He’s had some crazy and exciting experiences for sure.
“There are really no roads between Colombia and Panama so I had to hire local guides to get me through there,” he recalled. “That’s one of the most dangerous places because there is a lot of drug running and paramilitary and a lot of illegal immigration trying to get through there with people from all over.”
Fortunately after a few tries, he landed a good guide, and became good friends with him during the eight days it took to get him through the jungle and system from Colombia and close to the border of Panama.
Along the way Harrison and his guide met 13 immigrants who had been robbed and left out by the guides they had hired.
“In fact, two of them were in nothing but their boots and underwear,” Harrison said. “My guide decided to help them get across too — for a price of course as it was a business for him.”
His Facebook page has many people following him along and support for his adventure is coming from all other world.
“It’s a big deal for me,” he said.