Monday, August 11, 2008

The Adventures of Dash

With 1,600 miles and 11 weeks of barefoot walking behind, Dashiel Alsup is not quite halfway to his goal but at least his feet have developed calluses offering him some protection.

Dash is walking across the U.S. for Soles4Souls, to collect pledges and inspire people to donate shoes to the cause.

He is currently taking a short break in his home town of Cotopaxi, Colorado where local reporters and news outlets were waiting to hear is story.

He began his trip in April bringing minimal food, mostly Ramen noodles and peanut butter. On longer stretches he would buy a loaf of bread and make sandwiches.

Occasionally he treated himself to meal in a restaurant and on a few occasions, was invited to share a meal with friendly locals. One of those was in Spray, Ore., where locals were preparing for the annual rodeo, the highlight of the year there.

Someone showed him a spot he could sleep for the night and in the morning he was invited in for a feast of pancakes, eggs, donuts and coffee.

Near Antelope, Ore., a motorist warned him to watch for cougars. As it turned out, the weather was more problem than cougars. Rain turned to snow and in the headlights of each passing car he watched for eyes in the dark, hoping if there were any cougars they wouldn't want to tangle with a barefoot walker. That day and night was one of his longest walks, logging 34 miles.

He wasn't always barefoot. On the first part of the trip, when weather was sometimes cold, he learned after he started walking and blood began flowing in his feet, being barefoot wasn't a problem.

On a few occasions when asphalt was unbearably hot and scorched his feet, he wore a pair of sandals he had in his backpack."The first week I had blisters and then shin splints," he said. "Rain puckered my feet and later heat dried them out. It was harder walking in the heat than anything."

He wrapped his feet a couple of times, but never had a problem serious enough to require stitches.

He carries a small tent and sometimes he will pitch it beside the road. Most of the time he just rolled out his sleeping bag.

"At first I was anxious to get farther away from the road, but after awhile I realized no one was going to bother me," he said.

Along the way he stopped at libraries and places where public computers were available to post messages to his blog. Pay phones kept him in touch with his family every three or four days.

Occasionally he was joined by friends who walked with him, although they chose to wear shoes. The route took him through Oregon into Idaho and part of Utah, into Wyoming and back through Utah and finally across Colorado.

"One of the most memorable times was walking in Flaming Gorge, above Vernal, Utah," he said. "The first day I got there at sunset. A four mile stretch had a 6-percent grade.

"I was warm and sweating and anxious to get to the top where there was a beautiful sunset. You stay on top for about 20 miles, like a mesa, and start down again."

In Colorado, he was joined by a friend from CaƱon City who walked 30 miles with him over Monarch Pass to Salida.

"I stayed the night in Salida, and my dad walked with me that morning on the 17 miles home. We stopped at my mom's veterinary clinic in Howard and the three of us walked the last four miles together," he said."I broke down as I reached the newspaper box at our driveway. The driveway was hung with summer green, elm trees blowing. All the time I was walking, this sight was in my mind."

Now enjoying a couple of weeks respite, and attending the wedding of a friend, he's ready for the road heading toward Florida to complete his barefoot journey designed to put shoes on other people's feet.

To read more about his trip, visit Dash Alsup's blog at

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