We’re calling on everyone to make getting outside on trails a bigger part of their everyday lives. Research shows that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our health and wellness—and trails provide ways to access the outdoors and spaces for self-care. We asked Chris “Salt” Morton to share more about his walk across the country, and how he used his journey to take steps for his own well-being and bring attention to mental health.
Read his story, then share your own #TrailMoments at TrailMoments.org.
At one point in my life, I realized that I was in a constant cycle of living every day the same way. On Aug. 4, 2022, I decided to change exactly that. Without any experience in camping, hiking, or traveling on foot, I made the impulsive decision to embark on a journey to walk across the country solo and be the first Deaf man in America to do so.
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“Why didn’t you ride a bike or, drive a car, and why did you go by yourself?”
These were the most common questions I received, followed by the statement, “You’re crazy!” While these questions were all too common, my response and reasons were simple: Firstly, in all my research, I couldn’t find a record of another person who is Deaf that completed this overwhelming mission of walking from coast to coast; and secondly, I wanted to find what makes me happy. I figured, the longer the journey, the more time I would have for self-reflection and to get in touch with myself on a deeper level.
Life is full of distractions that result in sweating over the things we don’t have control over compared to the things we do. Throughout this journey I’ve been able to do one of the things that has allowed me to heal in parts of my life. I’ve simply been able to just let things be. Two of the most difficult things were letting go of what I couldn’t control and focusing on the things I could, and understanding circumstances that require me to put aside my pride and ask for help.
Throughout my journey, I’ve been able to put together what I call “V.I.T.A.L,” which stands for Vulnerable, Isolation, Transparency, Accountability and Loneliness. These represent five difficult challenges I’ve endeavored to understand, accept and, through which, find love for myself again. While these challenges were faced daily, once I arrived in Kansas, I achieved my goal of understanding what makes me happy. This realization resulted in my “Why” to continue walking across America changing to become: To bring the spotlight to the Deaf community and awareness to men’s mental health.
Of course, there were many challenges with walking across the country, but I’ve been blessed to meet people of various backgrounds that have offered food, water and shelter. It’s safe to say that, if I hadn’t put aside my pride and accepted the help from others, I wouldn’t be here to share my story. I no longer put the destination of my journey as a priority because I know I’ll get there when I get there. Instead, I’ve put the focus on the connections developed over time.
The outdoors, hiking and walking have become an essential therapeutic approach to my life; I recommend it for anyone looking to pause and reconnect with themselves. It doesn’t need to be a 2,000-miles-plus walk across the country—it can be something as simple as a morning walk or finding a trail nearby, anything that offers an opportunity to take time for yourself. But if you do want to go on a cross-country trek, consider checking out the route of the Great American Rail-Trail!
Wherever you go on your outdoor adventure, don’t forget to bring water!