By DUSTY VASSEY
Some of you might have noticed an older gentleman wearing a backpack with an orange flag guided by a Siberian husky walking through Irwin County Tuesday, Sept. 20.
That was Brad Storey. He’s walked across America.
Storey, 65, a painting contractor from Mena, Arkansas, began his journey about three weeks ago at Jekyll Island. Since then he’s been trekking through South Georgia with his eventual destination being San Diego, California.
The question is… why?
“We don’t find many things in life where we find our limit, and I think that’s a valuable thing to do,” he said.
He said that he’s always wanted to try tests of his endurance such as canoeing the Mississippi River, and he thought a hike across the width of the U.S. would make him stronger and maybe a little braver.
He expects the trip will take him a year or longer, unless he is stopped for physical reasons. He said, however, his legs are strong from 40 years of climbing ladders.
Although it wasn’t his original plan, there is another reason for Storey’s journey. He is raising money for the National Audubon Society, an organization which seeks to conserve birds, other wildlife and their habitats.
Storey, who has been a bird watcher for 30 years, chose the Society as a beneficiary after a friend suggested he make the trip a fundraiser for a cause. Storey said making the trip benefit a cause legitimizes his endeavor and lets police know he’s trying to accomplish something and “not just a hobo sitting under a bridge.”
He chose Jekyll Island to start his journey because Georgia is the location on the east coast that is the shortest trip to the west coast. He said he also wanted to be in the South when winter comes.
He has a long journey ahead of him with a pack that averages about 32 pounds, though it varies if he must carry extra water for himself and his husky, Xena. And yes, the dog is named for the television character Xena, the Warrior Princess.
“She will attack anyone that gives me a hard time,” Storey joked about his dog.
Even Xena is outfitted with a pair of bags slung over her back, saddle-style.
The two will spend their time trekking across the nation occasionally stopping to see the sights, get water or visit relatives while also checking the scores with his favorite sports team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is what led him to The Ocilla Star.
Though each day will be an adventure deciding on a place to sleep, Storey said his biggest concern is finding shelter from the rain. He spent ample time in Ocilla Sept. 20 because rain clouds were threatening overhead.
One danger he anticipates is crossing the deserts in the southwestern states. Luckily he has two sons in New Mexico and a niece in San Antonio, Texas, who may be able to help him.
“I know the desert, and I know it’s no joke,” he said.
Storey said he will have to prepare for long stretches of highway without civilization and high heat. He said that hopefully he will have plenty of experience walking by then.
“Nobody walks across New Mexico, Arizona or West Texas without being prepared,” Storey said. “Not that southern Georgia is any joke.”
Storey’s trip can be followed on Facebook at birdmanwalking (for Audubon) or at his blog, birdmanwalking.wordpress.com
People can donate to the Audubon Society in Storey’s name at www.audubonaction.org/bradstorey or send a check to N.A.S. 225 Varick St., NY, NY 10014. Checks should be notated that they are for Storey’s walk.
“My walk is to raise awareness and to raise funds,” Storey’s card says. “The birds deserve our help! Every dollar goes to habitat preservation.”