Daniel Finnegan, of Rockville Centre, along with friend and walking partner Abby Bongaarts were 20 miles short of Nevada — their 12th state — on Monday during their trek across America, which has now spanned five months.
The two embarked from Long Beach on March 1, and have less than 700 miles left before reaching San Francisco, where they will conclude their journey.
The last time the Herald checked in with Finnegan and Bongaarts on July 9, the two had passed the Rocky Mountains and were resting up in Grand Junction, Colo., about 60 miles from the Utah border.
Utah brought a new set of challenges, Finnegan said, including relentless temperatures in the 90s, as well as more spectacular views. “In my mind, Utah — Abby and I joked — was the most beautiful state, [and] was also our least favorite state to walk through, because it was so remote and so mountainous and so hot,” Finnegan said. “We’re here at a very rough time.”
The two were on U.S. Route 50 in the midst of a 96-mile stretch between towns, Finnegan told the Herald. Less than two weeks prior, Finnegan and Bongaarts traversed what they determined to be the longest stretch of highway in the country without services between Green River and Salina, Utah, a span that lasted about 110 miles.
They loaded up on food and water, and while in Green River, they contacted volunteers of Americorps — a nonprofit civil society program that Finnegan and Bongaarts had previously worked for — who ended up stashing water at various mile markers.
Some gallons of water, which were left hidden behind trees, were missing by the time they arrived, Finnegan said, but plenty of people stopped to give them food and water. “Everywhere we go, we keep running into nice people I guess,” he said.
In addition to being a longtime dream of Bongaarts’s, the cross-country hike is raising money for JOIN, an Oregon-based charity that the two had volunteered for, which focuses on helping the homeless. They have raised about $20,000 for the organization so far.
More desert and mountains await the travelers in the summer heat, but the end is in sight. The two will get to San Francisco on September 16, Finnegan said, and have already sent invites to family and friends to join them in celebrating the end of their trek.
“We mapped it out and everything; we gave ourselves 12 rest days just in case anything happens,” Finnegan said assuringly. “That is the date we will arrive.”