Washingtonians continue to step up to help their neighbors during the pandemic, and some are taking it further than others.
One Seattle man is in the midst of a 350-mile hike across the state to raise $20,000 for food assistance for families.
Thurston Weaver is a 24-year-old who was laid off March 15 from his job as a bartender and server at a restaurant in Seattle due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An outdoor enthusiast since his childhood, Weaver had been planning a long hike to busy himself while out of work. However, after thinking about an unemployed friend’s struggle to provide for her daughter, he decided to turn the trek into a campaign to help families put food on the table.
“I’m on unemployment right now, I’ve been unemployed for a little bit, just waiting on standby for my restaurant to get back at it,” Weaver said. “So I had some time on my hands.
“I wanted to get into through-hiking, and I was like, ‘Well, I can use this time that I have off as an opportunity to do that.’ “
He was planning a long hike and while he was training in Seattle, a lot of people through social media became interested in what he was doing.
“I kind of got the idea that instead of doing a trail hike, from one place to the next, maybe do like a ‘jog-a-thon’ type deal. I thought I could do something like that for a cause.”
“I’m fortunate enough to have enough to put some food on the table for myself, but there’s other people, especially people who have more than one mouth to feed, that $700, $800, $900 that they’re getting a week isn’t enough.”
He has already raised $5,000 of his goal, and is seeking a matching contributor as his project is on the home stretch. Anyone interested contributing to his campaign can donate on his fundraising page ( go.rallyup.com/rambleon ).
When it came time to pick a charity to work with, Weaver found several interesting candidates but settled on WA Food Fund because they work with many different organizations – including a few that were on his “short list” – and the fact they had a mechanism in place to handle the donations, which he did not.
“I’m not a tech genius,” he admitted. “I didn’t want people to have to trust me to hold on to the money.”
Weaver set off from Pike Place Market last week.
“It was a central place in Seattle, I work at a restaurant in the Pike Place Market, so it was an ideal starting point.”
He made his way up the hills around the Puget Sound and up to Monroe, where he picked up Route 2.
From there he trudged though the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest up to Stevens Pass, then continued the route through Leavenworth, Orondo and the Columbia Gorge.
On Tuesday, Weaver was just outside of Davenport on his eighth day of hiking.
He will pick up the Centennial Trail in Spokane and finally hit the state line at Gateway Regional Park, the original finish line, probably on Thursday.
Due to a couple of detours – and a short car ride through a nasty thunderstorm – Weaver will fall short of his intended 350 miles, so after reaching the Idaho border he will continue his journey through Coeur d’Alene and up to Lookout Pass via the Trial of the Coeur d’Alenes, which he hopes to have completed by Sunday.
“Some of my pledges are mile-based, so I want to be able to complete my goal,” Weaver said.
Once there, he’ll look for a ride back to Coeur d’Alene or Missoula.
“I’ll stick my thumb out in either direction,” he joked.
Weaver said his journey has been “drama free,” with wildlife run-ins limited to things he could easily handle.
“I saw a garter snake along the side of the road,” he joked. “I saw some cool birds. Lots of farm animals.”
He did witness a herd of bison galloping in a pasture Tuesday morning. “That was pretty cool,” he said. “But nothing too crazy. No bear encounters, no cougar encounters or anything like that.”
Weaver is averaging close to 30 miles per day. He said his “totals have been all over the board.”
The first few days, from Puget Sound to Monroe, then up to Stevens Pass, he wasn’t able to go as far as he would have liked with the elevation changes.
“But I was able to bust out some bigger miles days after that,” he said.
Weaver has been able to coordinate lodging at night for most of the trip, but has camped out on occasion too. On one of the first nights his girlfriend met him at a B&B, then his father joined him for a few days and he had a buddy bring him supplies and hang out with him for a night.
“Everyone’s been very supportive,” he said. “My mom was a little bit concerned at the beginning like any mom would be. But once she saw the planning that I put into it she calmed down about it.”
He’s surviving on protein bars for breakfast, diner lunches in towns if he’s lucky and mostly dehydrated backpacking meals for dinner.
His preferred snack is peanut M&Ms. “Not only do they have nuts in them,” he said, “they’re really good. Kind of a treat.”
You can check out Weaver’s progress by following him on Instagram @rambleonnow .
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