You don’t need to tell Troy Yocum to take a hike. He has been on one since April.

Actually, the Iraq war veteran still has a long road ahead. Yocum’s  journey won’t be complete until he travels an astonishing 7,000 miles—50 million steps—all on his own two feet.

Why is he doing it?

Yocum wants to raise $5 million for military families. He says some families are hurting financially, and that, topped with the stress of war, can really take its toll. Yocum chose to step up to the plate and drum up support for the troops—literally. He patriotically beats a drum as he trots along, especially while hiking through crowded streets, to bring even more attention to his cause. In fact, he is the first person to walk across American with a drum in tow.

As he treks from city to city, he posts appearance dates online, much like a rock star on a world tour. Check out the schedule to see when he’ll be marching through a city near you.

We caught up with Yocum today just as he was starting his journey in Carbondale, Colo. He was multi-tasking—talking to us on the phone *and* hiking. He hopes to push out 30 miles before sundown. Talk about dedication!

What boots are you wearing for your cross-country journey?

I wear Merrells. I’ve gone through a couple of pairs. The Chameleons were my first ones, and they ended up doing lots and lots of miles. The first pair almost got 1,000 miles on them. The second pair got about 800. So, I’m coming up on 500 miles on my third pair. They are really lasting compared to other people who have walked across America.

I know somebody who uses Adidas to walk across America, and he’s now on his eighth pair. I’m going to be able to walk across America and back on less than eight pairs.

Why did you pick Merrell?

I kept contacting shoe sponsors, and right off the bat, Merrell showed us they wanted to contribute and help us a lot. And I like Merrell shoes a lot. I was able to pick out the boots that were going to be great for hiking streets and mountains at the same time. Of course, I have gotten a lot of blisters on the trip, but I believe I would have had a lot more if I would have went with a walking or running type of shoe.

How do you cope with blisters when you’re hiking all the time? It doesn’t seem like you would have much recovery time.

I inject myself with Tincture of benzoin, which hardens the blisters and hardens my feet. The first two weeks I didn’t know about Tincture of benzoin, and I had blisters on top of blisters. After I talked to my first sergeant, he turned me on to Tincture of benzoin. We actually had a clinic in Louisville, Ky., make it because nobody had it in stock.

What does the drum signify?

When I got home from Iraq and started walking around to try to get some publicity before I headed out. I just kept walking around and talked to people. We built a website. In two months of walking around—even with the sign—we only had 13 people who visited the websites. So, we kept thinking we are doing something really wrong.

I sat down with some friends one night and said “I can’t get people’s attention when I’m walking down the street. What am I supposed to do, like yell and scream? Or get on a bullhorn and make noise?” And when I said “make noise,” one of my friends said, “Well, if you’re a drummer, why don’t you drum.” So that next day, I drummed with a sign on my front and back through Louisville during the busiest time of their lunch hour. And that night, we had 500 hits on the website.

I knew that adding the drum at least gets people’s attention, but it also gives it a real patriot feel. And there hasn’t been anybody to walk across America with the drum. Obviously, I can’t do it all the time. Like right now, I have to put it up because there is no shoulder [on the road], and I gotta focus on pushing out 30 miles today.

So, there’s no shoulder where you’re walking right now?

No shoulder. I’m just like right out in the middle of the street.

Do you ever feel like you’re in danger?

It’s been difficult to say the least. I’ve almost been hit by a car a few times. We had a semi-truck tire blow off and miss me and my wife by 10 feet. I missed getting bit by a Copperhead by about half an inch. It just so happened I saw it move at the last second and pulled my leg back. What else? People have been rude and threw trash out their window to try to hit us. We’ve had people yell at us, and tell us to get out of the road. We try to explain to them what we are doing, and some people are OK after that, and others continue to yell at us.

Well, if we saw you out there, we’d buy you lunch.

We’ve had that happen, too. There are a lot of good people, but if you want to know the bad things that have happened, that is the list of it. When we were actually training in France, I was attacked by a swan. So, all kinds of great stuff has happened to us in the past 2,300 miles.

And that’s how far you’ve been? 2,300 miles?

At the bottom of Independence Pass, we were at 2,270; yesterday we walked 30. So, we are at 2,302 I believe.

How close are you to meeting your goal?

We are really far from it. We’ve only raised $75,000 at this point. I give a lot of speeches to get the word out about this and meet with a lot of people. I’ve met with thousands and thousands of individuals throughout the first four and a half months of hiking. Even right now we are on our way to Grand Junction, Colo., where we will meet with the mayor to get his signature for a national day for deployed soldiers.

What’s it like hiking all day?

It gets hot; the sun pounds down all day. We have to drink a lot of water out here in the mountains. I just recently got sick because I guess I wasn’t drinking enough water. I got a kidney stone. I was in the hospital for three days in Aspen, Colo., and I had to take a total of nine days off. Yesterday was our first day back. It’s difficult. Some days are really grueling; other days are so beautiful, it doesn’t faze me to walk 20-something miles. But right now, because I had nine days off, I’m sort of late to get to Grand Junction on time, but if I can do 30 miles a day, for five straight days, I will get to Grand Junction right on time.

Did you ever imagine it being this difficult?

I had a feeling it would. Hold on, let me take a drink of water… Obviously, I don’t really know what to compare it to. It’s like doing a marathon every single day and giving speeches, and meeting people and trying to give your time to them. We have to take pictures; I have to shoot video. We only have a three-man team, and we try to edit thepictures and videos as best as possible. I wanted to document this whole thing. It’s difficult to do it all by yourself.

What do you do when it’s raining?

I have raingear that’s in our pushcart. I just pop it up, put it on and continue. And that was supplied by Merrell also.

You have 10 more months to go… what are you looking forward to?

About 11 more months to go. I’m looking forward to getting to LA to get on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I think that would be a huge turning point for us as far as fundraising. We take a picture with a sign that says “Walking Across America to The Ellen Show” every single day. We’ve been trying to get the producers to notice it. It’s a big-time program. We’ve been on FOX national news five times. I’ve been featured in Yahoo News. I hope it happens!

Now that you’ve heard his story, don’t you want to make a donation? We know we do! Visit and click on the “Donate” button to do your part.

By: Hiking Boots Blog