Dan Reinke crossing the country on foot to spread message
Dan Reinke is walking across America in hopes of motivating others to take their faith more seriously.
The Forest Lake man started his trip in Seaside, Ore., on May 5. If all goes as planned, he will reach Virginia Beach, Va., in mid-August, having walked nearly 3,000 miles, or some 6 million footsteps.
“I felt called to spread the word, and I’ve seen what a practicing Christian can do to the people around them, and it’s always a positive effect,” Reinke said while in the Midwest in late June. “I am hoping to inspire people to practice what they are preaching.”
The 25-year-old decided to take his faith to the next level after reading the book “Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly.
“It gave me that extra kick to up my game and faith,” said Reinke, who has attended St. Peter’s Church for 18 years.
After much consideration and prayer, Reinke found he had no good reason not to make the journey.
Reinke walks around 30 miles a day, six days a week. He admitted he was fairly sore during the first week of his trip because he spent little to no time training.
“When I started, it was a few rough days but the body got used to it eventually,” Reinke said. “Even still at the end of each day I am sore, but you wake up and you’re just refreshed.”
He has faced wind, rain and hail but has never let weather stop him.
“I love storms, it exhilarates me,” Reinke said. “You learn to enjoy it on a trip like this, you can’t really get too down on it too much. You’ve got to take everything as a blessing.”
Reinke admits the humidity and 90-degree days have been exhausting, especially because he carries a 40-pound hiking pack. His load includes survival essentials such as a tent, sleeping bag, water, clothes and boots.
Reinke uses only a map for navigation and does not carry any type of protection. He has yet to feel unsafe.
“Really I have nothing for protection right now and I depend on God for that,” Reinke said. “The purpose of this trip is to have faith and that has been provided the whole time.”
Each day Reinke wakes up around 3 or 4 a.m., packs his tent and gear and hits the road. He looks forward to reaching towns, where he takes breaks, grabs food and spreads his message. In the evening, Reinke tries to find a campsite before dark. Frequently, he takes refuge in city parks or is offered a place to set up camp on church property or the yard of a newfound friend.
“The most moving thing is all of the great people in the world,” Reinke said. “So many people are just generous, whether it’s buying a breakfast, buying a dinner or giving me a Gatorade on the side of the road and sharing conversation.”
Reinke brought enough money to survive the walk but has been surprised by how expensive the trip has become. However, strangers have offered money, food and rides.
“People have been generous along the way,” he said. “Usually I refuse it right away. Sometimes they are persistent, and in that case I accept.”
Reinke said that his trip wouldn’t be possible without such generosity, as well as the blessings of safe weather and prayers on his behalf.
“Now I just feel like there are so many good people out there, and it’s just the few bad ones that get feel-bad names,” Reinke said.
It can get boring walking for days on end, he admits, but he fights the monotony by listening to spiritual music that inspires him to keep going.
Reinke has always been the adventurous type. Two summers ago he tested his survival skills by living in the woods in northern Minnesota for two months.
“He has always been someone who likes a challenge and has never been afraid of a challenge,” Reinke’s brother, Robert, said.
Robert Reinke said that his brother is enjoying the walk across America because, unlike his survival trip up north, he does not have to be constantly alone.
“He gets to meet so many people along the way and see all of the great people out there,” Robert Reinke said.
Dan Reinke is not the first person in his family to travel through the country. Years ago, his father and two uncles built a boat and traveled down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Florida.
The latest Reinke adventurer recently passed his halfway point in Iowa and is walking through Illinois. He has enjoyed his entire route, but especially the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.
“Every state has beauty in it and you just have to find it, even the plains states,” Reinke said. “Honestly, I miss Minnesota. … It seems the best state for me, and I think we’re pretty fortunate to have all the trees, lakes and streams.”
Two years ago, Reinke worked as a wildland firefighter, putting out forest fires as far away as Canada and Georgia. He then worked as a construction laborer before quitting to follow his instinct with the walk.
“I’m kind of just job-hopping it, and I’ve never really felt a big calling to any specific job,” Reinke said.
He is unsure what path he will follow upon his return to Forest Lake, but he trusts God to show him the way, just as he is leaning on his faith during his current journey.
“You don’t know exactly where you’re going to end up and where you’re going to get water and food; you put it in God’s hands,” Reinke said.
Reinke’s journey can be followed on his blog called CrossAmerica at www.danreinke.blogspot.com. He updates his blog every few days with pictures, videos and written posts.