Jolly, a school teacher from Ashville, N.C., is on a trip to go from the highest point in the eastern U.S, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, to the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney in California.
And he’s going every step of the way by foot, turning down courtesy rides from lawmen and other drivers who see him pushing his travel gear along the roadside in a 3-wheeled cart.
Jolly said that “while there’s many worthy causes, I am not taking this trip for a cause. I’m doing for myself, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do.”
He’s taken a year leave from the teaching job he’s held for six years at the same high school in the Ashville area. He doesn’t know if his job will be available when he completes what he anticipates to be a year-long trek this July, but it’s a chance he was willing to take.
Jolly has taught high school English, psychology, art history, philosophy and creative writing.
He started last July, and, if his schedule works out the way he hopes it will, he will complete the journey this July.
Ironically, he said, Mount Whitney is not far from Death Valley, also in California, the lowest point.
He’s taken a few breaks. Reaching Texarkana shortly before Christmas, he took a few weeks off and used a bus ticket to visit friends in Vermont. He is maintaining a permanent address there, until the trip is over.
He resumed his trip in Texarkana on Feb. 14, and was on Hwy. 155 north of Barnwell Mountain Tuesday afternoon.
He generally is able to travel 10 to 30 miles in a day, depending on the terrain and other variables, Jolly said.
He considers a good day 15 to 20 miles.
Jolly does not try to travel much in inclement weather, such as the rains Monday.
He wanted to reach Camp Gilmont, where he hoped to be able to camp Tuesday night, by sundown Tuesday.
As much as possible, he tries to stay off Interstates, staying every few nights in churches or campgrounds so he can use shower facilities.
Jolly has a farm background, so is used to the outdoors. He hiked the Appalachian Trail, and spent a lot of time in New Mexico on another occasion, “and I want to get back to the West and the open skies.”
He is shy and not self-aggrandizing. Jolly would only consent to this story after being told it wouldn’t come out until Saturday, when, presumably, he will be in or past Tyler.
He plans to go to Austin, where he has some friends, and wind West from there.
An old saying goes “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” and he proves it every day.