Norio Sasaki at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, eight months into his Americas Vertical Challenge.

Now For Some Real Inspiration: Nori Sasaki

Norio Sasaki, Americas walker, at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Nori Sasaki at Natural Bridges Visitor Center.

A visitor came in to Natural Bridges and said, “You have a celebrity on his way in here.” What? Who? Is President Obama coming to check our area out before he declares a Bears Ears National Monument around us early next year?

No, it was a Japanese man that was pulling his “cart” across America. And he did indeed arrive at the Visitor Center not long after. Fit as a fiddle, with an irresistible smile, but only workable English, I asked him about his trip. He wasn’t, it turned out, walking across America (the U.S.). He was walking the Americas from north to south. He’d started at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, eight months ago–June. He was headed all the way to the southern tip of Argentina, a total journey of three years.

Ranger Steve Lacey and Nori Sasaki, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Park Ranger Steve Lacey was fascinated by Nori’s outfit and quest. Underneath the Alaska license plate is one from Okinawa.

His name is Norio (“Nori”) Sasaki, from Okinawa. He has worked as a lifeguard and in ski patrol, and he feels like protecting others is his duty.

Nori stayed in the park’s campground at my suggestion. He has been camping along the road–yes, even in the snow–all the way along his journey. He cooks his own meals, too. To stretch the money he has saved for his journey. He’s not soliciting donations. He’s self sufficient and happy.

Norio Sasaki leaving Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Nori Sasaki leaves Natural Bridges on his way southward through the Americas.

The “cart” (a modern day rickshaw, I think) allows him to bring along more necessities than the largest backpack could carry. But it’s human powered, no gasoline to buy.

Nori averages 25 miles per day pulling that 160 pound rickshaw! On favorable grades he trots along, he doesn’t merely walk.

Why is he doing it? He gave me a printed explanation in English (I won’t make any corrections to grammar, etc.):

Purpose of my trip

I have been in a career that protects the safety and life of others. I have worked as a ski patrol and lifeguard. To protect and care for others I need to be strong both physically and mentally. Strength gives me confidence in rescuing people. I believe strength also gives my mind room to afford caring for others. I train myself through my journey on foot in harsh conditions to be strong and to never surrender. I want to live my only life to the fullest to meet wonderful people and great nature. No scenery is as moving as one you earned upon hours and hours of hard walking. While traveling I have met lots of caring and helpful people. The geographical borders seem irrelevant when it comes to caring and helping others. I also want to do the same for others. I appreciate the encounters and will continue my journey on foot to my limit with smiles.

May peace prevail on earth.

— Norio Sasaki

I especially like that line “…strength also gives my mind room to afford caring for others.” Wow.

It’s a Quest. He could continue to stay strong by working out at the gym, and running every day! I think it’s more about the “to meet wonderful people and [experience] great nature.

After his night in our campground, Nori went around Bridge View Drive to see the three magnificent natural bridges. Then he returned to the Visitor Center with more questions. I got out detailed maps of the next part of his journey south from here, and showed him some great camping locations I’d been to.

And then it was time for him to be on his way again. I found myself almost dreading the moment, getting a little choked up. His English wasn’t good enough for us to keep in touch, but I gave him two small prints with my email address on the back, just in case.

You never know.

Norio Sasaki and the Bears Ears Buttes, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Norio Sasaki leaving Natural Bridges on Utah Highway 275, beneath the Bears Ears Buttes.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

 

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