Photo Gallery | 'Tennessee Walking Men' wind down 1,500-mile trek across state
With 800 miles deep into an adventure-driven trek across the Volunteer State, three friends continue a months-long walk along back roads in a collective pursuit to slow down and explore the different lifestyles and landscapes Tennessee offers.
Named the Tennessee Walking Men, the three individuals set out on foot from Memphis in August to discover what it means to call Tennessee home while documenting their experience in a film. Tim Duggan, Matt Cottman, and Michael Meredith captured dozens of interviews, played the banjo, endured countless blisters, and even slaughtered a few roosters before even hitting their 1,500-mile journey's mid-mark.
"One man pulled over, and he thought we looked familiar. We told him what we were doing ... He had a farm off the grid that runs on solar," said Cottam, who, with Duggan and Meredith, walked to the farm. "There was a spring farm for him and his family."
For the next couple of days the group helped the family fix spring reservoirs, cut wood, and as implied earlier, kill roosters on a farm near Murfeesboro that runs on solar power.
"Felt like we were in a different world ... The state we've spent our whole lives in felt like a different world, and it was right here in Tennessee," said Cottam.
Discovering the family on the farm is a fragment of the many Tennesseans who identified themselves in a southern and rural setting for the group's documentary. The group pulls aside most people they come across and interview them.
The idea for the walk surfaced in Arizona when Cottam and Meredith built trails. They spent a good amount of their free time looking at a map of the United States and talking about Tennessee. After seeing several out-of-the-way places in the southwest, the two said they began to know Arizona better than their home state—and that perhaps an enlightening state-wide walk could change their standing.
"We're city boys," said Cottam. "We've lived in Ashville, Murfeesboro, and Chattanooga. Besides those and driving Interstate 40, there's a lot of blank spaces, and personally, I wanted to get and know [and] have a better concept of what we call home."
Before the group set out on their expedition, friends and family warned the group to be careful and to beware of people who may steal. But since their first stop in Millington, the three friends say they have been overwhelmed with hospitality.
Weather could prove to be much more challenging than people. Cottom said in a video during their brief stay in Martin that the group walked plenty of flat roads without shade on a sunny 90-degree day. The group now prepares for cool fall days that lie ahead for the last stretch of their walk through east Tennessee.
As the walk wraps up in the next month, the Tennessee Walking Men say it is hard to believe they are already winding down as they make their way to Mountain City.
The group will spend about a year editing their documentary.
"We plan to feature nothing less than a log of the exploration and the people we've come across and the concept of home and what it means," said Duggan.
You can see a teaser of the documentary below or by clicking here if you are using mobile.
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