Army veteran makes Trace Trek to help young people

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Billy Hyatt said he's come to value small words of encouragement from people he's met on his Trace Trek from Natchez to Nashville. "One comment can change your outlook so fast," he said.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Billy Hyatt said he’s come to value small words of encouragement from people he’s met on his Trace Trek from Natchez to Nashville. “One comment can change your outlook so fast,” he said.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Billy Hyatt’s making his way from Natchez to Nashville one step at a time.

On Tuesday, his 444-mile walking trip along the Natchez Trace entered Lee County, where he’d stashed provisions a few weeks ago.

“It’s things like tuna fish and Spam,” he said, searching through a wooded area.

A raccoon or other hungry animal got into his cache. He salvaged a bottle of water, the Spam and baby wipes.

“That’s all I need,” he said, picking up wrappers left by the critter. “I’ve got plenty in my pack.”

The 47-year-old Army veteran and Franklin, Tenn., resident began his Trace Trek on Oct. 9. He’s left the hike at times for National Reserve and other duties, but returned to the spot where he’d left to continue on.

Hyatt has a multi-part mission. One goal is to raise money for Generation@ and Mocha Club, organizations dedicated to making life better for young people in Africa.

He said they provide “transformational youth programs,” including mentoring, drug counseling and prevention and treatment of abuse. The organizations also teach kids about principles and values.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at www.tracetrek.com.

Another part of Hyatt’s mission is to build interest in charitable adventures.

“If one person can do 444, could you do one mile? Or give $1 for 40 days? Or mentor a kid for one hour a week,” he said.

Hyatt’s Trace Trek has inspired adventures in Seattle and South Africa, but there are still miles to go in his current enterprise.

The blisters on his feet have calloused over and the tendinitis went way, but pounding the pavement takes its toll.

“In the morning, it’s great. You do a lot of thinking. By mid-afternoon, your feet hurt so bad, you’re just grinding it out,” said Hyatt, who has slept in hotels, at friends’ houses and in the woods with a tent hammock.

He expects to reach his destination shortly after Thanksgiving, when family and friends will throw him a finale party

“I love the Trace. I meet people all the time who say they’ve never been on it. I think, Why not?” Hyatt said. “My third objective is to raise awareness about the Trace, its history and its beauty. It really is amazing.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com