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Ortega Highway Walking Trek Jolts Hardened Marines On Their Way To D.C.

In the video clip below, two Camp Pendleton Marines describe how walking the Ortega Highway to Lake Elsinore was one of the most difficult things yet as part of their trek to Washington D.C.

Chris Senopole walks from Hemet towards Beaumont and Banning on June 18, 2013. Courtesy photo.
Chris Senopole walks from Hemet towards Beaumont and Banning on June 18, 2013. Courtesy photo.
Two former Marines are making the journey of a lifetime, and part of that journey recently took them through our backyard.

Adam Shatarsky and Chris Senopole are walking an estimated 2,700 miles from Camp Pendleton to Washington, D.C. in a months-long trip to bring awareness to The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to helping injured service members. 

"We had this idea about four years ago," Shatarsky told Patch on Tuesday night, as their journey brought them to Banning, where they planned on staying the night at a local motel. "We wanted to do a walk across the country for a good cause...We kind of just started spitballing, and it kind of formed into [this.]"

"Two months ago, I called him and I said 'I'm starting a donation site for The Walk, are you in or are you out?'," Shatarsky said.  "Chris said he was in, and at that very moment, I launched the site."

From there, the rest started to fall into place, with the walk officially beginning on June 15.

The two, who were stationed at Camp Pendleton until they separated from the Corps about a year ago, walked from the Marine Corps base to San Juan Capistrano on day one.  One day two, June 16-- they walked from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore via the Ortega Highway, something they described as very difficult.

"We don't every recommend anyone walk the Ortega Highway.  Ever," Senopole joked.

From Lake Elsinore, the two made their way into Hemet and then to Banning.  On Wednesday, they head to Palm Springs.  

Still at the beginning of their trip, the men were optimistic and eager for this adventure they estimate will take until October to complete.

Asked why they decided to do it now— as the summer heat is about to really pick up— they said "why not" and it was a "now or never" situation they wanted to get going.

"We know we're going to hurt, we embrace that," Shatarsky joked.  "It's trying to stay as best as we can hydrated and with our nutrition intact."

Besides keeping their bodies properly fueled,  the two said they are being extra careful to keep fully covered and protected from the sun as they walk.   They are wearing comfortable walking shoes while hauling their massive backpacks across the country, and take short breaks about once an hour.

As a sign of the digital times we live in, the so-called Wounded Walk was born online, and will live online.   Paid for via the crowd-funding site gofundme.com, the former Marines hope those who hear of their story will continue to donate to the site throughout the trip.  To date, $6,215 has come in.  Their first goal is $10,000, but hope to raise as much as possible.  

The men said they are keeping their personal costs— things like food and lodging— at the bare minimum, so that all excess money can go to the Wounded Warrior Project.   

Another digital aspect?  Shatarsky and Senopole's progress will be tracked via a GPS system they're wearing, and updated on the Spot website every ten minutes.

What's more, Twitter has played a large part in getting the word out about the adventure, and their account, twitter.com/thewoundedwalk, already has hundreds of followers.

"Social media has been an amazing tool so far," Senopole said, adding that the two men are just now learning the platform.  "It's been an awesome thing to see this thing develop the way it has."

Already, the men said they've received an amazing amount of suport— not only financially, but emotionally as well.  That's something they said they hope continues, and encouraged people to feel free to reach out them through their website or social media.

And though you may spot these two walking along the side of the road looking at their phones, checking in, they'll be carrying the purpose of this trip close to their hearts at all times.

"One of our friends is on the East Coast right now at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center]," Shatarsky said of just one of the many people Wounded Warriors Project will help.  "He stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan and he lost his leg from the knee down."

"We literally slept in the dirt with him," Senopole said, adding that that friend is following their trip every day.

"Rain, snow, shine, he was there," Shatarsky  said.  And so, too, will these Marines be there on this journey.

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Verniece June 19, 2013 at 04:22 PM
That's who I saw in Canyon Lake on Monday! I was wondering what they were doing!
Mary June 19, 2013 at 05:13 PM
May God bless you both with this long journey, you are still sacrificing for the good of ALL our past,present and future heroes. And for OUR freedom!!! Thank you.
julian June 19, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Love this. Thanks for posting.
Kevin Jon Sax June 20, 2013 at 04:17 AM
I think this is amazing.
SA June 20, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Right on brothers … Hope y’all make it safe and without being harassed by the IRS for receiving donations, because you know Monday is not a fan of Americans.
Brad Hiner June 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Semper Fi guys!!!
Alek J Hidell June 20, 2013 at 12:18 PM
smart to not be on bicycles..Their survival rate is enhanced that way. And I suppose that autos were the threat on Ortega.
julian June 20, 2013 at 02:11 PM
It's a beautiful country, and I love driving across it. They are in for a treat once the clear all these dry western states.

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