Clinton Baker flipped a coin to decide the direction he would walk. At the 50/50 discretion of George Washington, he wound up in Micanopy.
Since January 2020, the 47-year-old carpenter from New Hampshire has been walking from sunrise to sunset across the country with his great dane named Watonga, a backpack and a yellow sign reading “don’t kill yourself.” He walks everyday to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
“I let God decide which way to go,” he said.
After the deaths of his son, three younger brothers and father, Baker said he tried to end his own life. He decided walking was something he could do to live a better life and set ou tJan. 30, 2020, walking almost everyday since.
“(We’re) just inspiring others to keep going even if they're struggling,” he said. “Hopefully people see us out and that we're alone and even though that they might be alone, that we inspired them to keep going.”
He started his journey in Panama City, Florida, where he lived for five years, and made his way north to Washington State. He originally wanted to walk all the way to Alaska, but when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the Candian border, he turned back to Florida.
On the road, Baker only travels with a stroller of essentials — extra clothing, food, a battery pack, personal items, a phone and a radio. He usually sleeps in a tent on the side of the road.
“We struggle daily. We depend on donations and stuff like that to keep going; if we don't have that, we suffer greatly,” he said.
He began the journey with his service dog, Doghee, who was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer in Oklahoma. A few days later, Baker picked up Watonga, a stray dog named after the city in Oklahoma where he found him.
Marie Schindler, a 64-year-old retired mental health therapist, found out Baker was walking through town from the Micanopy Matters Facebook group. With temperatures plummeting to under 40 degrees at night in the last week, Schindler wanted to offer him a place out of the cold.
“(It’s) things you do for somebody who's just been on the road for years,” Schindler said.
Baker, who arrived Tuesday evening at around 6:30 p.m., left the private cottage on Schindler’s property Thursday afternoon. She said he was very appreciative.
Baker said he is glad his story gained notoriety nationwide. With 1,831 Facebook friends, he livestreams almost every day. He uses the platform to document his journey with the intention of one day writing a book about his suicide attempt and his walk.
He plans to head south to Key West, and he will probably walk to Maine after.
“Even if I don't make it Maine, it's all up to God,” he said. “God has a role in this journey.”
And until he gets a sign from God that it’s time to stop, Baker will keep on walking.
Contact Michelle Holder at mholder@alligator. Follow her on Twitter @michellecholder.
Michelle Holder is a second-year journalism student at UF minoring in entrepreneurship and a Metro reporter at The Alligator. She is from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her free time she enjoys going to coffee shops and reading.