Cross-country hiker has passion

SPRING HILL -Sal Pascarelli is tired of sitting at home waiting by the phone.

He has spent the last 30 years in commercial construction and the most he has to show for it are sore knees, an aching back and a bum shoulder. He’s also out of work.

Last year, he visited the Grand Canyon. Earlier in his adult life he had served in the U.S. Army and hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail, but nothing left him in awe like standing along the edge of the 277-mile gorge.

He wants to see what else he can explore on that side of the country. He’s decided to walk there.

“I just wanted to find a purpose,” said Pascarelli. “I have looked for something to do. I can do this and also give back.”

He is hiking more than 2,800 miles from Spring Hill to San Diego. From there, he is strolling along the West Coast until he reaches Seattle. He hopes the trip will take less than four months. He intends to walk up to 35 miles per day.

Pascarelli, who will embark on his hike Saturday morning, is doing it because he wants to challenge himself physically and mentally. Above all, he’s doing it for his father, mother and extended family.

His parents are cancer survivors. His father was diagnosed with brain cancer and has been free of the disease for four years. His mother’s breast cancer has been in remission for nine months.

Pascarelli’s father was the oldest of 10 kids. Only five are still alive. Cancer eventually defeated some of them.

His mother-in-law was involved in a car accident several years ago. That’s what brought Pascarelli and his former wife to Florida.

It was during his mother-in-law’s CT scan that doctors discovered she had cancer. It spread across other parts of her body, but she kept fighting for eight years, Pascarelli said.

“Cancer really hit my family for a while,” he said.

His hike will take him through several small and large cities throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Washington.

He will let the media know he is passing through their towns in advance. He will use Internet connections at public libraries and take rests and showers at YMCAs.

Pascarelli will distribute flyers to people that will include the charities he is representing – the Moffitt Cancer Center, Shriners International and St. Joseph’s Hospital – and his Web site address, where people can get updates on his hike and make donations.

He will wear his “Hiking for a Cause” shirt. He will also post it on a flag and on the front of his rucksack.

Pascarelli stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. He will be carrying up to 45 pounds with him. He will have three changes of clothes, five pairs of socks, a first aid kit, energy bars, trail mix, bathroom items and up to 3 liters of water.

He’ll also have his sleeping bag, compass, tent, camera and about 14 pounds of food.

“I just think his passion for doing this has been amazing,” said his friend Alice Skillin. “He’s doing it no matter what. He’s found two passions and he’s figured out how to put them together.”

Pascarelli also hopes to nail down some corporate sponsorships. Small businesses and individual donations also will add up over time. A penny per mile would cost less than $30, he said. Last year, Pascarelli and Skillin drove together to the Grand Canyon. He viewed the world and his role in it differently from that day forward.

“That really was the spark for this whole idea,” he said. “I knew I needed to do something more. The sight of the Grand Canyon was what really did it.”

He doesn’t know how he will feel by the time he gets to San Diego or even Seattle. There is a chance he might consider hiking back. In all likelihood, he’ll opt for a plane.

“I could fly back or walk,” he said. “Either way, it costs about the same.”

Some of the route will be spent on hiking trails. Most of the time, he’ll be walking along secondary or main roadways.

When the recession caused him to lose his job, he saw it coming. He was in his late 40s and getting out of bed was becoming harder and the strain of the job was written all over his face every day.

“I think they saw me burning out,” he said of those with whom he worked.

Pascarelli laughs off any suggestion he shouldn’t be doing a cross-country hike because of his sore joints and bones.

To him, getting out and walking everyday for a good cause is the best thing he can do.

“I know I needed to do this before I burned out totally,” he said.

To learn more about Sal Pascarelli’s cross-country hike or to make a donation to the Moffitt Cancer Center, Shriners International or St. Joseph’s Hospital , visit


Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or


Cross-country hiker has passion
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