Idaho Falls girl walks to Grantsville, Utah
With thoughts of family, some audiobooks, and her father to keep her company, 11-year-old Laneah Knickerbocker started a journey on foot from Arimo on Monday. The first steps officially kicked off what has become known as “Laneah’s Walk,” a 251-mile trek to Grantsville, Utah, to visit a cousin.
In December 2021, during winter break, Laneah said she was chatting with her cousin on the phone about wanting to visit her, and the cousin suggested she walk. Although her cousin was joking, Laneah asked her parents if she could, in fact, walk from their home in Idaho Falls to her cousin’s home in Utah.
“I waited for my dad to get home because I knew if I asked my mom, she would definitely say no,” Laneah said. “So I asked my dad, and he said yes” — with a caveat: Laneah had to find adults to come with her.
Jean-Michel Knickerbocker, Laneah’s father, said it sounded easy in his head. “I imagined she would make a list and fill in the dates with adults who would walk with her.”
It became apparent, however, that they would need 10 to 15 adults he and Laneah’s mother, Anna Knickerbocker, knew to go with her, and although they have had a few individuals say they would like to join the walk at various times; it was nowhere near the number needed.
While Laneah asked around, Jean-Michel started practicing with her in late May of this year and helped her plan.
“I was not thinking it would be me,” he said, but as they practiced together, he accepted he was going to be a bigger part of her dream than he anticipated.
Their first practice walk was 16.1 miles from their house to Teton Grill in Menan. Each Saturday since then, they have walked and gradually added miles. Sometimes, they would pick a destination and walk to it, and other times they made a loop from their house to 65th or 81st South and back.
About a month ago, the family realized time was not on their side. Initially, they planned to walk an average of 25 miles each day, but with the heat and hills, they have averaged about 20 miles on their practices. They planned to leave Idaho Falls on Aug. 9, Jean-Michel needed to be back at work on Aug. 22, and they intended to arrive in Grantsville on Aug. 16 or 17.
In July, the pair started the first several miles early to alleviate the stress. That day, they walked from their house, just north of 1st Street, to Shelley. The next Saturday, they started in Shelley and walked to Fort Hall. The next, they walked from Fort Hall to Inkom, and Saturday, July, 29, they walked from Inkom to Arimo, where they started from on Monday. From then forward, they will meet their support vehicle at lunchtime and at the end of each day’s miles.
The trailer they will be sleeping in each night is on loan from Brett Spence with A-Pro Plumbing, and their support vehicle is a work truck from Jean-Michel business, Orange Electric. Jean-Michel’s dad and sister will be driving the support vehicle and will usually be within 10 to 12 miles of them, traveling along the same route.
The pair have tried to plan for everything. They have been in contact with a couple who walked from Georgia to Oregon a few years ago, who have given them tips on everything from shoes to snacks and even the emotional side of the walk.
“When we were talking to the person who walked across the U.S., she said, ‘It’s going to get hard, so if you know you’re doing it for someone or something then it’s going to be easier to keep going.’” Laneah said.
What started as something fun has evolved into more than a physical challenge.
Laneah and her family have selected two organizations important to them to raise money for through this walk.
United Cerebral Palsy is based in Tennessee and helps provide equipment and other things not covered by insurance for individuals with cerebral palsy, like another cousin of hers.
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society also takes an individual-first approach instead of only research. Laneah’s aunt and Jean-Michel’s sister, Danita Knickerbocker died on Feb. 17 of leukemia, just after Laneah started planning her walk. Danita had been in line for a scholarship from the organization to help her switch career paths after her diagnosis approximately four years ago. She did not survive long enough to benefit from the society herself, but Jean-Michel said Danita liked it because it has programs that directly help those with leukemia and lymphoma.
The pair reached their first destination, Devil’s Reservoir, on Monday evening. They crossed into Utah on Wednesday. And though they have several days ahead of them, Anna believes in her daughter and is supportive.
“Laneah has always been very determined. When she was little, she didn’t want someone to teach her to ride a bike — she was going to do it herself,” Anna said. “When she was reading, she didn’t want me to sit and read with her — she wanted to do it herself. I know that she can do it and that it will be a great thing for her. … She’ll know that she can accomplish hard things, and she will hopefully see the goodness of people along the way”
For more information, pictures, live feeds and to see their itinerary each day, visit their Facebook group, “Laneah’s Walk.”
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