Harrison Milanian trekked through the Mohave Desert for five days in 130-degree heat. Coyotes urinated on his tent while he tried to sleep in the Florida woods. He walked three miles through a thunderstorm.
The 22-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident persevered through all those events and ended his nearly three-month cross-country walk Sunday at Main Beach in Laguna Beach.
Wearing a sign that displayed his Facebook page address, americaonfoot, Milanian strolled barefoot south along Broadway Street, crossed Coast Highway and walked across the sand toward the ocean.
Aliso Viejo residents Judi Young and Penny Medeck stood on the sidewalk at Coast Highway, holding signs supporting Milanian.
Milanian, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, knelt among the ankle-deep water, washing himself off to get ready for a party at the nearby Cliff restaurant.
"All I hear is the waves," Milanian said. "This is the first moment of the whole trip where there have been no distractions. I made it and everything is just right."
Asked how his legs and feet felt, Milanian said, "Everything is shot."
Milanian began the journey May 6 from Tallahassee, Fla. He quit his job as a line cook to encourage Americans to get out of their houses, move their legs, be active, according to a description on his Facebook page.
"I want to slow things down, explore, meet people, make friends and enjoy life and I want my fellow Americans to do the same," the page read.
Milanian subsisted on donations from people along the way.
David McVicker, Medeck's boyfriend and a part-time disc jockey at the Cliff, heard from a cousin a month ago about Milanian's walk and immediately wanted to help.
"I love doing stuff like that," McVicker said.
McVicker drove his RV to meet Milanian in the Mojave Desert and provided a place to sleep. Milanian cooked a meal in return — curried cinnamon and cayenne chicken with candied kahlua bananas, broccoli and mixed greens.
McVicker offered Milanian a party at the Cliff to celebrate the walk as incentive for making Laguna his final destination.
"He was in the desert with miles of nothing, and he was hammered in a storm that broke his tent poles," McVicker said. "We played leap-frog with Harrison, driving four or five miles ahead of him, then giving him a place to shower and sleep."
Milanian stuck to main interstates such as I-90 and I-40, and residents in towns he visited suggested routes to follow.
Strangers donated five pairs of shoes. Milanian packed two pairs of shorts, five shirts and "a ton of socks and underwear," he said.
The idea came to Milanian when he researched a road trip to the Grand Canyon.
"I looked at how to get there riding a bus, then how to get there by walking and I couldn't stop thinking about it [walking]," Milanian said. "I'm very spontaneous. I told my roommate I could walk to the Grand Canyon."
Milanian told his parents about his idea last October.
"When they realized I was serious, they tried to talk me out of it," Milanian said by phone last Thursday. "They were concerned about my safety, but they're chill about it now."
The hardest part of the walk was the Mohave Desert, said Milanian, who pushed a cart that resembles a stroller to carry food and belongings.
"I walk 30 to 40 miles per day, and drink three to four gallons of water a day," Milanian said. "I sleep under bridges, in the woods, wherever it's safe."
He had doubts, especially during the trip's first week.
"When the sun is out, it is easy to do the trip," Milanian said. "When the sun goes down, it can get scary quick. I've been bitten by bugs and thinking I was an idiot for doing this. But I have a relentless spirit and never quit. If you're doing something good, God will take care of you."
Milanian will rent a car and visit as many of the people who donated goods to him on the way back to Florida.
When asked what he'll do when he returns home, Milanian said, "Cry. I'll spend down time with my friends and family."
Medeck credited her sons, Steven and Chris Medeck, and friend Myk Catalina for helping Milanian along the way.