‘LITTLE HITCHHIKER': Couple conceives baby during walk across America

Kolton Rackham is walking across the country with his pregnant girlfriend, Amanda Autrey. The couple is from Utah, but started the walk in the state of Georgia. They traveled through Pocatello on Tuesday. Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal

Kolton Rackham is walking across the country with his pregnant girlfriend, Amanda Autrey. The couple is from Utah, but started the walk in the state of Georgia. They traveled through Pocatello on Tuesday.
Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — Walking more than 3,000 miles from one end of the country to the other is a rather remarkable feat, but it’s almost unheard of to do so while carrying a baby inside you.

However, such is the case for 26-year-old Amanda Autrey, of Provo, Utah, who is currently 26 weeks pregnant and has spent the last nine months trekking cross-country with her boyfriend, 24-year-old Kolton Rackham, of Syracuse, Utah.

“This is our little hitchhiker,” Autrey said about the baby. “We are super excited about them; they just picked an interesting time to show up.”

Autrey and Rackham started their trek in May of last year in the small city of Tybee Island in Georgia where some of Autrey’s family lives. The couple was in Pocatello on Tuesday and will end their trip in Newport, Oregon.

“The biggest drive behind the walk was personal development,” Autrey said. “It’s something that he and I delved into separately before we met … and I’ve always wanted to do some type of walkabout, so I looked at Kolton and said, ‘We are going to walk across the United States this summer,’ and he was just like OK.”

In addition to growing as individuals, Rackham said that didn’t mean they couldn’t bless other people during their travels. Along the way, the couple decided to raise awareness for two organizations — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Walking in the name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was initially provided by a friend of ours but when we looked into the group we found out that the reason why they complete the wishes for kids is to give them hope,” Rackham said. “And we absolutely loved that.”

Autrey said it was a personal battle with suicide that prompted the decision to walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“I struggled with suicide and so I wanted to walk for a foundation that was related to that,” Autrey said. “I picked that one specifically because they work with those that are struggling as well as the families that have lost loved ones.”

Though Autrey and Rackham unexpectedly added an additional traveler, perhaps more than one, along the way, Autrey said there is symbolic beauty in the pregnancy in that they are bringing a new life into the world while walking across the country raising awareness of those who struggle with ending their own life.

“We are encouraging people to fight for their lives while I am pregnant and while spring is coming in,” Autrey said, “which is the time of year for new life and new birth for the earth.”

Autrey said the hardest part about traveling across the country while pregnant is not the walking, but rather the thought process of knowing she and Rackham are responsible for another life.

“Where I’ve never been pregnant before, the most important thing for me is to ensure that I am honoring and protecting that life,” Autrey said. “I feel like because of how close I have been to death that I have this way deeper respect for life. And because of that, knowing there is this life that is completely reliant on my decisions and my choices my biggest concern has been that I would do something to harm them.”

Rackham said the couple will head in the direction of Twin Falls before hitting Boise and eventually crossing the border into Oregon.

In addition to finding themselves, the couple said that one of the biggest takeaways from the trip has been a renewed appreciation for how many kind people there are in the world.

“People think there is so much bad in the world, which there is,” Autrey said. “But we’ve been on the road for more than nine months and haven’t had a single problem with anybody. The whole way we have been blessed by the kindness of strangers. Whether they support the cause or just think we are adorable, or whatever, people just want to help.”

Rackham said, “We’ve been sheltered, fed and people have supported us, but the kindness of strangers has been one of the coolest things that I’ve experienced, probably in my entire life, but especially on this walk.”