How Long Would It Take to Connect America With Cable by Foot?

Hope Corrigan
Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation

From what we know about Death Stranding, which thankfully seems to be becoming more certain with every new reveal, you’ll embark on a journey connecting major hubs in the United Cities of America. The goal is to reconnect and repair the country by visiting these locations and getting them back online. It appears the groundwork has already been laid for Sam Porter Bridges–he merely needs to go there and turn them on.

At one point someone would have had to implement the infrastructure to make this all possible–we’re talking cable, and lots of it. What could that route have looked like? Who crossed the rivers before we had Bridges? And how long and costly would it be to connect the real USA?

The Tokyo Game Show (TGS) presentation revealed a map of fictional cities rather than familiar hubs, but its geography looks roughly the same. The presentation also made it clear that due to terrain, vehicles are only temporarily useful in Death Stranding. It’s hard to gauge how useful Death Stranding‘s exoskeletons are, but they’d be needed for carrying all that weight. We’ll also assume our traveller is strong, in fine health, and generally good at this.

So how long, and costly, would it be to connect America if Death Stranding was in today’s world? So what’s the reality, in terms of cost and time, it would take for one man to connect our United States of America on foot?

Lots and Lots of Fibre

Many who take it upon themselves to do such walks will have something they can push to carry their burdens. Backpacks can only hold so much and will do a number on your shoulders, so for the real stuff you’re going to want a stroller or some kind of kart. This also gives you something to lean on if your feet are getting a bit tired out in the wilderness.

This ties into laying cable as rolling cable out using a specifically made trolley is quite common. We are going to assume someone has already done whatever work is required before it’s time for cable and that trolley technology has advanced enough to allow us to just push it along. There are some seriously capable wheels or hover tech and lightweight yet sturdy framework on our fantasy cable trolley.

Sam Porter drags a trolley behind him loaded with gear.
Porter will have access to an anti-gravity trolley that doubles as a skateboard.

As for the cable, optic fibre is the obvious choice here–more specifically single mode. It can be fragile but it works well over long distances and delivers gigabit speeds. It’s also not the cheapest material around but for our purposes it makes the most sense.

There can be a range of factors that differ but laying fibre can cost on average between about $12,000 and $20,000 USD per mile in regular cities. This can be a lot more depending on roads that need closing, digging under bridges, and disrupting city life. Given that we are talking about areas with potentially little to no current infrastructure we’re going to lean more towards the $20,000 mark – it leaves a lot of wiggle room for working with the unknown while still being a realistic number by today’s standards.

The weight of these cables can also vary wildly depending on what you’ve got protecting them. It’s optic fibre so it can be extremely light but that doesn’t bode well for durability. This generally means the heavier the better, especially for such long distance use. Even some of the lighter cable comes in at around 33.6kg per mile (21 per km). Even some of the smaller stretches between capital cities would see someone carting over a tonne of cable.

Sam Porter has a huge backpack on with loads of gear.
That's quite some backpack.

It’s worth noting that this ridiculous amount of cable isn’t all our Perseverant Porter Predecessor would need to carry. Depending on the stretch of the journey, food, water, camping equipment, and other amenities are a must for any long walk. Many of these can be resupplied as we go but some will need to be taken with them. It’s comparatively light, but it’s still good to keep in mind.

Planning out the trek, there are a few different route options. We’re going to look at two more realistic takes on where this journey could take someone. The footage we’ve seen appears to be mostly wilderness and there’s likely a good reason they’re not relying on roads. One roadblock of ghosts and your plan crumbles. Talk about Death Stranded.

So instead, we’ve decided to map this out using walking trails as much as possible. There aren’t enough to completely go around America but they can cover us for a bunch of the way. Furthermore, they’ve been proven to be walkable – if difficult – and are probably a reasonable representation of the Death Stranding world.

A map of the fictional cities in Death Stranding, set in the United States.
The fictional map of the United Cities of America.

The American Discovery Trail

The first is the shortest and simplest. This route presumes we’ll be connecting these cables to wireless hubs with enough range to radiate outwards and cover the entire country if positioned down the middle. This doesn’t hit too many major city hubs but it does give us a very well known and travelled walking trail. Using the American Discovery Trail we can cut straight from Delaware to California on a path that many have walked before.

In Death Stranding it seems your quest likely starts in Washington. This is close to the second stop on this trail in Maryland, and some may argue against the importance of being magically whisked away to Delaware…

Wayne and Garth stand in front of a green screen showing Delaware.

However, to connect North America we probably want to go coast to coast so we’re including the whole trail. It does split off into northern and southern components and you can choose which path to take. We simply chose the shortest.

According to the Discovery Trail website, one of the faster crossings of this trail was completed by Marcia and Ken Powers who also happened to be the first hikers to knock it out in one continuous walk. They completed the trek in only 231 days, averaging more than 20 miles or a little over 32 kilometres every day, with only four days to rest during the whole trip. That being said, it’s unlikely they were pulling behind them enough cable to connect the 5,058 miles or 8,140km.

On the basic math of $20,000 USD per mile that puts us at $101,160,000 to connect the entirety of the USA, right down the middle. Given a few extra days here and there in case of BT attack, injury, or just to rest, this could certainly be done in under a year — probably as little as nine months.

The problem with this method is how little actually happens in these areas. While this is the shortest route, most hub cities are around the outer borders and assuming our signal can radiate outwards from Kansas all the way to North Dakota is fairly unrealistic. It’s more likely we’d see a path connecting larger hubs which could encircle the United States. Or maybe even a combination of the two…

Sam Porter is about to connect a safehouse to the Chiral network.

The Appalachian Trail

To do this, we’re going to start with the Appalachian Trail. This leg starts up in Maine, though you could also begin your trip in Maryland and add the rest on to the end of the journey. The trail will get you as far south as Georgia and while it does venture inland, it mostly sticks to the Eastern part of the country. This trail is 2,190 miles and gets pretty close to major cities like Albany, New York, Washington, and Knoxville. It doesn’t quite reach down to Atlanta so we’re going to add an extra 76 miles (122km) to finish this stretch there.

The record for a complete thru-hike of this trail is held by Karel Sabbe who finished it in 41 days, seven hours, and 39 minutes. This pace hits 53 miles per day which is as impressive as it is ridiculous. This was also a supported hike, meaning he had people with aid and supplies, but it was still reported to be on foot. The average number of days it takes people is closer to 165 days so here we split the distance and work with about a hundred days, which gives us a pace close to 20 miles per day.

Adding three extra days to get to Atlanta as well as a few here and there to get closer to major cities and for other unforeseen circumstances, our exosuit-powered Porter could reasonably connect this portion of America in about four months.

That’s 2312 miles, 100 days, and $46,240,000 in cable.

Silver Comet, The Chief Ladiga, and Pinhoti National Recreation Trails

Only 13 miles from Atlanta is the Silver Comet Trail. This is a relatively short hiking track about 61.5 miles long. Porter would be happy to learn it’s paved, giving him an easy stroll that’ll take roughly four days.

It connects to the Chief Ladiga trail which then joins to the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. Again, most of this should be fairly easy to walk and gives us another 360 miles to our journey, so 18 more days.

That’s another 435 miles, 22 days, and $8,700,000 in cable.

Southern Border

From here, things get a bit tricky. It seems this part of the United states isn’t exactly known for long trail walks. Instead, we’ve linked major cities with the help of google maps without going too far out of our way. It’s much more difficult to say how tough these journeys would be and if they may be more dangerous for their use of main roads and populated areas.

The first stop on our journey would be to head on down to New Orleans, Louisiana. This gets us nice and close to the lowest part of the country before we start heading surely west. From the end of the last trail that’s about 415 miles and using our general 20 miles a day combined with Google’s time estimate is expected to take around 20 days in itself.

The closest hub is Houston. This city is 369 miles west giving us another nice 18 day walk.

For our next stop, based on current population sizes we went with San Antonio (Sorry Austin) and it’d take a clean ten days to make the 201-mile journey.

Getting to El Paso is a monstrous 581 miles which should take 29 days, but due to the likelihood of sleeping rough the whole time it’s safer to round up to 30 and add the extra time for recovery.

Phoenix is the next major hub, though it could be argued that a stop by Tucson on the way in might give another resting place midway through — especially as the desert conditions could be brutal depending on the time of year. Resting at Tucson would raise the trip to 446 miles, bumping it up to 22 days.

Lastly along this stretch of the southern border we can hug low to get to San Diego. This stretch is around 348 miles so close to another 18 days. From here we can start looking at more hiking tracks up the west coast for further inspiration.

That’s roughly 2,360 miles in 118 days to lay cable around the southern edge of the USA – another 4-5 months and $47,200,000 in cable.

Sam Porter sprints to a safehouse.
Presumably he won't be sprinting the whole time.

Pacific Crest Trail

It’s time to connect the West Coast. Heading back inland and South, 51 miles from San Diego will put us at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest trail. This will take 3 days but we’d also like to think after the trek along the southern border, maybe our traveller can take a rest and use a decent Porter-potty.

The Pacific Crest trail runs right up to the Canadian border slightly inland from the west coast of Northern America. It passes through California, Oregon, and Washington states and comes somewhat close to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Hikers average about 20 miles a day with this trail which is consistent with our other plans.

The unsupported record for this hike was set by Heather Anderson in 2013 who completed the 2,653-mile trail in just over 60 days. She didn’t have cable to work with, so we’re going to give our Porter a significantly longer time, especially considering the extra 340 or so miles to pop into major cities and the mountainous terrain.

Add another 3,044 miles in 153 days, or 5-6 months, and $60,880,000 in cable.

The Northern Border

This final stretch of our journey, much like the South, doesn’t give us much to work with in terms of walking trails. Worse though, is that there aren’t very many places of note to visit in the North of North America. We are going to stay as North as possible while still seeing some sights on our journey.

From the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest trail we begin our trek back East. We’ll run through:

  • The Colville National Forest. This is 214 miles away and takes us 10 days.
  • The Flathead National Forest, 311 miles or 16 days away.
  • The Blackfeet Nation, a Native American Reservation, which is a shorter 131-mile or six day journey.
  • The Fort Belknap Reservation, 249 miles and 12 days to the East.
  • The Fort Peck Reservation, 179 miles and 9 days away.
  • The Fort Berthold Reservation, another 190 miles and another nine days to the Southeast.
  • From there, we’ll head South for 221 miles and 11 days to the Standing Rock Reservation.
  • Then it’s 229 and 12 days east and across the Missouri River to get to the Lake Traverse Reservation.
  • Further East, 202 miles or ten days will get us to Minneapolis City which puts us firmly in view of the home stretch.

It’s long, but from there we head straight to Milwaukee which takes us 338 miles and 16 days. Then we can make our way along the coast of Lake Michigan south 86 miles and a meager 4 days to Chicago.

Since we’re going for coverage, our next stop will be right up against the border in Detroit. This takes 13 days to complete the 268 mile trip from Chicago. Then onwards to Cleveland which adds another 165 miles or 8 more days.

From Cleveland to Pittsburgh is another 125 miles and 6 days and then we can move straight back home to Washington. This final leg caps out at 223 miles and 11 days before we’re back home in the new capitol of a connected United States of America.

That’s 3,131 miles and 153 days, or 5-6 months and $62,620,000 in cable.

That also brings us to our total for the entire adventure: 11,282 miles, 546 days (18 months), and $225, 640, 000 in cable.

The Numbers

If the plan is to truly unite all corners of North America, then it’s likely they’d use both a path through the center as well as around the border to make the connection as strong and vast as possible. Because of this, we’re going to use the combined total of our trips both through and around the United States for these numbers.

Combining all of the above, the total distance travelled is 16,340 miles and we’re giving our Porter a relatively generous 646 days to complete it. This hits under two years total, so if we did want to presume our Porter may need slightly longer breaks, two years appears to be a fair time to set.

As for the total cost in cable, that’s $326,800,000 USD, which isn’t that bad really. We’d say it’s fair to round it up to $400,000,000 when you consider other expenses of the journey and any other infrastructure that needs building. Even $500,000,000 doesn’t seem too out of hand when you consider other similar expenses.

Sure, five hundred-million dollars could get us a lot of cool playful things. We could get 25 of Bugatti’s La Voiture Noire, better known as the most expensive car in the world, and still have money to make a track to race them in. Or a luxury yacht, which can go for as cheap(!) as $200 million.

Private islands are also relatively cheap. If we’re feeling especially trashy we could even grab the one from the infamous Fyre Festival for $11.8 million and have enough money to convince a bunch of other rich folks to travel here and then desert them.

Want to wage war? Let’s buy precisely one MiG-35 Fulcrum fighter jet. We’d lose, but we’d lose in a freakin’ Fulcrum! Perhaps better yet is 31 Spider-suits, which would probably be slightly more effective.

When it comes to the world’s larger problems, though, it seems this is a drop in the ocean.

The reality is even something relatively similar costs a lot more when you have to deal with a more complicated structure. If we had to pay teams, develop technology, market the idea, insurance, and all sorts of other expenses this would be exponentially higher.

To put it in perspective, a relatively recent endeavour in Australia to provide the country with cable was initially estimated to cost estimated $15 billion dollars back in 2007. This still isn’t finished and has blown out to potentially cost over $50 billion. To be fair this would be going down many established streets to individual houses as opposed to straight lines across a country–but it feels like it probably would have been quicker for someone to do it by foot.

Sam Porter gears up and has several pairs of boots for the trip.
It looks like Porter has thought of how many boots he'll need.

Costs aside, there are a few other things we can look at to measure the intensity of this task. Hiking boots, for instance, are generally only good for a maximum of 1,000 miles before you should get them replaced. This means our Porter would need at least 17 pairs to complete the journey, but likely more.

Earth’s circumference is only 24,901 miles,  so we’re doing over half of that. In fact, for our 16,340 miles from Washington D.C, if we were to travel as the crow flies, we could get all the way to Melbourne, Australia with miles to spare.

646 days also means around the same amount of nights. If we’re looking at a somewhat ruined world where only the major hubs offer proper shelter, it’s likely less than 100 of those nights would be spent in a proper bed. That means our Porter-like probably spent around 550 nights under the stars, strung up in a hammock of fibre, likely hoping modern wildlife doesn’t find a CAT5 tasty.

Hope Corrigan
Secretly several dogs stacked on top of one another in a large coat, Hope has a habit of writing and talking far too much about video games and tech. You can usually find her whinging about how Jet Set Radio Future never got a sequel on Twitter.