Once again, here is my favorite of all of the hike journals - Jim's epilogue. This time I really believe that this epilogue is the best one of all.
I will echo a portion of what I posted on Facebook recently, "I am blown away by my husband’s dogged determination when he sets a goal. He began in Key West, FL on March 11, 2014 - the southernmost point in the continental US. His goal was to walk to Lubec, ME, the easternmost point. With two long hikes a year for four years he reached Lubec on Oct. 6 - a total of 2,466 miles!!! Jane
From September 6 to October 6 I walked 250 miles across the state of Maine. Of those 30 days, I spent only 17 actually walking, as we broke this section into three segments, each 5-7 days in length. Although it requires more driving time, dividing a three-week hike into multiple segments provides the important benefit of giving my body some time to rest and recover.
One highlight of the Maine segment was hiking over 50 miles on the Down East Sunrise Trail. Although the surface was too loose in many places and ATV traffic was a minor annoyance, I did appreciate being able to get away from cars and trucks on the roads. Some days on the DST I was in remarkably remote territory, with little evidence of civilization for many miles at a time. It was a bit disappointing to not observe more wildlife, but seeing the frolicking otters and a fox was really special.
September and early October are a great season to be outdoors, with comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and very little rain to contend with. The visuals were outstanding, with wildflowers blooming, apple and crabapple trees and wintergreen heavy with their fruit, and the leaves becoming more colorful with each passing day. The last several days in early October were truly spectacular, with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows mixing with the green of pines and spruces. There was so much more color in that part of Maine than we found at home in central NH.
In the two previous sections of the hike – in Conn., Mass., and NH – I was fortunate to have the company of friends for many of the miles in those states. But this section I was alone, except for my ever-reliable Jane who was kind enough to frequently interrupt her days to meet me for lunch at a local restaurant. We did eat well on this trip – three meals a day with plenty of local seafood. We stayed seven nights at five B&Bs, and the breakfasts those days were fantastic.
The last week of the hike we were in Down East Maine, where the principal crop is low-bush (aka “wild”) blueberries. Due to a combination of climate and soil, blueberries grow like weeds here, and with a little attention they will cover the fields and hillsides for acres. We learned a lot about wild blueberries while passing through this area. For example,
- They are harvested every other year, which keeps the plants and the land they grow on healthy.
- They have a more intense flavor than cultivated blueberries, and double the antioxidants.
- During the spring bloom, thousands of bee hives are brought in by growers to pollinate the plants.
- 99% of the harvested berries are flash frozen so they can be enjoyed year-round.
- After harvest season, growers cover the bushes with straw, which the following Spring is set afire to burn the bushes to the ground for their fallow year.
So the truck and trailer that Jane met on grass-covered General Cobb Road was full of straw that would be blown out over the fields of blueberries. On our return trip home, we actually saw that being done on another blueberry field.
My final leg of the hike up the East Coast is now history. It took me eight sections averaging over 300 miles each over four years to walk from southern-most Florida to the Canadian border. While nowhere near as long and lonely as my hike across the country that ended in 2013, it was nonetheless an epic adventure. My logs indicate it took me 156 days (five months!) of hiking and an estimated 5.25 million steps to go from Key West to Lubec. I will forever cherish memories of countless cities and towns through which I traveled and the people we met along the way, many of whom fed us and let us stay with them overnight.
I recently was invited to speak to a group about my long-distance hiking adventures. My comments included the reasons why I am a long-distance hiker. I spoke of the educational benefits of traveling, especially the historical and geographical things I learned which you would miss by driving. As readers of this journal can attest, I really love to observe the amazing beauty of our country, including the great variety of plant and animal life visible to a hiker from the side of the road. And I related the lessons I have learned from doing these long walks:
1) make do with less comfort and technology than you might want, and have faith that somehow you will get what you need;
2) keep a positive attitude – expect the best and usually you will get it; and
3) dealing with challenging situations makes us better people.
As I got farther north over the last several years, I have made it an objective to choose routes that keep me away from heavily trafficked highways as much as possible. Although major state roads usually have wide paved shoulders, it is healthier and safer to walk on soft roadsides with fewer cars and trucks passing by. And better still are the converted rail trails that I found in the New England states. These are surprisingly common today, and I would urge you to find ones that exist near you. That can be done online (www.railstotrails.org) and there are excellent books available (www.wildernesspress.com) that describe in great detail all rail trails in a region (e.g., New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast).
Of necessity the hike journals are written hastily, typically at the end of a day after hiking 15-20 miles. It is my sincere hope that these walks and the journals that describe them have been an inspiration to those that read them. It has been a pleasure to share my experiences along the way, and the joy I derive by walking the roads and trails and observing the wonders of the natural world.
It should be obvious that this 2500 mile hike would not have been possible without the support of Jane. She has dedicated about four months of her life to make it possible for me to walk northward these last four years. She has asked for a break from these semi-annual adventures, so my hike next Spring will likely be done without Jane. I have begun discussions to create a long group hike with support from one or possibly two hiker organizations…details to follow at a later date.