And now my favorite of all of the hike journals - Jim's epilogue - always a treat for me to read since I often find out things that Jim forgot to share during the journey..... And I know that the picture attached is a repeat but I can't resist posting it again to reflect Jim's great joy and sense of accomplishment!
We have now been home for a few days, after concluding the hike last week and sharing a long, relaxing Easter weekend with family in CT. I have just re-read our journals that span almost four weeks from February 29 to March 23, refreshing memories of my 400-mile walk in four states over this period.
What will I remember the most about this hike? Nearly 100 miles of it was on off-road hike-bike trails, most of that taking me through scenic rural areas on converted former railroad routes. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (www.railstotrails.org) is a national non-profit organization that is working to create more of these around the country. And the East Coast Greenway (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a mostly volunteer group that is stitching together virtual trails – on and off roads - up the eastern U.S. for hikers and cyclists from Florida to Maine. I belong to both groups and am grateful for the fabulous jobs they are doing to make non-vehicular travel both more available and safer.
In contrast with my previous long-distance hikes, this time I had companions for four days. Thanks to David, Clay and Bob for keeping me company and sharing countless miles and many hours of great conversation. David has agreed to join me as I walk through his home state of NJ in October, and I hope many others will as well.
As is our custom, Jane and I found a number of people to host us along our journey. On this hike there were five separate hosts, putting us up for a total of 10 nights. Our hosts included two classmates from Princeton and one from high school. The evenings we spent with them in their homes, and the conversations we had while enjoying their generous hospitality are truly memorable. We hope to be able to return the favor when they next visit New Hampshire.
I fared well on this trip physically. My blister issues were minor, and the legs and feet held up well under the punishment they had to endure. I am fortunate to have no problems with hip and knee joints, despite the overuse to which I subject them. My sole health problem was a common head cold, which fortunately did not hit until the final week and did not prevent me from finishing this 24-day walk without a single day of rest.
Once again Jane and I were blessed to have decent weather. Temperatures ranged from below freezing one morning to the low eighties several afternoons, but this is a range I can handle by layering clothes on and off. I had to deal with a cold, heavy rain one afternoon that turned to snow before I was finished, but managed to stay warm except for my feet and hands. That day reminded me of several I experienced years ago on the Appalachian Trail, some of the most miserable days of my life. This time there was a warm car waiting for me to take me to a hot shower.
I loved observing the emerging signs of spring as I walked along the roadways. Flowering magnolia trees, forsythia, and daffodils added color to the natural scenic beauty of the areas I passed through. The birdsong was ever-present and loud. In contrast to previous walks along the coastal Southeast states and the early days of this hike, the terrain of the final two weeks was primarily rolling hills. The elevation changes made my typical daily 16-19 miles more tiring than they would otherwise be, but my body handled it fine and I appreciated the variety they lent to each day’s journey.
As has been the case previously, this segment had far too many miles of walking on highways with a lot of truck traffic. Without knowing in advance what a particular road will be like, it is tough to avoid this, but I will seek to stay off federal highways and major state roads to the extent I can as I plan future trips. That will unavoidably add some mileage but it will be a worthwhile price to pay.
This was the third hike where Jane has been my companion, my one-person road crew who always managed to find her way to my daily destination at the appointed time. This trip would not be possible, and certainly wouldn’t be as enjoyable, without her presence and invaluable assistance. Thanks, “Uber-Jane”.
And thanks to all of our journal readers for following along, experiencing our trip vicariously. Your comments, best wishes, and prayers for our health and safety are greatly appreciated. I hope many of you will be inspired to walk a few more miles and experience yourselves the pleasures of pedestrianism.
I have now finished five segments of this walk up the Eastern U.S., a total of 1,600 miles in Florida, Georgia, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. I estimate it will require another 1,000 miles to hike to my ultimate destination, the Canadian border in Eastport Maine. That’s three more segments of 300-350 miles each. I eagerly anticipate planning out each of these hikes, testing my physical limits, seeing some beautiful countryside, and meeting more great people along the way.