Monday morning I woke up. After coffee and breakfast I said goodbye before heading out the door. I followed the road up the hill. I made the mistake of turning onto the first trail I saw. Either way it was taking me west through the woods so I followed it for awhile. I reached Hutchins Creek and followed it south until I found the river to river trail. The river to river trail then went back north. I could have stayed on the trail I was on and ended in the same spot. Slight waste of time.
Either way I reached the trail head and the last forest trail for some time. I'll be on roads until St Louis and a bike trail through much of Missouri. Anyway we trekked down a couple of gravel roads to Route 3. I followed that road into the town of Grand Tower. I stopped at the gas station for a root beer and then headed to the campground.
Devil's Backbone is a campground right on the Mississippi River. Despite storm and river flooding warnings, I set up close to the river. Every ten minutes a barge goes by. The wind was rather strong but the rain didn't come until after I fell asleep. No flooding though.
Tuesday morning we woke up and Brown's pad had a crack in it and he was limping. I knew we would have to take the day off. It was frustrating because this was only our second day back on the trail.
I sat around most of the day; reading, tanning, eating, and watching the barges go by.
Wednesday morning Brown was walking better. I put his shoes on and he was clumsy for a minute. Once he got the hang of it he was doing fine. We left Grand Tower and headed out on Rte 3 towards Chester.
We take a thirty minute break every three miles. It's a little difficult to find shade along this road. Often I find myself in somebody's yard borrowing shade from a tree. I passed a small bait/convenience store. I got a root beer and an ice cream sandwich. Brown jumped in the pond out back to cool off.
I sat out front and the guy who worked inside (possibly the owner) came out. He sat and talked to me for awhile. He spoke a lot. Barely a moment of silence between thoughts. My favorite story he told was when he was in Vietnam. I've met a few Vets on my walk; their stories are always very intriguing. After an hour we continued walking.
I made it to Crain Baptist Church. Once there, I took Brown's shoes off and his pads were wet. His pad that had cracked was soft and shedding the cracked portion. There was an additional deep chunk that had come off from being wet and soft. I cannot make a decent pace stopping every other day for healing. I also feel awful for putting my dog through such pain.
I decided that the best way forward is on bicycle. I returned to Alto Pass to stay with the friends that I had made there. They have a family member who does long distance touring rides. I was able to get a wealth of information from him. I'm currently in the process of purchasing a touring bicycle and dog trailer. I wish I could continue on foot. My fear is that I will see less and have fewer interactions on bike. However, it's a necessary evil to continue forward without putting additional strain on Brown. Maybe I'm wrong though, maybe I'll be able to see more by being able to deviate further from the trail.
I haven't owned a bike since I was a child. This will change the dynamic of my journey but I'm going to roll with it. It's important to be flexible in life and accept and adapt to the circumstances that confront you.
Since returning to Alto Pass, I've ordered a bike and trailer; attended the 35th annual Tomato Fertility Party; went blackberry picking; went canoeing/kayaking, bike riding and enjoyed the hospitality of the locals. I hate not moving every day but if this is part of the journey, so be it. I keep myself busy by cleaning the house. One day I rode the bike to a local farmers market. I spotted golden cherry tomatoes, $1.50/pint. These would be $3 or $4 back in DC. So I bought three pints and was popping them in my mouth on the bike ride home.
Today I rode my bike to Bald Knob. Atop sits a giant cross. Peddling up the ridge reminds me that this bike dynamic will be challenging, I look forward to it though. Until I roll out of town, I'll continue to enjoy the amazing summer produce, especially the local peaches.
It's a bizarre sense of comfort and anxiousness to be stationary. It's nice waking up on a soft bed to coffee and a hot breakfast each morning. However, everyday I feel like I should be walking, exploring.
Thank you readers.
"What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us."
It was a long drive from Illinois to DC. The highway was rather scenic though. I drove until midnight and slept in the car at a rest stop. When I woke up the next morning the fog was so thick I could barely see anything. I headed out anyways and the fog soon dissipated. Driving through the Appalachian mountains was crazy and I got excited when I passed the Appalachian trail.
I made it to DC and was so happy to be back in the city. I wish I wasn't driving though. I thought driving on vast, seemingly endless roads were bad. City driving is the worst. I drove to NW DC and spent the day with my friend. We've been friends since high school, so it was great to hang out. He shaved my head for me and we celebrated with some grand cru that evening. In the morning we watched the soccer game. He had to go to work that evening, so I decided to head out of town.
I drove to NYC. A few of my closest friends live in Brooklyn. I met up with two and we grabbed dinner. Another friend stopped by before the night was through. In the morning I left for Connecticut.
I had to pick my mom up from the airport. I kept my beard so she could see it. It was great to see her. Normally I see her once or twice a year. However, now I'm out in the wild and reunions feel better than ever. From the airport we drove to my grandmother's house. She has alzheimer's disease. I like to think she remembers me, I'm not sure though, either way it was so nice to see her.
We then went to my uncle's house for dinner. It's been so long since I've had grilled food. It was incredible. The next day was the wedding. The church was built in 1652, it was beautiful and on a historic street. My cousin looked incredible. After the wedding we were bussed to the reception. It was a great venue and I had a lot of fun celebrating with family and friends.
The next day I visited my grandfather at the cemetery. I think about him a lot on my walk. I'm not sure when I'll be east again so I wanted to make sure to visit. That evening we went to my other uncle's house for a cookout. More grilled food! More family, more memories.
The next morning I dropped my mom off at the airport and headed back to NYC. I met up with three friends for brunch. We did some Sunday funday, day drinking and watched the pride parade for a bit. We then retreated back to Brooklyn for a quieter spot and watched a soccer game. We headed back to the apartment, had a little game night, then went to bed.
Monday and Tuesday were spent hanging out with friends around Brooklyn. Caught the USA/Belgium game!
Wednesday morning I said goodbye. It's sad saying goodbye to everything you once held close. Especially since this will most likely be the last time I'm on the east coast for a very long time. I began my long drive west both excited to get walking again and crying for the life I had. In Pennsylvania I was pulled over for driving in the left lane. I didn't realize that was a thing. The cop saw I wasn't from PA and was just passing through, so he let me off with a warning.
I drove until I reached Indiana, pulled into the first rest stop and slept in the car. The next morning I finished my drive to Carbondale, IL. I'm back with the kind family that took me in Alto Pass. I'm going to stay here for the fourth of July weekend.
On the fourth of July we went hiking/chanterelle mushroom hunting. We harvested over ten pounds of mushrooms from the forest. We made cream of chanterelle mushroom soup, mushroom fried rice and mushroom penang curry. I've been very food spoiled here. We stayed in eating instead of watching fireworks because Brown gets angry at the loud bangs. The neighbor came over with an assortment of homemade desserts. I had a raspberry, vanilla cream puff and some blueberry pie.
Saturday morning there were Belgium waffles with blackberries. I read most of the day. Their band had a gig at a local wine vineyard. Afterwards the musicians came back to the house and continued playing. It was wonderful to listen to everyone play and sing as the evening faded, they're all incredibly talented.
Sunday supper. My hosts had ordered food from a woman that lives in town. She works at a local orchard. She is Mexican and made us an authentic Mexican feast. Everything was delicious. Her guacamole was on point. That evening I received another gift from these amazing people. They got me trekking poles!
Words cannot describe how lucky and grateful I am to have arrived at their home. Truly kind, genuine people always surrounded by friends and family. The comforts of life outside the forest make it difficult to leave here.
It was an amazing vacation. I was taken in by strangers and welcomed into their community. I met up with some of my oldest and closest friends. And I celebrated a joyous event with family. It felt strange to have not been walking for the past two weeks. I ate everything in sight, as if I would never see food again. I'm looking forward to getting back out there. I've been walking for so long now that it seems more normal than regular life.
Thank you readers. Thank you everyone in Alto Pass for being wonderful, welcoming people. Thank you friends and family for the goodies you sent me off with. Thanks to everyone who made my vacation joyous. Thank you for being you. Happy birthday Judy!
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."