So, I’ve been off the trail a second time with more back pain… This time one of my first stops was to see a doctor again; and, get another treatment. I also started more stretching and abdominal work. Concurrently, being off the trail for a longer period of time (six weeks) afforded me additional time to do some other important things. It’s worth realizing that at this time in my life I have (seemingly) more responsibilities and timely things to do and/or get done, then in 1972 (my thru hike); or in 2005 (my 660 mile hike).
Frankly, I’m not complaining… I have come to realize that this sabbatical leave has afforded me both the time and opportunity to do a number of things (to date) that I really enjoy, or wanted to do. Let me be very clear… After my thru hike in 1972, I completed an Undergraduate Thesis ( six credits) in the Individual Honors Program at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). When putting together my thesis, I wrote an essay entitled: “I go to the woods not to get away from people, but to get with myself.”
My reality from that time in my life has evolved; but, the foundation of this belief still remains… What is newest now, is a genuine appreciation for my life as it exists today! I love teaching and mentoring…watching young men and women often exceed their expectations of who they thought they would become. I have a passion for family, but also for good friends. This passion has made me a better person because of who “they” are. And, more than ever before, I appreciate what I can do, rather than regret what I can’t.
This spring, semester-long sabbatic leave, has afforded me the opportunity to do a number of things; more than I could have ever asked for. I have and will continue to hike: perhaps in the future less long-distance hiking; and, more section or day hikes. But, I am and will continue my hiking. I was able to visit my parents and family in Iowa; my Mother turned 89 years old in February, and my Father turned 90 in March (my trip for my Dad’s celebration was a surprise). I was able to celebrate Michael’s birthday with his sister, Aimee and my wife Betsy, in Worcester, MA. I attended a national conference (in Boston) for a few days and enjoyed seeing my favorite peers, from all over the US, I’ve also been back on the UNE campus meeting with students, my colleagues, and even a few prospective students. And, I did a few projects “around the house.” As I stated earlier, I’m not complaining! What fun…interspersed with some blood, sweat and tears.
Today, I find myself reflecting-upon and sharing-some of what I have been up to, while off the AT. It seems like the right thing to do, as I am (while writing this blog) heading-back to the AT (at Stecoah Gap, NC) for the second time this spring. Note: I was originally planning to head back a week earlier; a shared ride was delayed and then unfortunately cancelled.
However, a new plan came together:
Take the Downeaster (Amtrak) from Saco, ME to Boston, MA (two hours) Saturday, 04/14
Take the “T” from Boston’s North Station to South Station (one-half hour) Saturday, 04/14
Take Greyhound/PeterPan busses from Boston’s South Station to Knoxville, TN (25 hours) Saturday, 04/14 to Sunday, 04/15 Hitch from Knoxville, TN to Robbinsville, NC Sunday, 04/15 to Monday, 04/16.
Hitch from Robbinsville, NC to Stecoah Gap Tuesday, 04/17 and continue Hiking north
Here’s how it worked-out: The travel and connections were great from Maine to South Station; the 25 hours on three different buses (with transfers) made for a long trip; but, I’d do it again if I needed to. When I arrived in Knoxville at 5:00 pm I was offered a ride to the Knoxville-Alcoa Airport (area) for $30 and a ride to Robbinsville, NC for $140.
Needless to say, I was up to the challenge… I walked about five miles to where I could hitch. Then I got a great ride with a father-daughter, who went out-of-the-way to drop me near Maryville, TN (a few miles beyond the airport). I walked until 8:00 pm (a nice Alcoa Police Office said I could continue walking along the road, but I couldn’t solicit rides). So, around 8:00 pm I decided to stop for dinner at the Smokey Mountain Brewery. While eating dinner I was able to locate a Days Inn that was back closer to the airport; but, they came to the restaurant and brought me back to their Motel.
The next day I had to make-up the milage I lost, going back to the Days Inn. However, I still made it all the way to Robbinsville (walking at least another 12 miles). In Robbinsville, I stayed overnight at the Microtel. And, after stopping at the US Post Office on Tuesday morning, I was able to catch a Ride to Stecoah Gap, by 10:00 am!