Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lewes, Delaware -- on the Atlantic Coast!

It hardly seems real, that this walk could be at an end, and that I would be done (for now) with the rituals around packing up the cart and heading down the road, or the trail, with or without predetermined destination for the day, and hoping for weather-mercy.  But so it is.

A ride through some rather hazardous road construction cut a day off my walk across the peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.  There were several thunder/rain storms I avoided overnight by sleeping in motels, and even a tornado on Kent Island overnight on the day I left Annapolis.  It did considerable damage in an area where my friend Breck and I had walked less than 24 hours before.  The day prior to my arrival day in Lewes (on the coast) I was soaked to the skin as it rained all morning, and then got a sunburn in the afternoon.  I spent that final night on the edge of a cornfield, a peaceful and fitting last night on the road.

My welcome in Lewes made me feel like royalty.  Am being hosted by more of D.C. Andrea's friends(!) in a beautiful home on the edge of the wetlands of Cape Henlopen State Park. I've been honored to meet many of the town's literati, activists and other interesting folks.  Tomorrow I will have a visit with a journalist with the local paper, who took some photos of the 'closing ceremony' we had at the ocean-side beach  on Friday.  After a 'risky' forecast for that day, the weather turned out to be ideal.  And to my great joy, along with some new friends from here in Lewes, a couple of Zen friends (Arlene Lueck and Andrea Way) were present for the event, to help me chant a verse called the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo.

This was the final dedication:

This chant is an invocation of Kannon, the Bodhisattve of Compassion.  I'd like to dedicate any merit arising from our recitation and actually, the effort of this entire pilgrimage to Gaia, Planet Earth, and all of its inhabitants, especially those that ae endangered or facing extinction now.  May we humans come together and evolve toward peace, toward a more skillful stewardship of this fragile place we can still call home -- for now!  And may we evolve toward the end of suffering for all beings.

My gratitude is inexpressible, for the innumerable kindnesses I have been offered on this journey.  And for all I have seen, learned and shared.  May I find ways of putting it to use in the service of those beings who have no voices of their own, or whose voices we cannot hear.

On the coastal plain. No more hills!

A view from my tent.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ink? (Or what?)

'Ink' -- as in 'press coverage'.  And here is another surprise!  Again with thanks to my DC friend Andrea, this journey has now been celebrated in a style beyond my imagining, in the Washington Post, of all places!

The whole issue of media interest continues to be an evolving story.  Given my reticence around all forms of social media, I had felt a little squeamish, at the outset, about the prospect of publicity.  Pretty early on, though, it became clear that the mission was more important than my personal sensibilities, and somewhere along the way I began welcoming opportunities to speak to the press.  There were not too many.  Some few articles that came out in small town papers were embarrassing, with many inaccuracies and little to do with the spirit of pilgrimage (at least as I saw it).  A few others were well done and seemed encouraging - environment may not be a regular topic of discussion in some of the places I visited!  In any case, this year I've been 'on my own' for the most part.  Until Washington D.C.!  This article is also a little embarrassing, but I did think the journalist captured the spirit of the walk.  Her name is Mary Hui. Here is the link:

Been having a 'weather break' in Annapolis, many thanks to another long-time friend and 'road angel', Breck.  Tomorrow I'll be crossing the Chesapeake Bay and embarking on what most likely will be my last week of walking to the Atlantic coast!

At the Hirshhhorn Museum

Ai Wei Wei exhibit

This part of the exhibit was part of the installation on Alcatraz a few years ago.

Smithsonian Castle

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Holy milestones, Batman -- Washington D.C.!!

Well!  This was something -- arriving in our nation's Capitol, sweating and bug-bitten, to be welcomed by my good friend Andrea.  Who, among other things, instigated a very interesting meeting for me, with my elected representative, Congress-person Jackie Speier!  Without Andrea's encouragement I probably would have been satisfied with parading around the Capitol, my Climate Flag flying (avoiding the White House, in the end, due to the appalling nature - to me - of its current resident!)  Why I hadn't thought of this already (calling on our elected officials), I don't know.  But it may be because there has been so little media interest in this pilgrimage (at least in relation to the distances covered!) that I had begun to feel it was more a mission I'd been carrying out just for my own integrity's sake, out of reverence for the earth, and for the many amazing contacts I have made with an equally amazing and diverse group of people, so many of whom DO care about the environment...  If not for the same reasons, or in the same ways as I do...

BTW, I did end up staying for a night in one of the lock houses I mentioned last post.  It was fascinatingly rustic and so hot overnight that it was hard to sleep.  But then, my last several days on the C&O Canal were extra hot (90's) and humid.  I keep having to re-remember that in an eastern North American summer, it is so green and leafy that you can't see the terrain unless you come to a field or wide body of water, or are climbing/descending a hill yourself.  The Potomac was often visible, but not always.  Much interesting flora and river/canal fauna.

It looks as if there will be about seven more walk days to go until I reach the Atlantic coast - at Lewes area, Rehoboth Beach, Deleware.  There is so much of interest to see and do here in D.C., that I could get immersed very easily.  But 'duty calls', as they say - so in a couple of days I will head to Annapolis and another generous host there!  I hear that there will be a post on Jackie Speier's FB site, about this trip(!)  It should be view-able soon at FACEBOOK.COM/JACKIESPEIER.

A memorial at Antietum National Civil War Battleground site

The pedestrian bridge to Harper's Ferry
At Lockhouse #22

Thursday, July 6, 2017

C&O Canal trail mile 100 -- Williamsport

...And if there are particular themes to this stretch for me, they are mostly very green and rainy ones --  grabbing walk days in between thunder storms, sharing the trail with hundreds of cyclists and (again) scaling back my daily mileage expectations while sweating profusely in the amazing humidity! Camping areas (as well as the trail itself) along the Potomac tend to be beautiful and fairly buggy, including gazillions of fireflies after dark - dazzling!  And of course, the area abounds with early U.S. historical battlefields and other significant places.  For example, Williamsport was one of the sites considered by President Washington for the future Capitol city.

A interesting feature along the trail, the 3000' long Paw Paw Tunnel was closed for safety reasons, and there was a steep and rocky detour trail by-pass.  Luckily for me, the awesome folks I stayed with in the town of Paw Paw shuttled me around the by-pass.  I got to explore the tunnel entrance and enough of the by-pass route to know it would have been an act of penance, indeed, to drag my cart over that hill!  There was also a 20-mile stretch of parallel Western Maryland Rail Trail (paved with asphalt!) running alongside the Canal trail.  Needless to say, I switched to the converted rail path for some easier 'rolling' along that stretch.  Ft. Frederick State Park has a very well restored 18th century fort to explore as well as an impressive nature center it would have been great to revisit for all of my flora and fauna questions!   There are scores of building ruins along the Canal route, some of them restored to use as overnight bunkhouses furnished in period styles.  The one bunkhouse I have experienced myself (so far) is attached to a bike shop in Hancock, sometimes affectionately called The Chicken Coop!

So.  I am a possible 7 days from Washington D.C.(at my current reduced speed!).  After which, it may be that a week or 10 walk-days could get me to the Atlantic!  Will that be a 'wrap'?  I can't imagine what that would feel like...

Former mill site

Lock #50

View from the Paw Paw Tunnel by-pass trail

Paw Paw Tunnel

Taken by my walking companion of an afternoon.  

Paw paw tree.  It has edible fruit later in the season.

8-spot butterfly

'The Chicken Coop' (C&O Bicycle Bunkhouse)

In Fort Frederick barracks room; the barracks buildings were rebuilt in the 1970's, although the original fort was pre-Revolutionary War. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail -- 184 miles to Washington DC!

Hello from Cumberland, MD, from where I will set out tomorrow on another famous trail route I've been hearing about for ages!  This is also unpaved; we shall see how the trail surfaces compare with those on the North Bend Rail Trail... Today I spend a good while in the Visitors' Center, gathering some much needed maps and information on negotiating the various stretches.

First stop in Maryland was in Oakland, in the southwest corner. Wonders never cease.  On a much needed rest day (meant to be uneventful) I met a elderly gent (Ariel) in the area's Historical Museum who, after a brief introductory conversation, proposed taking me out on a scenic tour into some of the more remote and beautiful mountains of West Virginia near Monongahela National Forest.  This fellow, although a bit unsteady on his feet, was a superlative driver, and had a sporty car which he clearly loved showing off.  Well.  This turned into a 4-hour afternoon of gorgeous vistas including the mountain ridge named Dolly Sods, and a rock formation known as Seneca Rocks.  I got an earful of local lore from this 2nd or 3rd generation resident of the area, was introduced to some new (to me) classical recordings, and we exchanged much interesting conversation in the process. The thing of it is - this countryside was some of what I missed when I opted to alter my route off of the American Discovery Trail for that stretch beyond Clarksburg, WV.  Wonders never cease...

The terrain in these past days has continued steep, and sometimes treacherous on the wind-y parts of the commercial routes.  As has often been the case, the road shoulders disappeared in spots, leaving me hugging guardrail and switching sides of the road for the best visibility to traffic.  But now I will be on a trail all the way to the Capitol!  Will I parade past the White House with my cart, flying the Climate Flag?  184 miles to go before I have to decide!

Mountain ridge called Dolly Sods

Seneca Rocks - a well known rock climbing destination

Along Route 135, Maryland

Canal area of Cumberland, MD.  The Episcopal Church, upper left, was former site of Ft. Cumberland, used by George Washington.  Tunnels underneath were formerly part of the Underground Railroad.

Cumberland County Courthouse

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thank you, West Virginia; hello, Maryland!

I can hardly believe it, but I crossed into Maryland yesterday.  However, I'm not quite done with the wonders of West Virginia, which for me were mostly about amazing people and steep, leafy mountains!  For a good part of the distance walking the North Bend Rail Trail I was taken under the wing of West Virginia's ADT coordinator Sharon, and the network of people she and her husband know along the route.  After the aforementioned encounter with the couple in Salem it was pretty regular random acts of kindness as I covered the last three days to the Maryland state line.

These were rather ambitious days, as it turned out.  I'd been 'sheltered' from many of the hills while walking on a converted railway line, and although some real challenges were expected, I'd flattered myself that the Rocky Mountain crossing was pretty good training(!)  Anyway, the most mountainous part of West Virginia is in the eastern part.  From a conversation I had with a support person who was following a cross-country bicycle race (Race Across America), I learned that the slopes of the Appalachians include the most elevation gain per mile of any of the U.S. mountain ranges.  We're not talking about elevations at all comparable with the height of those in the west.  The highest point, Mt. Mitchell is 'only' about 6700', but I now have a new understanding of what Appalachian Trail walkers are dealing with.   During the past three days of  'hill climbing' I ascended and descended more 8, 9, and 10% grades than I wanted to count, and today I am feeling the accumulated effort! Have made it here (to Oakland, MD) in time for a week-end of stormy weather (which actually started early, raining both evening and morning on the camping place I left yesterday!)  And, BTW, I do know that I'm not finished with hill climbing yet...

There has been a real shift in my thinking in some ways, during the course of this endeavor.  For example, abandoned/ruined buildings have always fascinated and drawn me with the impulse to explore. But now this attraction is mixed with a certain poignancy as I pass so many shuttered businesses, houses falling to rubble, trash-strewn properties with (I imagine) no one left to care for them.  And I guess what's even sadder is that so many teetering buildings that look abandoned are, in fact, occupied. One listens to the rants of so many of our politicians and can only wonder, "What in the world are we thinking?"

Cool Springs Park.  Interesting camping spot, with a water wheel, antique farm equipment and an assortment of animals across the creek.

Monday, June 19, 2017

West Virginia and the North Bend Rail Trail

As you might have noticed from the last post, I was able to manage a visit to the Hopewell Nat'l Historical Park's Pre-Columbian mound site, which was breathtaking, as well as a detour to the Hocking Hills State Park area where I spent a happy day and a half hiking for the scenery(!)  A moment's twinge of something like guilt for my 'indulgence' in tourism was short lived as I remembered that, after all, 'paying respect to land and cultures' is a primary motivating reason for this walk.

A few days later I had a lovely visit in Athens, a very interesting island of progressivism (sort of like Yellow Springs), in the midst of increasingly conservative Ohio.  Now I am getting acquainted with the many different faces of West Virginia, an eye-opening and sometimes sobering experience.  A proud tradition of hospitality holds sway, and people generally fend off compensatory gestures, offering to share whatever they have, which, in some cases, is heartbreakingly little.  Trail (road) angels come in all economic conditions.

The North Bend Rail Trail runs roughly parallel to Route 50 between Parkersburg and Clarksburg. I walked 50 of the 72 mile stretch which was unpaved and, while fairly level, was sometimes challenging on the uneven grassy or gravel surfaces, which require a good deal more pulling (of my cart) than is usual on paved surfaces. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful stretch punctuated by cool, dark tunnels.  I kept my headlamp handy!

As has been the case all along, I've enjoyed innumerable blessings on a near daily basis.  But one incident has to be noted.  The other day was my b-day, and I had been planning on camping that night. But weather looked ominous, so I decided to seek out some cover.  In the town of Salem I was delivered to the home of an elderly couple, Suzie and Joe Davis, who keep a tiny apartment off of their garage, just for trekkers and transients!  And I heard some interesting stories about a few of their guests. Well, if that weren't enough this devoutly religious couple provided dinner, breakfast, and upon learning that it was my bday, husband Joe went right out to the Dairy Queen and came back with a bday cake.  I was overwhelmed...

Destination for a scorchingly hot day?

New state!

Great old hotel in downtown Parkersburg, WV - the Blennerhassett

Welcome to the North Bend Rail Trail

Cairo, WV

This trail has lots of tunnels - flashlights necessary!

PS - I got interviewed by a reporter with an Athens, OH newspaper.  Lots of inaccuracies, but here's the link, for anyone who wants to have a look. You'd probably have to copy/paste the whole line, as it won't work as a direct link... sorry.