Well, here I am. After crossing the Ohio River, I’ve left Mountaineer country and entered the Buckeye state. While I’m certainly glad that I’ve made it over the Appalachians, I will miss them dearly. Some of my first glimpses of unmanned wilderness took place back in Cub Scouts: hiking the Appalachian Trail and learning the basics of survival, gaining an appreciation for nature, and generally utilizing the outdoors for everything they have to offer. Within the past few years I gained a newfound love for these same mountains, and they are symbolic of the general terrain that I’m used to and have hiked most often. With this milestone, I’ve crossed the threshold- out of the mountains and slowly into the flatlands.
Walking through West Virginia was a great learning experience for me. I ate squirrel for the first time, discovered how awesome military MRE’s are, and saw how wolves use body language to communicate firsthand. I learned how to effectively light a fire with the lens of a projector, (from a tip) that a diver’s decompression chamber is the best cure for a hangover, and that (fortunately for me) black bears are often more scared of humans than we are of them. West Virginia presented many of my toughest challenges so far, but also showed me that the land is twice as beautiful, the people are twice as kind, and that time either moves twice as fast or twice as slow as I thought. Today will be day 50 of Dudetrek, and I’ve been loving every second of it. I can’t wait to see what Ohio has to offer, but for now, I’ll take it one step at a time.
Thanks to the Taste of the Town restaurant in Fort Ashby for showing me a taste of the town; to Bill and Jean Bailey from Keyser for the delicious squirrel to start off my WV experience; to Chuck Elza for the MRE’s (and watching my back); to the entire Mt. Zion church for your enthusiastic support; to Ken from God’s House of Prayer and Ralph for preparing me for the journey ahead; to Bill Signor for reminding me that the world is a small place; to Joyce for finding me and being a great mom; to Dan, Katie, Holden, and Harper from Canaan Valley for taking me in like part of your family; to my cheering supporters at the Leaf Peeper’s Festival’s 5K in Davis for keeping my spirits up and my feet moving; to Aaron, Brooke, and Casey for good company when I needed it; to Louren and Shenay from Parsons(sorry if I butchered spelling your name) for showing me sights I otherwise never would have seen; to officer Gillis from the Phillippi police station for helping me stay out of harms way; to Johnny from Grafton for pretty much everything, not to mention being a bad-ass!; to the entire city of Morgantown and all its inhabitants for a wild and wonderful weekend; to AMANDA from Clarksburg for your friendliness and the delicious tea; to Vicky at CJ’s Pizza in Pennsboro for helping me stay pumped up about hiking!; to Gary from the Happy Trails Café in Ellenboro for the tour and the reminder to live my dream; to the Conrads and the Ungers for the lovely conversation, the apples, and the wisdom that we must find our passion and stick with it; to the whole gang of kids on bikes that shared their time and some of their talent with me near the Eaton tunnel; and to Monique from Parkersburg for the inspiration, the sign language, and for wrapping up West Virginia with a small moment I’ll never forget. All of your help and kindness is truly priceless and only goes to show that the world is indeed good.
As the days get shorter, the nights get colder, and I approach the heartland of this great country; I must slowly adapt to my ever-changing environment. For now, however, I’ll see what tomorrow has in store and take it from there.