Hiking Home—My Quest to Walk to Every Place I’ve ever Lived

1954 photo of me and my little brother at Rockford Park, Wilmington DE, a few blocks from my 1951-1958 homes and my Elementary school. At right is the same spot in September 2016. This was one of the first destinations in my "Personal Continuous Footpath" project, which, when complete, will have taken me far and wide across North America.

This is my long-distance-hiking overview and information page.  It's the one place to check to find out where I'm hiking, my goals, and my progress toward them.  When I'm out on the trail, this page—especially the map—gets updated daily.

I've set five basic rules for my hiking.
  1. Hike famous trails. The route has to follow an established, recognized, maintained foot trail. Foremost among these are the eleven National Scenic Trails designated by Congress. Lacking that I try to follow one of several hundred non-vehicular foot trails certified by the US Department of the Interior as ‘National Recreation Trails.’
  2. Make connections between trails. Advocate for a fully connected National Interstate Trail system wherever I go. This would be the foot-only equivalent of America’s Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. Each day’s hike should start from a place I’ve previously hiked, so that all my trails are connected.
  3. Seek new horizons. I try as much as possible to cover new ground, limiting repeat hikes on the same trails.
  4. Set goals. Hike to meaningful destinations. Personally, my first priority is to connect, on foot, to the two dozen places that I’ve lived for at least a couple of months. This “Hiking Home” goal gives me a further sense of purpose.
  5. Share the joy. That’s what this blog is all about.
Here is the overview map, courtesy of Wikiloc.  It's an interactive map that shows, day-by-day, where I’ve been so far. I keep it updated daily as I hike.


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Here's a TABLE of the miles hiked by year.  It only covers the years since I bought my first hiking GPS in June 2010.


And now, for more detail.  Here's a chronological list of named trails (in bold) and other hiking locations, and dates hiked.  At the end of the list are planned hikes, not yet completed. 
  • Liberty Reservoir fire roads, west of Baltimore MD, June-July 2010
  • Road Walk, including the Catoctin Trail from Liberty Res. to Appalachian Trail at Raven Rocks, MD, Aug. 2010
  • Appalachian Trail, Southern PA to Rockfish Gap, VA, Aug.-Sept. 2010
  • Beach walks, Topsail Island, NC, May 2011
  • Appalachian Trail, Rockfish Gap to James River VA, June 2011 and on to Daleville, VA, Oct.- Nov. 2011
  • Road Walk, Liberty Reservoir to Wilmington, DE, July 2011
  • Beach walks, multiple traverses of the entire length of Topsail Island, NC, July-Oct 2011
  • Patuxent Branch Trail, portions of the American Discovery Trail, and road walks, Liberty Reservoir to Takoma Park, MD, Nov.-Dec. 2011
  • Appalachian Trail, a ‘yo-yo’—end to end twice in one calendar year, Jan.-Nov. 2012
  • North Carolina’s State Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, scouting the new Coastal Crescent Route, Onslow and Pender Cos., NC Jan.-Feb. 2013
  • American Discovery Trail and road walks, Greenbelt, MD to Plum Point MD, PG and Calvert Counties, August 2013
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail scouting, Holly Shelter Game Land and vicinity, Nov.-Dec. 2013
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Jockeys Ridge to Appalachian Trail at Yellow Mountain Gap, First to hike the entire Coastal Crescent route. Feb.-June 2014
  • C&O Canal Towpath, Harpers Ferry to Dam 5, May 2015
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Waterrock Knob to Woodlawn Work Center
  • , June-Aug. 2015
  • Benton MacKaye Trail, Appalachian Trail to Pinhoti Trail, Aug. 2015
  • Pinhoti Trail, end to end, Aug.-Oct. 2015
  • Eastern Continental Trail, Alabama Road Walk, Nov. 2015
  • Florida Trail, Alabama border to Oviedo, Nov. 2016 – Jan. 2017
  • Beach walk, road walk, Oviedo FL to Cocoa Beach to Jensen Beach to the Everglades, then the Eastern Continental Trail and Overseas Heritage Trail to Key West, FL, Jan.-March 2016
  • C&O Canal Towpath at Dam 5 to Great Eastern Trail, then north to its northern terminus via Tuscarora Trail (MD and PA), Standing Stone Trail, Mid-State Trail (PA), Pine Creek Rail Trail, Crystal Hills Trail (NY), April-May 2016
  • North Country Trail, Finger Lakes Trail (in NY) from Great Eastern Trail west to McConnells Mill State Park, PA, May-June 2016
  • Mason-Dixon Trail, end to end, Appalachian Trail to Brandywine Trail, and Brandywine Trail to its southern Terminus in Wilmington, DE, Aug.-Nov. 2016.
  • North Country Trail (Buckeye Trail in OH), McConnells Mill State Park, PA to Piedmont Lake, Ohio, Nov.-Dec. 2016
  • Road Walk, local urban trails (including Sligo Creek Trail, Rock Creek Trail, Michael Henson Trail and Muddy Branch Trail), and C&O Canal Towpath from Takoma Park, MD to Appalachian Trail at Harpers Ferry, WV, January 2017
  • Beach hikes at Topsail Island, “Month of Sunrises”, thirty-one consecutive day hikes at sunrise, March-April 2017
  • North Country Trail (Buckeye Trail in OH), Piedmont Lake, Ohio to Gandy Dancer Trail, to near St. Croix, Wisconsin, (planned for May 2017 to ???)
  • Ice Age Trail from near its western terminus at the Gandy Dancer Trail, St. Croix, Wisconsin to Madison, WI, (planned)
  • North Country Trail from Gandy Dancer Trail in NW Wisconsin to western Terminus in central North Dakota.
  • Road Walk, as well as Maah Daah Hey Trail (western ND) and George S. Mickelson Trail (Black Hills, SD) from western terminus of North Country Trail in ND to Colorado at Fort Collins, Bellevue, and Limon. (Planned; this will complete the Personal Continuous Footpath primary goal of walking to every place I’ve ever lived.)

And now, for those interested, I’m providing a narrative with more descriptive details below.


The title of this page, "Hopping Rocks," refers to leaping from stone to stone to get across a stream.  In my case, the stream is a metaphor for life, with its restless ever-changing currents.  Each stepping-stone represents a meaningful landmark along the way, such as a place where I lived.

Obviously it's not just getting across to the other side of the stream that matters.  Each rock I choose matters, and the way I get there matters too.  I want to hop the rocks, using my two feet, not get in an SUV and roar across throwing a wake of splashing water into the air.

Why hop the rocks?  Just because I love to walk, because I love nature, and because walking is the most natural way to go.  Because the rocks give my walking meaning and purpose.  Suddenly I'm not just wearing out rubber on a treadmill.

Below are two views of one of the major stepping stones—my boyhood home from 1958 to 1966:


Situated on several acres of farmland along White Clay Creek near Landenberg, PA, it was a magical place to grow up.  No one place defines me more.

I first returned there on foot on July 17, 2011, via a series of road walks, including a long stretch of the famous US Route 1, starting from my home about 20 miles west of Baltimore MD.

It was a small hike in terms of distance—a hundred miles or so—but it was huge in personal significance. Not only did it expose me, unhindered by vehicular shell, to places full of deep memory, but it was fulfilling a need I didn’t even know I had until I was more than sixty years old.

I immediately knew I wanted to do more of the same. It gave purpose and direction to my favorite sport—walking. Walking is healthy. I'm convinced that there's no better exercise.

But doing "exercise" bores me to tears. I cannot and will not waste my time and energy just 'staying in shape'. People on exercise machines in gyms remind me of hamsters on spinning wheels. They seem so self-absorbed—fixated on their own bodies and oblivious to the stimulating outside world that they're missing. Even going out and walking the same circuit in a park quickly loses its appeal for the same reasons.

I need fresh new vistas. I need a real sense of purpose and accomplishment. My answer is to walk home.

Yes I know the old saying: "You can't go home again."  The place has changed and so have you. It's true ... up to a point. But the poor blokes who say that are pessimists, brooding over the dreary bottom of their glass through its half-empty swill and entirely missing the wider view.

I want to illustrate what I mean with two examples.

In 1959, at the home shown above, I planted a tiny sprig of a tree, a few inches high with maybe three or four leaves. It was a fast growing Tulip Poplar. I had my picture taken with my tree in 1963, and it was already twice my height.


The future seemed unlimited for both of us. I went back to my tree many times. Tulip Poplars live hard and die young. This one blew over in a storm in April 2016, and that was the end of it. There's a lesson in that. When I was a kid I and my tree were full of vigor and naïve enthusiasm. Today I can think back and marvel at the positives and the negatives, how much we both grew, the scars and storms we have both confronted.

1968
August 22, 2008, with the tree already showing signs of age and weakness
August 2016, I returned wearing my Tulip Poplar Leaf t-shirt

Now … look at the front door of the apartment building where I lived from 1951 to 1953.


In the left photo that's me on the right with Mom and my baby brother Jim. The view at right was taken September 17, 2016.

This is the first place I really remember living. Here I learned how to swing on a swing and I found my first four-leaf clover. Today the swing is gone. The whole playground is a parking lot. But even if the swing was still there and I could sit in it and pretend ... even if I sat down in the lawn and started searching the clover ... I wouldn't be trying to go back to capture some lost essence of my youth.

When I visited the remnants of my tree in the Pennsylvania meadow in August 2016, I did not come to lament the ravages of age. No, in both places I came to reinforce the fabric of the tapestry I began to weave back then. I stand and nod and say "Yes, it happened right here. Now I see. This is how it goes because this is how real things go. The little boy built strength here. And he is still building it."

Then I smile and walk on, because there are many other stepping stones with deep personal significance that I want to visit.

Sure as hell beats a treadmill.

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