Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I Really Know About Long Walks

I spent my 13th birthday in July of 1960 hiking portions of the Ditmar Trail high up in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania.  It was the longest walk of my young life. A city girl from Pittsburgh, I was 100 miles from home at a two-week Girl Scout camp. I had been to an overnight camp before and I had survived, so I was not completely out of my element. A stranger when I arrived, I quickly made friends with campers and counselors alike. I had never experienced camping outdoors, nor had I gone on an overnight hike, but I was very I was eager to try.

Outfitted with a pack frame, I carried 3 normal-sized packs, as I was strong and tall for my age. Each hiker carried her essentials for the 14 mile first leg of the hike, and the camp truck delivered our sleeping bags, food and cooking gear to our evening campsite, in a farmer’s cow pasture along the banks of a running stream.

The walk was grueling, hot and dusty and straight up and straight down, sometimes over gravel switchback roads, but mostly on paths through the rugged wildness of the Eastern Front of the Alleghenies. Fourteen miles each way with an overnight camp, this was a great challenge for young women.

When we made camp that evening, we built a campfire and cooked our evening meal.  I can’t remember what we ate but the birthday cake we baked over the campfire in a reflector oven, and the birthday song sung to me by fellow campers and counselors, were the sounds and the taste of victory. We slept that night under the stars, and I awoke in the foggy dark dampness to see a cow staring straight into my eyes, her head just above mine. I had no fear.

On that walk I developed courage, determination, self discipline and self-sufficiency, and my lifelong love of the outdoors was born. That walk instilled in me the concepts of teamwork and community, of setting and reaching goals. The strengths I developed that July when I turned 13 have remained with me throughout the years. That walk that took me over 28 miles in two days started me on the pathway of my life.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a lovely title for some short stories or a poetry collection. Girl Scouts. Spent about 6-7 years as a development director ... enjoyable years. I like that memory from when you were 13; a memoir in the works, perhaps? You can see my mind is always thinking in terms of the written word and what great ideas lurk in the backdrop of life. Thanks for the post, Maxine. I enjoy visiting the Jolico Farm blog. And hello to Moses from Sunny Room Studio!