It’s ancient history now, but at the first board meeting of the American Hiking Society, Bill Kemsley, founder of Backpacker magazine, told the group we ought to come up with a splashy event to announce that AHS was now up and running. “Let’s hike across America,” he suggested, “from the Pacific to the steps of the Capitol.” I volunteered to organize the trip. Glenn Seaborg laid out the route across California. He got the California State Assembly to close two lanes of the Oakland Bay Bridge. That Sunday morning in April, 1980, the City turned out for the first chance to walk across the six-mile bridge since it was built, since there are no sidewalks. 411 days and 4100 miles later, a core group of hikers that swelled with family and friends hiked from Harpers Ferry down the C&O Canal bank and across the mall to the steps of the Capitol where the Coast Guard band, who left Rhode Island at 6:00AM to be there, welcomed them with stirring music.
We can just imagine the sense of community that developed among the hikers on their trek across 14 states. They’ve kept in touch all these years, and in late September they met in Estes Park for a 35th reunion. I flew out for the event, landing in Denver and heading first to pick up Gudy Gaskill in Golden. Gudy, founder of the Colorado Trail, joined the hikers when they entered her state at the Utah border and hiked with them through Silverton to Colorado’s eastern border. At age 90, she was our honored senior citizen at the reunion.
When the hike was over, many members of the hiking community wanted to memorialize the trail. There were permutations of the route, but HikaNation now lives on in the route of the American Discovery Trail. Go to www.discoverytrail.org to learn more. To read about this recent HikaNation event, go to www.hikanation.com.
I have volunteered to host the 40th reunion in St. Augustine. In 2020, it will probably be held in March. Stay tuned.