Warm and cozy in my sister Naomi’s comfortable home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, I’m sitting out a snow/sleet/rain storm that has put most of the east coast under a white blanket. My walking buddy, David, is a card-carrying meteorologist, so we used his weather-guessing expertise as our key to deciding yesterday that today would be a good day to rest. Good decision. And the last 4 or 5 days have been a veritable smorgasbord of weather. I don’t know what we did to annoy the Weather Gods, but they’ve clearly chosen to open their full bag of goodies and throw everything at us.
After walking through some gorgeous weather in Denton and Ridgely, Maryland (on the Eastern Shore),
we started on what I thought would be one of the prettier parts of the walk … Kent Island, just east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. NOT! Biblical rain, freezing temperatures and horizontal sleet (the kind that blows up into your raincoat!) were our special treat. But wait, trek-fans, there’s more!! As we walked up to the Kent Narrows Bridge – our only way over a rather large inlet of the Chesapeake Bay – we ran into a set of increasingly dire warnings about the bridge being closed. Sure enough, a long-term construction project had shut down our route. We took refuge in a Best Western hotel, and unintentionally provided great entertainment to the otherwise exceedingly bored desk help. I suspect that a pair of drenched, freezing old geezers, walking in from the storm, was the last thing they expected to see. And our next step was to call our lifeline – that is to say, Alanna – and ask her to come pick us up and drive us over the water, using the main highway. Of course she did (I’ve lost count of how many brownie points she’s earned by now).
Once again on our way, but now on the relatively pleasant Kent Island Trail, we did have an unexpected surprise. After we’d walked about a mile, with no other living souls to be seen on the trail (we were, after all, still being assaulted by the wrath of the Weather Gods), we turned a corner, and saw a fellow with a big dog walking toward us. As we approached, he looked at me and said, “Are you Rick?” It was Carroll Hood, who’d been following my blog and tracking me on the web site. Carroll, and his buddy, Luca, had wanted to walk a mile or so with us, and timed their walk that morning to meet us. So we walked together and really had a very nice conversation, which ended much too soon, when we arrived at the parking area where Carroll and Luca had started their search for us two crazy walkers. What motivates someone to do that? To take time off work, venture out into the cold and wet, just to share a trail for an hour or so? I was so very touched by Carroll’s joining us, and learned a few days later, that he was not alone in that desire. Thanks, Carroll!
We spent the next two nights at David and Peg Smith’s house in Arnold, MD. David’s a great walking partner, and his home was so nice to return to each day. Peg invited her mom, Lynn, to dinner the first night, and their neighbors, Sandy and Brant, the next. We all enjoyed great meals and a lot of good discussion.
On the morning of the second day, Saturday, March 11, David and I arose early and put in 10 miles by 10:30AM. We walked past the US Naval Academy, where David had been Chair of the Department of Oceanography. I asked why the full brigade wasn’t out cheering us as we walked by, and David clarified that the midshipmen were on spring break, leading me to believe that David had timed this whole thing just to avoid the embarrassment of his newfound notoriety. We ended our day early, because this was the day of Mom’s inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, and Alanna and I needed to drive into Northern Virginia from Annapolis.
The ceremony for Mom was short and quiet. My brother, Alan, had flown in from Oregon. My sister, Naomi, and her son, Luke were there, so there just five of us. We said a few words of remembrance, shared some reminiscences, and headed back to Nomi’s place. A great dinner of mussels and fries, at one of our favorite restaurants in DuPont Circle, and that was really all the time we got to spend together. Alan got up at zero dark early on Sunday morning and flew home. I met David back in Annapolis, where we’d finished the day before, and we began the walk once again.
This time, we had another ‘joiner’ (I can’t think of a term that’s more respectful, but in recognition of the fact that we’ll probably have more of these folks, I’ll give more consideration to what to call the people who voluntarily meet up and walk with us for small portions of the trek). Phil Ardanuy – a colleague who’s worked at the intersection of meteorology, engineering and remote sensing for years – met us at our starting point and asked to walk for a few miles. Once again, we had a nice time chatting and walking, and after about 2 or 3 miles, Phil said he’d try to join us later in the walk, and he went back to his car. And, once again, I was struck by the fact that he’d taken time from his Sunday morning, driven all the way from Silver Spring and wanted to be part of our adventure.
We had decided that we’d try to get to Bowie, MD that day, and the weather gods were smiling on us. But I guess it was the Bridge Gods whom we’d offended, once again. Just 3 miles from our stopping point, as we approached the Patuxent River, we hit the daunting roadblock announcing that the Governor Bridge was closed. From the looks of the sign, it had been erected by a former Soviet bloc construction company. These guys weren’t joking. David and I weighed the odds, concluded that the flooding last spring had been the culprit, and that, while multi-ton vehicles were certainly not safe to use the bridge, a couple of feather-weight hikers like ourselves should have no problem. So, we decided to sally forth. We got to the bridge, crossed it one at a time, and made it without so much as a single creak (of the bridge, or our bones). It’s great to beat the man!
Once in Prince Georges County, we continued our hike all the way to the outskirts of DC. Quite honestly, I was stunned at the beauty of the scenery and especially many of the homes that we passed, in this county which most residents of the DC area consider to be a high-crime and dangerous region. The walk from Bowie to Greenbelt was quite scenic and enjoyable. In fact, the only annoying part of the walk was through the USDA research facility in Greenbelt. This expansive center is mostly open fields, with occasional large labs and offices. Powder Mill Road runs right through the complex, and over its three-mile run, some genius has decided to put roughly 40 or 50 sections of rumble strips on the road. These things are annoying enough when you’re driving over them, but just try walking along the margin of the road as all those cars are “rumbling” by. For an hour we heard this steady stream of what could only be described as a continuing chorus of basso profundo fart noises.
When we ended the day in Greenbelt, the forecasts for “the worst storm of the year” (come on, guys, it’s only March) were already blaring from the rooftops. Assuming the forecasts were accurate, David and I decided to stand by for a day and let the craziness of a snowstorm in DC pass, before we set out once again. So today, I’ll enjoy another comfortable day in Nomi’s home, and make every effort to appease the Weather Gods (you think they like bagels?).