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On moving along

An encounter on the trail …

"Oh, I'd love to do what you're doing right now." That's what Frank said when he saw me walking past his yard with my pack and walking stick. "I've got a canoe, and I've always wanted to go, just me and my dog, and paddle." "Where to," I asked. "Everywhere." But before that reverie, Frank told me it was his birthday. "How old?" I asked. "Guess," he said. I looked at his lean and nimble frame, the sparkle in his eyes, and said, "81." He smiled: "83. Born November 18, 1932. When I was a kid, we didn't even have electricity. Just kerosene lamps, and an outhouse. So we've come pretty far, I guess." When I passed by his yard, Frank was out raking some soil into a ditch to smooth out his lawn, which was tidily mowed. "You're on the reservation now," he said, referring to the tribal land on Pleasant Point. Frank's lawn has an intimate view down a tidal creek, a tempting place to linger. But Frank has done a lot of going himself, from six years in the service, to 44 years at a chemical company in Massachusetts, and a lot of walking of his own along the way. He hiked Zion National Park from the back end, and trails all through Colorado's Rockies. "A lot of people move along so fast they don't know where they are," Frank told me. "I try to look around." His favorite place, one that has drawn him back six times, is the Grand Canyon. "I celebrated my 80th birthday there." He talked about camping on the open ground down in the canyon, "looking up at the stars turning." Frank has gout in his legs now, and his wandering days are winding down. He just gave away his three pairs of cross country skies. "It was either that or look at them all winter." So he talked more about another trip out to the desert, when the cacti burst into bloom one morning. "I got lucky," Frank said, his voice quieting at the memory. "I stood there and looked out at all that beauty." #travel #journalism #maine #instaessay #fuelwalk

A post shared by Tom Haines (@twhaines) on

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