“Four Boots, One Journey”

Layout 1Title: Four Boots, One Journey

Author: Jeff Alt

Short Description: After his wife’s brother commits suicide, the author and his wife embark on a healing thru-hike on the John Muir Trail, a 211-mile swatch of land in the Sierra Nevada that mostly follows the Pacific Crest Trail.

My favorite part: This book has a lot of great information about depression and the JMT.

“Four Boots, One Journey” has been on my reading list for a while, and I finally got around to it a couple of weeks ago. What initially got my attention about this book wasn’t the depression awareness campaign that was attached to their hike; it was the fact that they hiked at all. I’m on my annual summer hiking kick right now, and my current obsession is thru-hiking.

Long-distance hiking is something I thought about before I got sick, but now that I know my body is in armed rebellion against itself, I figure if I give my immune system and the rest of my body a common enemy (i.e. huge physical challenge) they can finally unite. (I know, I know. It doesn’t really work that way.)  So I’ve been reading as many hiking memoirs as I can find to get some perspective – and fun stories – about long hikes.

The first one I read was this one, by “Hiker Jeff,” an author and speaker. I get the feeling from his writing that he’s a very practical guy. His writing and descriptions were no-nonsense – by that I mean no fluffy, flowery language and no embellishing of the truth. I appreciate his writing style, even though I’m prone to pontificate and use overly colorful verbs and adjectives for the sake of telling stories. Even without over-dramatization, the funny parts of his story stick out – like when his wife got caught with her pants down – literally – by a park ranger.

Hiker Jeff’s wife wasn’t a hiker, but she promised him when they got married that she’d give it a chance. After losing her brother, she agreed to hike the John Muir Trail with him in an effort to raise awareness about depression and how hiking can help people who suffer from it. Even before their hike began, they started sharing their message about depression awareness to others. Jeff shows us how they raised funds to donate to a charity, gathered sponsors to help them with their hike, and set up a website that chronicled their journey. Sadly, I can’t find this website now; HikeforMike.com redirects to Jeff’s own homepage.

Their journey over the JMT was a healing one for Jeff, his wife and their family. Throughout the hike, he referenced various aspects of grief and depression, tying it in to things they witnessed on the trail. For example, when they crossed the “Golden Gate of the Sierra,” a suspension bridge along the trail, Jeff references the high rate of suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and how this bridge in their path only solidified the reason for their journey.

I have close family members who struggle with depression and anxiety, and two of my friends have committed suicide. It’s a terrifying, unfathomable thing to try to understand. Ten years later, you will still wonder what you could have done to help them.

Even though the premise of the entire hike is rooted in a devastating tragedy, it doesn’t overshadow the story. There is still plenty of helpful information about the JMT, how to hike it, places to stay, and the kinds of people you will meet. One of my favorite characters appeared at the end of the story, on the last day of their hike.

When Jeff and Beth ascended Mt. Whitney they passed a woman with whom I could identify. They said she would “take five, small, shuffling steps and stop for a period longer than it took to take the steps.” The couple tried to help her, but she refused, saying she was “just fine.”

I like this woman.

Sometimes when I’m hiking something not nearly as strenuous as Mt. Whitney, I do this exact thing. I’ll move 10 feet and then have to stop to breathe. And I never want help, either. I appreciate the offers, but no thanks, even though I look like I’m dying, I’m doing just fine.

Jeff and Beth met the hiker again later in the day and we learned more about her. This time she was in some obvious discomfort as she rested on a rock, but she explained that her father had many health problems when he died, and she expected she had some of the same.

“But I will get over this mountain,” she told them. “I’ve got all day.” She still kept her sense of humor when she called out after them, “After this trip, I think I’ll stick to car camping.”

I would tell her NO! Don’t car camp — climb another mountain. It will only get easier. Still, I like her spirit. It’s something anyone can relate to – whether you have a chronic illness or depression or just a really bad case of the Mondays.

You can get over that mountain. You’ve got all day.

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Gus Scale: Old Man’s Cave

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Hocking Hills State Park’s trails can be rather rugged, but there are still some suitable for members of the busted lung club. One of those is a short, out-and-back trail to Old Man’s Cave.

The Old Man's Cave Trail gets a two on The Gus Scale, but only for the steps to get in and out of the gorge. Other than that it's a walk in the park!

The Old Man’s Cave Trail gets a two on The Gus Scale, but only for the steps to get in and out of the gorge. Other than that it’s a walk in the park!

Hocking Hills is one of my favorite places to go in Ohio. This state park in south-central Ohio is full of all the outdoors you can take – but it can get a bit rugged out there, especially when you’re operating at less than full lung capacity. But fear not! There are still some things you can do, even if you aren’t able to get out to hike the full Buckeye Trail.

Old Man’s Cave is a short, easy one-mile hike from the visitor’s center. The cave is named after a hermit who lived there with his two dogs in the 1860s. You can take the trailhead that comes down behind the visitor’s center, and all the stairs that go with it, or you can hop on the trail from the opposite end of the parking lot and pass a couple of pretty little waterfalls on your way out.

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The trail follows a creek through the base of the gorge.

The downside to this path is there is a bit of a tight spot at the beginning of the trail, just past the waterfalls. There are some steps worn into rocks, and it’s a tight squeeze to get through. It’s wide enough for one person, but things get a little tricky when you have two hounds with you, competing for who’s going to be the leader. It also gets a bit tricky when people try to pass each other on this part of the trail, but it is short enough that you can usually wait to see if there is anyone coming before you start up or down.

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This is the second of two waterfalls you’ll encounter on the trek to Old Man’s Cave.

The trail to Old Man’s Cave is an easy mile – even if you have busted lungs. The trail is wide, and mostly flat because you are following a creek along the gorge. Getting in and out of the gorge is the only strenuous part. And I know this trail is super easy because I did half of it without oxygen (completely by accident, Dr. M! I promise.)

We hiked the mile to Old Man’s Cave and were almost halfway back before I noticed that my oxygen wasn’t puffing anymore. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the tank was full. I thought something was wrong with the gauge or the tank, but it turned out I just hadn’t turned it on when we started our hike.

I’m super smart.

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Meet Stubbs, Emme’s hiking partner. They compete to see who can sniff the most trails, and get the most attention.

But not using oxygen – however unsafe that is when your lungs do not absorb enough oxygen from the air – showed me that my lungs were getting better, and stronger. If I’d had it on the entire time we were hiking I may not have needed to stop to rest at all! It also demonstrated just how easy this hike really is.

For those of you looking for a longer hike, keep going past Old Man’s Cave and take the Buckeye Trail three miles to Cedar Falls. Add another three miles on the trail and you can hike all the way to Ash Cave. Just remember – these aren’t a loop, so if you go seven miles out, you’ve got to come seven miles back!

Gus Scale: Greeter Falls

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Greeter Falls is beautiful, but be mindful of the fork in the road. Choosing wrong way could land you on a trail ranked seven out of seven on the Gus Scale.

GusScaleLvl7When we were visiting Foster Falls, we saw a sign for Greeter Falls and decided to check it out. But first, we checked a map. That’s right folks, we learned our lesson not to get into a trail we knew nothing about. Now, if we could just learn to follow the map.

I found Greeter Falls on All Trails, and it was described as a “moderate 1.8 mile hike.” I said that’s doable for the cripple in the group (me – I’m the cripple) so we decided to hit the trail.

It starts out as a fairly level, wide trail. When you come to a fork, you have the option of taking an upper falls trail, or a lower falls trail. Choose carefully, for you may choose your doom.

The upper falls trail is what All Trails calls “moderate.” I can’t dispute this because this isn’t the trail we took. Instead, we took the lower falls trail and proceeded down the precipice toward our second swimming hole of the day. This trail is rugged – very rugged. I ranked this one a seven out of seven on the Gus Scale. Overall, it is comparable to the Foster Falls level of difficulty, but there are some differences to take into consideration.

After taking the fork for Lower Falls, the trail is similar to Foster Falls. You still climb around rocks and pick your way to the bottom of the ravine. When you’re hiking down, I can’t stress enough making sure you have on proper footwear. Even with it on you could roll an ankle – like Karli.

I was several yards back, held up by taking photos and being slow, when Brandon came rushing up asking if I had water. I thought someone had a heat stroke or something. Actually, Karli sprained her ankle, falling and flaying one of her shins on the rocks in the process.

So wearing long pants may not be a bad idea, either.

Did that ankle stop her? No, ma’am, The Beatkeeper also plays roller derby, so she just added the cuts and bruises to her collection and kept on trucking down that hill.

We kept going, all the while knowing that every inch we went down we would have to come back up again. Every so often someone would yell back to me to make sure I wanted to keep going. It’s beautiful and there’s a waterfall at the end of the trail, so I said keep going.

Then we reached the edge of a cliff.

Even though the area is a well-known rock-climbing area, we didn’t have to scale a cliff face to get to the falls. No, we just had to take an aluminum spiral staircase. It’s kind of cool, if you’re not afraid of heights, falling, or open-backed steps.

Well, the waterfall was in sight, so I said, “We’ve come this far. Might as well keep going!”

Then someone shouted back, “Uh, Cassie … there’s more steps?”

Why not? I’m already farther in than I should be. What’s two more flights of steps and a ramp of doom?

We made it down, but the last flight of steps stops at a ramp that is about a 45 degree angle. I didn’t even fool with that, I just clomped down on the rocks and took my chances climbing/crawling over them. And when I say rocks, I mean large rocks, not those little ones you skip stones with.

We got about 10 feet from the ramp of doom, plopped down, and watched some guy jump from about halfway up the falls. I’m definitely not recommending this to anyone – so don’t try so sue me if you break your neck and die trying.

The climb back out was hard on all of us, and my friends are all in reasonable shape. But for me, I felt like I was stopping to catch my breath every 10 feet. Still, it was a great trail and I’d recommend it. Just be prepared, or take the Upper Falls Loop.

Gus Scale: Foster Falls

The ruggedness of Foster Falls gets it a six out of seven on the Gus Scale. It’s a great hike to the falls and swimming hole, but make sure you wear proper footwear and have good knees and ankles.

“Super easy hike to the falls which are pretty awesome!” – Sharon Lester, All Trails Reviewer of Foster Falls/Climbers Loop

The ruggedness of Foster Falls gets it a six out of seven on the Gus Scale. It’s a great hike to the falls and swimming hole, but make sure you wear proper footwear and have good knees and ankles.

The ruggedness of Foster Falls gets it a six out of seven on the Gus Scale. It’s a great hike to the falls and swimming hole, but make sure you wear proper footwear and have good knees and ankles.

Well, Sharon and I agree on one thing: The waterfall is awesome. This trail is not easy.

Foster Falls is in South Cumberland State Park. To get there, you can either drive to the Fiery Gizzard trailhead or hike the 12.5 mild Fiery Gizzard Trail from Grundy Forest. You can take the two-mile loop or just hike to the falls and back out, the way we did.

I hit up this trail Memorial Day weekend on the Annual Camping Trip of Horrors. At the time, this was the most strenuous trail I had done post lung-damage. Even at full lung capacity, this trail would have been difficult. Still, I’d totally do it again.

To get to the falls, we hiked down a steep gorge. The trail snakes its way over large rocks and around trees. It’s not difficult to find or follow, but it can be difficult to navigate. You need to be coordinated. Clutzes like me need not apply.

Once you get to the bottom, there’s a swinging bridge that spans a creek. Just getting down the trail created some muscle burn for me, so I knew getting back up would be difficult.

We stopped at the falls and played around the water for a while, enjoying watching a black lab play the best fetch game of his life.

And then we began the ascent.

Picking my way down piles of rocks wasn’t too bad. Climbing back up over them was rather difficult. Along the way another hiker was complaining about handicapped parking at the trailhead. I guess she didn’t think people with handicapped placards liked to hike? She looked at me and stopped talking. But hey, I get it. You don’t see someone on oxygen on a hiking trail everyday.

TBT: Point Pleasant, W. Va.

Point Pleasant's mothman is said to have tried to warn townspeople of a looming tragedy.

Point Pleasant’s mothman is said to have tried to warn townspeople of a looming tragedy.

Writing about our old camping adventures got me remembering more about one of those trips. The first camping trip was more than just Babcock State Park; we started in Point Pleasant, W. Va., a small town on the Ohio River.

First of all, I kind of loved this place. I consisted of little more than a Main Street, Bennigan’s and a riverwalk. The town’s claim to fame stems from tragic bridge collapse in 1967. Before the Silver Bridge fell in, some of the locals reported seeing a red-eyed “Mothman” outside town. Some believe this apparition was a warning of a coming disaster. (Side note: I’ve been waiting for Mothman sightings to start around the Brent Spence Bridge. None so far.)

The Mothman, bridge collapse and subsequent movie, “The Mothman Prophecies” are their claims to fame. We visited the Mothman Museum and stayed in the Historic Lowe Hotel, which had a nice, welcoming staff, but a kinda creepy feel. It was awesome. The entire place looked like it was stuck in time, right down to the old, metal room keys.

We arrived mid-afternoon on a weekday and I swear the only person we saw until dinnertime was the hotel concierge – except for this one girl, who almost literally fell at our feet.

We were all walking around before dinner, you know taking in the town, checking out the Mothman exhibits, when we paused to sit on Main Street and discuss dinner plans. A car came to a sudden stop right in front of us and a girl tumbled out, screaming at her boyfriend. Ah, to be young and in love.

So she starts crying and walking up the street and sees me – the nut magnet – sitting there, holding my cell phone.

“Hey,” she calls out, sniffing. “Can I use your phone? I need to call someone to come get me. My boyfriend left me here.”

Oh, is that what happened? And here I thought you were just playing a twisted version of hide-and-seek.

It is impossible for me to tell someone no, even when common sense is telling – no screaming – at me to deny her request. So I handed her my phone, and she started walking down the street with it. It’s also not in me to confront people, so I just watched, with a stupid look on my face, I’m sure, while she walked away with my phone.

Fortunately, her boyfriend was crazy jealous and she came back a minute later, giving me my phone back – so I could tell her boyfriend that I’ve never met her before, I’m just some random stranger who let another random stranger use my phone. Because, yes, I’m that stupid.

I don’t know if he believed me or not, but he got off the phone, I got my phone back and he came back for his girlfriend. We had dinner at the local restaurant, dessert at Benigan’s and continued on our camping adventure at Babcock State Park.

Washington, Ky.: Take a walk through time

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Historic Washington Village, Ky., just south of Maysville, offers a bundle of history, shopping and entertainment. Visitors can schedule a guided walking tour calling 606-759-7411, or take in the town at their own pace, using signs posted throughout the town. Washington features  log cabins dating from the 1790s and a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The more I explore Kentucky, the more surprised I am by how many very interesting and beautiful things lurk in the next holler. Even though I moved to Kentucky with the intention of only staying long enough to finish my degree, I don’t really ever plan to leave. You know, unless I happen to find a Montana cowboy. I suppose then I could be persuaded to leave my rolling hills for more wide open spaces.

Maybe.

Historic Washington isn't the kind of town you'll find to restored to a perfect replica of how it was 150-plus years ago,  but the imperfections only add to its charm.

Historic Washington isn’t the kind of town you’ll find to restored to a perfect replica of how it was 150-plus years ago, but the imperfections only add to its charm.

One of the places that inspired me recently was a small village just south of Maysville, Ky. Its store-lined Main Street looks like something from a painting, the sight helped along by the number of period buildings still standing. Washington isn’t the kind of place you go to see something restored in pristine condition – it isn’t that kind of tourist attraction. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap at all. Many of the old homes are private residences, and are opened to the public only for certain events. Of the places that are open to the public, they are accessible only on a walking tour through the town.

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A long stretch of flagstone sidewalks stretch from Mefford’s Fort to the Visitor’s Center.

We visited in late spring, when the town was still waking up from winter. There were some vendors on the sidewalk in front of the Old Courthouse Lawn (more on that location later), and more traffic through the various shops than I expected. I can’t say the buildings were in pristine shape, but they weren’t ramshackle, either. You will see some minor wear and tear, maybe a missing or damaged shutter here and there, but all of these things add to the charm of the town. I’ve been to fully-restored historic towns, forced to keep to a certain code so they always look just-so, and they do not have the charm and personality of Washington.

When I walk on flagstone sidewalks along Main Street, it’s easy to imagine hearing the clop of hooves on the road. What is harder to imagine is the impact the people of this blip on the map have had on the world.

In the beginning, there was an explorer.

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Many of the first settlers of the village  were Revolutionary War veterans.

Washington Village, now part of Maysville, Ky., is older than the state in which it resides. It was one of the first towns established in modern-day Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains, and the first town named after George Washington. It’s a whole lot of firsts. Washington was founded in 1786 by Revolutionary War Veteran William Wood and many of the original settlers were Revolutionary War soldiers, and are buried at the Old Baptist Cemetery just outside town.

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Fun story: This log cabin used to be a flatboat. And then 13 people lived in it. Its the only known remaining flatboat cabin left in the country.

One of the most memorable things about Washington is the number of log cabins still standing that date to the town’s founding in the late 1700s. One of these, Mefford’s Fort, is the last known flatboat cabin still standing. Mefford was in on the whole repurposing trend about 300 years before it was cool. He floated his wife and children down the Ohio River, then hauled the boat about five miles uphill from the river and made a log cabin out of his boat. His wife and 13 children shared this house. All I can say is it’s a good thing they didn’t have indoor plumbing. There would have been bloodshed in that house over the bathroom.

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The log cabin post office is the only working log cabin post office in the country.

As one of the first settlements, it’s post office became the first established west of the Appalachian Mountains and served the entire Northwest Territory, which encompassed Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The original post office was torn down in 1848, but the existing building is the only working log cabin post office in the country.

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The area used to be filled with cane brakes like this one behind the Bluegrass Artisan Center.

Other cabins in the town include the Cane Brake Visitor’s Center and the Simon Kenton Shrine. The town’s Visitor Center now occupies the Paxton House on the opposite end of Main Street, and the Cane Brake cabin has become the Bluegrass Artisan Center. Simon Kenton never lived in the cabin named for him, but he did once own a store in the town and sold the land for the town to its original settlers. The town still honors its earliest explorer the third weekend in September with the Simon Kenton Festival.

A town divided over slavery

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The Methodist Episcopal Church split over the issue of slavery and didn’t reunite until over 100 years later.

Much of the advertised history of Washington relates to the Civil War and Underground Railroad. As a border state, Kentucky tried to stay neutral and act as a liaison between the two sides. But just as this approach didn’t work for the state, staying neutral didn’t work at the town level, either. The debate trickled into a church congregation and ripped it apart. In 1845, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington split over the issue of slavery.

The congregation in Washington became the Methodist Episcopal Church South and had a separate slave gallery that was removed in the 1970s, according to the inscription outside the building. The Methodist Episcopal Church North relocated to Third Street in Maysville. More than 100 years later, the congregations reunited as the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Dueling generals

This house sheltered two men who both attended the same Washington Presbyterian Church, West Point and then opposite sides of the Civil War.

This house sheltered two men who both attended Washington Presbyterian Church, West Point and then fought on opposite sides of the Battle of Shiloh in the Civil War.

Nowhere is there a better example of the divide in Kentucky than the Albert Sydney Johnston House on Court Street.

This quiet, white dwelling housed two men who eventually faced each other on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Johnston, the home’s namesake, spent time in the United States Army before retiring to join the Texas Army. He then returned to the U.S. Army only to again retire to join the Confederacy. He became a general in the Confederate Army, taking a mortal wound early at the Battle of Shiloh.

Also fighting at the Battle of Shiloh was Union General William “Bull” Nelson. His family took up residence in this house after Johnston’s father died. Both men attended the same Presbyterian Church in Washington, both men attended West Point and both men fought at the Battle of Shiloh. But where Johnston’s story ends there, Nelson’s continues until his murder in 1862.

Nelson was known for publicly disciplining his officers. One of them, General Jefferson C. Davis – not to be confused with Confederate President Jefferson Davis – gunned him down in a hotel after one of these public disciplinary sessions by Nelson some time before.  Davis admitted to the murder, but was not charged or arrested and went back to duty about two weeks after the incident.

Inspiring “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

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Events on this bright green lawn inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

One of the things Washington is best known for isn’t a resident, but a famous visitor. Harriet Beecher Stowe visited the town before she was married. At the time she was teaching in Cincinnati, and came to the small town to visit one of her students. While in Washington, she witnessed a slave auction on the Old Courthouse Lawn.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum was established in the Marshall Key home, where she visited Washington.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum was established in the Marshall Key house, where Stowe stayed while she visited.

The sight stayed with her and was one of the experiences that influenced “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The courthouse burned down in 1909 after being struck by lightning. Today, the only thing to mark the dark history of the spot is the sign  commemorating the Old Courthouse.

While she was visiting, Stowe stayed at the Marshall Key house. Key was nephew to Supreme Court Justice John Marshall.  Today, the home has been converted to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum and is available to tour.

All aboard the Underground Railroad

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The Paxton Inn (right) has a secret stairwell that was used in the Underground Railroad.

Northern Kentucky’s position along the Ohio River lent itself to several stops for the Underground Railroad. At least one of these stops was in Washington in the Paxton Inn. This Inn also served as an important community center where meetings were held to discuss important issues, including slavery. There is a secret stairway between the first and second floors where people could be hidden until they were moved across the Ohio River. I wonder if Underground Railroad passengers ever overheard one of these debates while they were in hiding?

Influencing international law

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One of my favorite Washington characters didn’t make the cut for the sign.

Even though Washington was host to some impressive visitors in its heyday, one of my favorite characters of the town would have been overlooked by most of the citizens. His story didn’t even make it to the inscription outside the home.

Thornton Blackburn was a slave who served in the Murphy-Lashbrooke house on Main Street. He was sold, eventually ending up in Louisville, where he escaped with his wife and fled along the Underground Railroad to Detroit. They lived there for about two years before being discovered and arrested in 1834. Detroit’s first race riot broke out while they were incarcerated, giving the Blackburn’s enough cover to escape from the city into Canada.

Once in Canada, slave hunters again located the couple and tried to arrest them and have them extradited to the States. But Canada refused to release the couple to United States custody, determining a person cannot steal himself, and establishing case law that determined once a slave set foot on Canadian soil he or she became a free man or woman.

The Blackburn’s earned a very American ending to their Canadian story. In Toronto, the Blackburns helped many slaves reach freedom in Canada, thanks to the law they helped create. They built a prosperous, influential life for themselves in Toronto. Blackburn became a successful businessman when he established the city’s first cab service. He chose yellow and red for his cab’s color scheme, and Toronto kept this when they adopted city transportation.

Washington’s worldwide influence

At the beginning of this story I promised that Washington residents had a worldwide impact.  So far, we’ve talked about the Civil War and slavery issues stretching into Canada. Now, I’m going to shift focus a bit – to Pakistan.

I’m told there are ruins of a house on a golf course in Washington, but I haven’t found them. These ruins are what’s left of the former residence of Charles William Forman, a hemp farmer turned missionary to India. Forman tried to establish a mission to the slaves in Washington before leaving to attend the Centre College in Kentucky and then the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.

Forman settled in Lahore, India (now part of Pakistan). There, he established an English-speaking school, Rang Mahal School. The school added a college in 1865, and Forman continued helping develop the education system in the area.

The college in Lahore, now known as the Forman Christian College, has produced many notable alumni, including former Prime Ministers of both Pakistan and India, Pakistani and Indian senate members and presidents, diplomats, judiciary members, athletes, artists, military officers, journalists and business people.

Now, who among you would have thought that a hemp farmer from Kentucky would have helped create an education system half a world away? Be honest, now.

Visiting historic Washington Village

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The Washington Presbyterian Church was the second one established in the city.

I know there is much and more I missed in my self-guided tour of Washington. If anyone reading has a place, story or anecdote to share, please comment below. I’d love to hear more about the town.

Some of the information in this post came from the washingtonky.com website, but this site is not sponsored by Historic Washington or Maysville and does not appear to have been updated in quite some time. According to the women working in the Visitor’s Center the day I was there, this site was put together by one of the residents of the town. It lists several community events – including a Chocolate Festival – which the village no longer offers. My hosts explained that they had too many events and it was too much for the town and the shop owners to keep up with. The two events that the town still hosts include the Simon Kenton Festival the third weekend in September and the historic Christmas walk the first weekend in December. Plus, historic tours are offered from April through the first week in December.

This shop at the corner of Main and Court Street had a wide selection of primitives, Fenton glass and other home decor items.

This shop at the corner of Main and Court Street had a wide selection of primitives, Fenton glass and other home decor items.

But for the weekends when there aren’t events, there are still several shops to check out in Washington.

Phyllis’s Antiques, David’s Brass Works and Elaine’s Gallery and Framing sits at the corner of Main and S. Court Street and carries a wide selection of Fenton glass, and everything you see in the picture to the right.

The 1790 Rowhouse Mall also contains some retail shopping, and was having a sort-of sidewalk sale the day I visited.

My favorite shop was the Strawberry Patch Country Store. It was a store-of-all-sorts with all kind of antique books, keys, tools, baseball cards, electronics, dishes … you name it. Don’t miss the upstairs or the basement.

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The Strawberry Patch Country Store was loaded with antiques. It was my favorite shop in the town.

I did not venture into The Grey Wolf with my backpack full of oxygen; it appeared to have some beautiful items but it was packed wall-to-wall with people. The Iron Gate is next door to The Grey Wolf, but was not open the day I visited.

I would encourage a visit to the nearby Baptist Cemetery when you visit the village. It is just south of main street off US 68. There was no sign for the cemetery, but there is the telltale log cabin standing vigil. Honestly, it appears to be about the only thing watching over the graves because many of the markers are falling or have fallen and broken.

I gave Historic Washington Village a two on the Gus Scale. The village proper is on relatively flat land and was incredibly easy to walk through. I would have rated it a one if not for the bumpy, though beautiful, flagstone sidewalks. If you’re someone who needs to use wheels to get around you won’t have quite as easy a time as I did.

#TBT: Yosemite National Park

When I was going back through the video for this part of the trip, I didn’t come across many clips. I also couldn’t remember much about visiting the park. I remember Bridal Veil Falls and that was about it. So I looked up the first telling of this story.

Not much there either.

By this point of the trip we’d gone as far west as we were going to and had started the return trip home. With only a few days left on the trip, we were tired and tired of eating out of the trunk of the car. We were tired of sleeping in tents. And we were disappointed that we weren’t able to finish going up the West Coast to Washington.

After the excitement the night we arrived in San Francisco — the night we thought we had enough time to drive to Seattle — we just crashed. In the time it took to try to map out a route from northern California to Seattle, we realized there just wasn’t enough time. We went from being at the top of El Capitan to the bottom of Death Valley. The Gypsy Trip had switched from embarking on an exciting adventure to finishing out a list of places to see on our way home. That was how we treated Yosemite: Not as a place to explore and experience, but as a place to come in, check out the high points, and high-tail it out to the next destination.

in retrospect, I wish we’d taken the extra time to go up the coast. It would have been impossible to do it on the timeline we agreed to, and I would never have been able to get back to work on time. I was worried about getting in trouble for attendance, but I shouldn’t have been. I came back to work for about two weeks before leaving permanently for an internship. What’s the worst they could have done? Fire me for my last two weeks? So here’s the lesson to take away from my trip to Yosemite: Take the extra days NOW. You never know where life will take you, so enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

Featured image credit: From Flickr Creative Commons, By Edward Stojakovic. 

To those who’ve gone before

New Gypsy Trip TagIn keeping with the spirit of roadtrips I wanted to share with you some of the websites I’ve come across in my online meanderings while preparing for this trip. I haven’t found anyone else who has camped their way across the country though. Pansies. 🙂

  • We aren’t looking for love, but this reporter sure was.
  • This husband and wife pair converted their minivan into a camper. Creative, but Amanda and I aren’t that comfortable with each other.
  • These two have a map and everything on their website.
  • Read these observations of an 11-day roadtrip across the country. (I think the trip made him slightly bitter.)
  • Pay special attention to the last paragraph of this film scout’s blog post. He has us re-mapping our entire trip!
  • Smithsonian Magazine posted a (rather long) nice story about the “Great American Roadtrip.”