This is a story of a journey from happily married to totally alone. At least I had felt deserted. Abandoned. Isolated. In just a few hours, my life completely changed on that beautiful June summer day into dark, dark hours I never thought would end.
Let me take a step back, and get you up to speed. You see, my husband, Michael, and I were on vacation in Maine in the summer of 2016. We were renting a house in a town called Winter Harbor, a town we called home for a week every year for about a decade. And this particular house was right on the water, overlooking Frenchman’s Bay, with views towards Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.
We did our best to support the local economy there, eating at The Pickled Wrinkle after a day of hiking the trails of Schoodic Peninsula; admiring art at Littlefield Gallery, which is owned by Jane and Kelly, a terrific couple we befriended the previous summer; and chatting with the local farmer’s market vendors as we filled our basket with incredible greens and vegetables. Winter Harbor is a place on the map that’s less hectic than life in and around New York City, a place where you can let go and just relax.
On that Wednesday, my life was completely changed by, of all things, a kayak trip we took, where Michael and I left shore with our guide, and only I came back. Instead of enjoying “lobstah” for dinner, I was airlifted to a hospital in Bangor. I’m not going to share the horrible details here; there was enough written in the press at the time of the accident.
Fast forward to today, and the journey I’d like you to join me on is a personal one. In the summer of 2018, I plan to walk north on the East Coast Greenway in memory of Michael. In memory of the walks around our Plainfield, NJ neighborhood, of the peaks we climbed, like New Hampshire's Mount Washington, and of the treks we made, like the one on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru just weeks before the accident.
My journey will start on the East Coast Greenway in Cranford’s Nomahegan Park, and end in Gouldsboro, Maine, in the town where that fateful kayak trip took place.
The East Coast Greenway, or ECG, was conceived in 1991, and consists of a traffic-free bicycle and walking route that extends from Maine to Florida. And the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA), whose mission is “to partner with local, state, and national agencies and organizations to promote the establishment, stewardship, and public enjoyment of a traffic-free multi-user trail linking cities and towns from Maine to Florida,” is the non-profit organization that spearheads the development of the greenway.
I have been in contact with organizers, and they have agreed to help me in any way they can. So far, they interviewed me, and feedback has been positive, with total strangers offering to put me up for a night.
How many miles are we talking about here, you might ask? Roughly, four hundred and fifty. Crazy, I’ve been told. But not impossible, right?
Why, you might also wonder? Well, why not? After the accident, a friend shared a poem called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. I think of it often, of what Michael’s “dash” represented, and how I can improve upon my own. I aim to raise $15K for two charitable organizations, one being the ECGA. The other is Freewalkers, a non-profit that promotes events, disseminates information, and encourages networking opportunities to educate the public on the benefits of walking.
What are my goals for this column, and what role do you, the reader, play? Join me in person for a leg of my journey, through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine. Or follow me virtually – more on how to do that in a later column!
In the meantime, get yourself, and your family and friends, outside for a journey of your own. My hope is to inspire you to walk, and to think about your own "dash."
Jennifer Popper is the Editor of TAPinto Plainfield. Share the journey: #PopperWalkSummer2018