Turtle and I made our way back through Connecticut after a successful project on the Woonasquatucket Greenway in Rhode Island, cruising west along the coast while passing small harbor towns I was now at least a little more acquainted with. I was headed to Lancaster, PA to meet up with Brian, who had heard about the project and helped link me up with the Sustainability Planner for the city. I spent the morning running along the Ironton Rail Trail, framed on either side by the Lehigh River and the ruins of old train car parts and dilapidated, crumbling barns and warehouses. Rail trails, the process of taking old, defunct railroads and converting them to multi-use greenway trails, is a growing trend around the country and one of my favorites when searching for new places to run. If you look around your area, odds are there is a rail trail not too far from where you live—check it out if you’re looking for new places to explore!
Turns out Brian was a huge VW guru and was even interested in buying the van! But despite its temperamental nature and tendency to act up at the most inconvenient times, Turtle has become as much a part of this project as I am, and for better or worse, I’m sticking with it. Although there were no developing greenways or friendly maintenance crew members to help we located a good spot for the fifty White Pine seedlings, and I set to work with my shovel and spade. The day was dark and overcast, with a layer of thick mist blanketing the pine forest and cutting visibility down to only a few feet. With the bare, towering trunks, soft layer of moss and pine straw underfoot and hooting owls far off in the distance, it was a scene straight out of a scary movie; I was just waiting to turn a corner and come face-to-face with a growling werewolf or Ent-like monster. Fortunately I made it out of the woods without any dismemberment and was soon on my way south.
The next two stops were West Virginia and Kentucky, both of which passed without much excitement or mishap. Right on the fringes of the Appalachia mountains, West Virginia was still shrouded in the persistent soupy fog that seemed to have been following me for days—and did an excellent job of concealing some of the gut-busting hills I encountered while running through the eerie mountainous landscape. After planting fifty Red Oak seedlings and moving south to Kentucky, the fog had condensed enough to turn into a torrential, chilly rain. The landscape hadn’t changed much as I suited up in rain gear and slogged through flooded mountain roads on what ended up actually being a pretty enjoyable run. Sometimes it’s liberating to throw away all thoughts of pace, form and time and just splash through the pouring rain, not unlike small toddlers you see happily stomping in puddles and grinning from ear to ear. The rain made for soft and pliable soil and easy planting for the fifty White Dogwood seedlings, and before long I was continuing south.
Although I had just visited my family during the holidays I hadn’t yet picked up the trees I had just traveled around the mid-northeast to plant, so I swung back through Apex, NC. I had run literally thousands of miles around the sidewalks and trails of the town and surrounding areas throughout my high school years and before, but this felt a little different. It was really fulfilling to be able to meet up with family and old friends and leave them with something that would grow and flower for years to come; even more fitting, the Dogwoods I planted are actually the state tree of North Carolina! I can remember vividly when I was growing up the brilliant pink and white blossoms that marked the beginning of spring and the onset of warm, sunny weather. Someday a few years from now, there will be fifty more of those beautiful flowering trees ready to put on a show each springtime.
To continue the theme of meeting up with old friends, I’ll be heading next to Greenville, South Carolina to present to the students of a couple of my fellow UNC alumni! This week, I challenge everyone reading this to scrounge up all of your reusable fabric bags to supplant any plastic bags you might have used on your weekly shopping trip to the grocery store. In addition, try to opt for only foods that are not packaged—after all, ‘Reduce’ is the most important component of the reduce-reuse-recycle motto!