In early September, my daughter Cara and I drove south on Farm to Market road through the charming towns of Bow and Edison for an early morning walk. We were headed for Padilla Bay where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea. The estuary at the saltwater edge of the Skagit River delta is eight miles long and three miles across. On clear days you can see the Olympic Mountain peaks and ignore the stacks from the oil refineries low on the horizon.

Bow’s a small town with a lively sense of humor and a great bakery!

Our route took us past “the eagle tree” so big and famous it’s on Google maps and hundreds of vehicles parked along the two-lane road—salmon season had just opened.

We also passed a young man walking south like us but on the other side of the road—not hitchhiking—just walking. Where’s he going? we wondered.

We had a lovely walk, very few people out at 7:30, and with the tide out we had the usual assortment of birds and ducks to appreciate.

I’m happy with two miles these days and was ready to head for the car when we saw the same young man we’d seen on the highway coming toward us. Wow! we both thought. We were sure it was him—curly brown mop of hair, slim legs, medium height.

“You’re some walker,” I said after we exchanged smiles and greetings. “We passed you over an hour ago, on the way here.”

He smiled and said, “I’m getting pretty good at it—walking the Pacific Northwest Trail.” He is technically a thru-walker, the term for those traveling the entire length of the Pacific Northwest Trail in a continuous, single year trip.

He started out in Glacier National Park, encountered smoke from the forest fires for several days, and had to take an Uber ride for $80 when one section of the trail was closed. “My meal money for the week—that was the worst day.”

Then more details—all of them amazing: “I’m from Bixby, Oklahoma. I’ve

never been to the Pacific Northwest. It’s beautiful here. I got a late start and will finish up on the Olympic Peninsula at the end of the trail at Cape Alava.”

While we were talking I had a chance to eyeball his clothing and gear. There wasn’t a drop of Patagonia or REI on him—old clothes and a small pack with a rolled up sleeping pad sticking out of the top. I wanted to do something—take him home with us, make a massive spaghetti dinner, take him to REI, offer a hot shower, or something!

We’d never met anyone who walked any of the trails and had a million questions but there wouldn’t be time enough to have them answered.

Instead we wished him well, standing in the glow of admiration and inspiration for doing what you’ve always wanted to do no matter how challenging.

And the next morning, when the temperature had dropped into the high 40s, we both admitted to waking up, thinking about the young man we’d met on the trail, worrying about him just a little, and knowing we’d never forget meeting him.

You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
~ George Lucas