Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the Town

In my last post, I mentioned how hiking the Appalachian Trail is, on the whole, a more challenging endeavor than hiking on roadsides from town to town. But in one big way the trail is in fact easier- it's literally a beaten path, where thousands of hiker feet tread each year. Consequently, there are loads of books detailing how to plan an Appalachian Trail hike, where to sleep and find facilities along the way, as well as numerous first-hand accounts of people's hikes.
Now I'm probably not the first (though off-hand I don't know of anyone else) to hike the length of the USA in the way I'm doing, but suffice it to say, I've never come across anyone's account of their "roadhike." So naturally there's a good amount of logistical planning that I have to figure out on my own. One such hurdle occurred to me when I was plotting my way into New York City. Originally I had hoped to hike across the Hudson River at Bear Mountain, about 30 miles north of the city, down through Harriman State Park and Bergen County, and then into NYC. From there I would go the length of Manhattan, into Brooklyn, across the Narrows Bridge into Staten Island and on into Central Jersey.
It sounded good, but unfortunately, when I checked on the availability of pedestrian walkways on bridges, I found out that walking across the Narrows Bridge was not an option. So that meant that if I wanted to hike around NYC without backtracking, I would have to come down through Westchester County and the Bronx (!), into and around Manhattan, and then out the George Washington Bridge into Jersey.
Which is what I am doing. Currently, I've made it as far as 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan- where I left off yesterday around midnight. Today and tomorrow are off days in NJ, spent seeing friends, family, and searching for teaching jobs next year. But the last three days, I hiked through the Bronx, all over Manhattan, and even briefly set foot in Brooklyn.
Aside from seeing the sights, highlights in New York include the incredulous stares I received hiking around the city, showing three German navy officer cadets around the Lower East Side, stopping off at Yankee Stadium, posing for pictures with Slovenian tourists, making a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, and taking time for a game of Scrabble with the locals in Washington Square Park (I won easily, after playing the word "recoils" for 79 points). But most of all, I've most appreciated the continued generosity of all those I meet along the way, including a Guyanan immigrant who bought me an iced tea in the Bronx, three immigrants from Honduras who gave me $35 in cash on the spot on the Grand Concourse to donate to Fisher House, and a couple of women from upstate New York who also gave me an impromptu unsolicited donation. You all keep me going and give meaning to my hike on a daily basis, and I thank you tremendously for doing so!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Good Week for Fisher House

Ha! Right now I'm channel surfing and came across Forrest Gump running across America. A kindred spirit :)
One of the many reasons for going off the Appalachian Trail in Maine was the possibility to make my hike a fundraiser. Not surprisingly, many of the towns through which the trail passes tend to see a fair share of people doing long-distance hikes for charity. In other parts of the country, we are a much rarer breed, and therefore generate more interest. Even more important, there are obviously a lot more people in urban areas, and hence, more potential donors. And on top of all that, hiking on roadsides goes much quicker than the trail and gives me more time and access to places where I can use the internet to do planning for my fundraising.
This having been said, though, it has still taken awhile for my fundraising efforts to really amount to anything. But this week, with my blog and donation site finally up and running, I've been able to raise well over $1000. Granted, there's a long way to my goal of $50,000, but it's a great start, since this was the first week that I really started spreading the word. I'm very grateful to everyone who has donated, but special thanks are due to two former Jeopardy champions for their help- Ken Jennings and Bob Harris. Both not only contributed generously of themselves, but they both also spread the word on their blogs ( and and Bob had the great idea to post a link to my site on the Jeopardy message boards at This has been a huge help and I'm really thankful you both decided to do this.
My future efforts at fundraising will consist of talking to groups (e.g. Rotary Clubs, VFW posts, etc.), handing out fliers to people I meet with links to my internet sites and a description of what I am doing, and posting such fliers in places that I pass through (coffee shops, libraries, etc.) on a small poster that mentions I stopped off at said location on my way to Key West. Obviously, these efforts will continue to evolve, but let me know if you have any ideas- all are clearly welcome!
My next post will detail some of my experiences in New York City- stay tuned!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

So what do I do all day...?

Other than hike, of course. I've been a big fan of multitasking for years, and hiking gives me an opportunity to indulge at length. For the past few weeks, I've spent hours most days listening to CDs I've ordered from The Teaching Company. I first saw these advertised a few years ago in Foreign Affairs and The Economist, and was intrigued, though never to the point of ordering their courses. But then again, I didn't have oodles of hours of time on my hands. Or feet.
So in order to provide intellectual stimulation to accompany the physical, I've recently completed the first two of what will be many college lecture courses. The two I've done so far were on the American Civil War and Great Ideas of Philosophy, although at times the second bordered on the oxymoronic. Seriously, can't we just put ontology and epistomology to rest and be done with it? Where did any of that get anyone? I wish the course had dwelt more on religious philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics, but on the whole, it was still a good intro to the subject. Meanwhile, the Civil War course was good, although it was difficult to follow at times without benefit of maps, especially during descriptions of the battles.
Now I'm on to Bach and the High Baroque, with many more to follow. Other preoccupations, by the way, include listening to the radio, my Ipod, making sure I don't get run over by cars, picking up litter, doing pushups and situps by the roadside, stopping off at libraries for internet breaks, talking on my cell phone (201 661 3524, hint hint), thinking about my future rise to power, taking pictures of funny road signs, and making friends with the locals. In short, boredom is foiled on a daily basis, as I press ever southward and on to greater glory. Three days to New York City! -DM

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the trail again...

The blog is back! Well, sort of. I'm currently in the library in Kent, CT, after having hiked 12 miles on the Appalachian Trail for the first time since central Maine. The countryside up here is beautiful, lots of hemlock glades and steep, but not very high hills. The Housatonic River is the nicest river I've seen that no one seems to care about, except GE who's apparently used it as a dumpster over the years. Still, there were mergansers, great blue herons and kingfishers aplenty, so either they're not too worried, or are enjoying meals of Blinky, the three-eyed fish.
Interesting thought of the day- I saw a sign warning of the dangers of eating fish from the river. It was printed in English, Vietnamese, Thai (I think), one language written in a vaguely southeast Asian script I didn't recognize (Cambodian? Lao?) and then a language that featured such words as: "txwv" and "xyoo." Thanks to Google, I now know this to be Hmong. Didn't a Hmong immigrant go postal up in Minnesota last year? Maybe it was because he finally gave up trying to pronounce his language. Or he may have eaten one too many three-eyed fishes.
More on what I'm actually doing out here (plus pictures!!!) in my next post within three days. -DM

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Okay, it's been a long time coming, but it finally seems I've gotten this blog off the ground! Obviously over the coming days and weeks I'll frequently update this, but for now the basics:
I'm David Madden and I'm hiking the length of the United States from the Canadian border with northern Maine to Key West, Florida- a distance of about 3000 miles. Now call me crazy (you won't be the first to have done so...) but this may turn out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. Especially since I am doing my hike as a fundraiser for Fisher House Foundation- a great charity that builds and manages houses for families of wounded veterans to stay at, when they visit at military hospitals around the country. I'm also maintaining a page at with more news of my hike and where people can donate online, so check that out as well. Tune in for another update in a few days, with stories from my hike so far and news as to my current whereabouts!