Paula Damon

“Knowing the American Discovery Trail exists, and others travel it sparked my commitment to make the trek myself.”Luke Woolfolk, Trail Artist, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The best part about column writing is being in touch with my readers.

This happens indirectly, like the time a former co-worker, a Sister of Saint Francis, said her sister, (not a Sister), faithfully read my column.

Hearing from readers can happen in-person, through email or social media. This always makes my day.

Here’s one I received from ultra-runner Brian Stark. Brian is more commonly known as the States Runner.

“Ultra-running is going any distance further than a marathon. I run very far,” Brian casually asserts. “Forty miles a day on wild and scenic trails, all across America.”

Can you say, E-P-I-C?!

“My goal is to run across all 50 states by the time I turn 50,” he tabulates. “With 16 states left and three years to go, I have my work cut out for me.”

Not a big surprise that Brian is the National Coordinator for the American Discovery Trail (ADT), recently featured in my column.

The ADT Society is a large volunteer group that helps manage and develop the nation's first coast-to-coast trail system. Primarily, Brian coordinates volunteers overseeing trails in the 15 states the ADT crosses from East to West Coasts.

His email…

Hello Paula,

I came across your article because I now volunteer for the ADT on their board and have shared your article within our group.

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your article about Luke Woolfolk. Like Luke, I also crossed the US on foot using the American Discovery Trail, but I chose to run rather than hike. I wore a large waist pack and traveled like Luke’s, without a support vehicle and relied on strangers along the way. My sentiments and reactions from others match perfectly with Luke's reporting. In fact, it was that same church in Philippi, West Virginia, you mentioned that also took me in! [He] let me sleep in [and] brought me a sack dinner….that was 1998 but it feels like yesterday.

Having had many dozens of articles written about my run….Yours surely stands out among the top of the heap from what I've read, and that's been quite a lot.

Well done! Thanks so much,

I was blown away to hear from the guy at the top of the trail mix food chain. And, since I was born curious, I picked Brian’s brain. This is what I learned….

Top priority of the ADT Society is posting signs on the trail, helping to navigate and promote it.

“Millions of day-hikers on our trail are unaware it connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans,” Brian noted.

Plus, the ADT is so unique it doesn't fit national, historic or scenic trail categories.

More interesting tidbits about the trail if it is adopted as a Discovery Trail:

• It won’t take anyone's land away. The trail is routed in public domain.

• It receives donations, membership dues, business partnerships and corporate sponsors.

• And will not cost any new federal funding, except National Parks Service staff time.

So, here’s a shout out to Luke Woolfolk, who so generously allowed me to share his story. And to Brian Stark, the States Runner.

And to every sojourner of the American Discovery Trail, you and all my readers are my heroes.

(For status on ADT legislation, visit http://www.discoverytrail.org/news/issues.html.)

Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning writer whose columns appear weekly in regional newspapers in the Upper Midwest. Over the years, the author’s works have garnered top national honors, including her creative non-fiction chapbook “Look. Don’t Look.” – the 2017 First Place Award in NFPW’s national writing competition. For more information, email boscodamon.paula@gmail.com.

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