In Maine, the trail crosses many rivers, and in the Mid-Atlantic, the trail crosses many highways. One of these highways is Interstate 81, which to most hikers is just another noisy highway but to me, it is much more. I-81 is the road that bisects the city of Syracuse, which I called my home while attending SUNY ESF. 81 runs the length of most of the East Coast, from Canada down through Syracuse, then Pennsa-tucky, then through the South until it hits I-40 in Tennessee. As a result of a good portion of my adventures originating in a Mildewy basement behind an unassuming red door on Syracuse University’s south campus, I have traveled the entire length of this interstate. 81 has been the beginning and end of many a tramp into the woods with the other members of my outing club and therefore has played a big part in where I find myself now.
This time, however, instead of acting as the barrier to downtown I must bike under to check out a friend’s new studio or a new band, it was a reminder of how connected I still am to my past and my life waiting for me off-trail. Every time I left ‘Cuse and hopped on 690 to get to 81 North with a Subaru filled with scared freshmen, I was leaving behind my real world responsibilities and taking on the responsibilities of a leader. This time, as I stood in the center of the two divided lanes of traffic, instead of being at the beginning or end, I was at the approximate center of my journey. This same interstate was where I drove my tiny hatchback with two canoes strapped to the top, where friends streaked in American flag underwear, and where I often narrowly escaped being ticketed, served as yet another mark of just how far I’d come.
I could never have gathered the experience and the confidence to be the hiker and person I am today if it weren’t for all the time spent with friends trying to set up tents in the freezing rain or paddling to a campsite only to find half the river frozen. Being a leader in my sometimes cult-like gang of hippies and outdoorsmen taught me not only backpacking and leadership skills but most importantly, how to have fun in the face of all the worst kinds of situations and weather. I wondered if the passengers of the many cars were on their way to an adventure half as good as a SUOC trip.
Now this same road which has always been an escape route from the city will be bringing my old life to me, as my friends from Syracuse will be making our yearly pilgrimage to West Virginia for the old-timers reunion. This is more than just the road to WV or the Adirondacks, it’s also the road home to Syracuse.
I’ll see you there guys, and as always, stay wild.
-Momma Tree Tree