Key West to Canada….Those words had been ringing through my mind for the last 323 days and 4017 miles. When I crossed beside a granite pillar, they became a reality. However, before that step, I had a hundred or so grueling miles of pavement to put behind me.
I had started my journey in Key West with a 200 mile road walk to the start of the Florida Trail. The Florida Trail put me through several hundred more miles of road walking. For the last 2100 miles though, I had been in the wilderness, away from cars and hard, unchanging pavement.
In the Keys, it only took me 30 miles or so to start hating cars and pavement. It was about the same in Maine as well. The only difference being that instead of a sunny walk along bridges overlooking crystal clear waters, I was walking along roads that saw maybe 10 vehicles per day. The sun would shine, but it gave no warmth. Blisters quickly reappeared due to the repetitive nature of my stride. Misery was again the only thought accompanying my desire to finish this quest.
The exact point of my international crossing had shifted in my mind throughout my trip. Fort Kent was on the list due to it’s location at the end of Route 1. Fort Fairfield also served as my endpoint for a while because the International AT passed through it. Finally, I decided on Houlton due to it’s proximity to well…everything…me, transportation, food, lodging. The other places were just too far out of the way to trek up to in the winter.
Interesting note about Houlton- It’s where the 9/11 terrorists entered the US. (This is False, but the citizens of the town and Border Patrol Agents firmly believe it is true.) Why do I mention that? Because Houlton does not have a pedestrian crossing, but I was going to make one.
My last steps took me down an on ramp to 95 and across the Canadian border. A granite pillar marks the international border. The last steps felt like every other blister-pained step of the last few hundred miles, but I was done. I look back at the picture, and, though I didn’t feel it at the time, I can see the relief on my frozen face.
I walked all the way across, shed a tear for myself and checked in with Canadian Customs. I got my passport stamped and turned around to walk back to America. American Border Patrol apparently hadn’t seen me leave, despite having little traffic and me being the only bearded person with a huge backpack walking down the side of the freeway. Nevertheless, they saw me coming.
No less than 6 Agents escorted me to customs. When asked, “Where are you coming from?” I answered, “Just over the border.” Apparently this was taken sarcastically, because the next question was, “PSSH, at least you didn’t say Canada, WHERE in Canada?” To which, I had the honor of being able to say without being a smart-ass, “No, I came from just over the border, right there, I walked over 15 minutes ago,” as I pointed to Canadian Customs through the window.
To be honest, my I-95 freeway walk across the border could have gone worse, but I wouldn’t have cared. Key West to Canada- Check it off the bucket-list. Hell Yes.