A Path with Heart: A Walk for the Wounded part 4

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113035993026871.jpg’, ‘Photo provided by Tom Bauschke’, ‘Summerland Camp (5,900 feet), east side of Mount Rainier, Washington State, on The Wonderland Trail. Tom Bauschke (pictured) hiked to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. Bauschke said: “I celebrated my 40th birthday later that afternoon feasting on smoked salmon. I relished 80 miles of trail behind me, toasted Mount Rainier with Jagermeister (whiskey), adoringly smoked a Macanudo Corona cigar and probably was asleep by 7:30 p.m. Not bad for an old man…."’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113036008832637.jpg’, ‘Photo provided by Tom Bauschke’, ‘The "snout" of Carbon Glacier (3,400 feet) on the north side of Mount Rainier. Carbon Glacier is the lowest of any glacier in the continental U.S. This groaning, creaking mass of ice is nearly 1,000 feet thick. Glaciers flow downhill with gravity just like rivers, but ice may grind downward only a half-inch a year. Rock debris is from a massive rockslide off Willis Wall beyond (top center) which covered Carbon Glacier in 1911. ‘);

My greatest personal lesson from this walk was the fact that I finished—on schedule. YES! I can still do this, even though I turned 40 during this walk. Some of you may remember my canoe trip down the Mississippi River back in 2002. I made it 1,500 miles from the headwaters at Lake Itasca in central Minnesota to Memphis, Tenn., and realized I was running short on time and money. I took a train the last 600 miles to New Orleans, got a cheap bunk at the Marquette Street hostel, and mostly ate my leftover camp food while waiting for my flight back to Seattle.

That first night in New Orleans, I danced all night on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter until the sun came up. Wow! Can that town party! Then, exhausted from six-and-a-half weeks on the Mississippi River, I slept for two days. Haunted by failure and nearly broke, I still enjoyed my time in “The Big Easy.” There was so much to see in that 24-hour city. I was fascinated by the food, the culture and the incredible diversity of music (day and night).

With little money, I had to entertain myself. I almost liked daytime in the French Quarter more than nighttime. Artists displayed their paintings, sculptures and jewelry. The street performers were wonderful. There were many old men sitting on street corners in the French Quarter. Some of them had been sitting at their spot and playing guitar or saxophone for 50 years. Their songs often stopped me in my tracks and gave me goose bumps.

Tony was a mime down by the old market place. His costume was The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. In full silver face (neck and hands, too), he would stand in the 99-degree sun motionless in the humidity for up to an hour and a half at a time. Sweat poured down his face and over his eyes, and he never even flinched. I tabulated my budget and had to tip him.

I could have canoed down the Mississippi River as far as possible and hoped I found a way out of some backcountry river town to catch my plane in time, but I chose to take the train instead. Now, in hindsight I’m glad I spent those two weeks in New Orleans. After Katrina, that city will never be the same again.

Life often changes course just like the Mississippi River. I always try to follow my path wherever my heart leads me. I’m slowly learning that what may seem like a bad decision at the time may be the right choice in the long run.

Ever forward

After 10 years of hiking, biking and canoeing nearly 12,000 miles, this Wonderland Trail walk has been my most inspiring. Cold, wet, hungry and tired, I had to keep going. The men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea must carry on. How could I even begin to complain about anything, let alone quit?

During this walk I thought much about my Army service from 1985-1988 in what was then West Germany. A Cold War world had already been dealing with terrorists since the 1970s. Civilian cars were being blown up in morning traffic. A German nightclub had been bombed. A plane had been blown out of the sky over Lockerby, Scotland. ALL vehicles entering military bases in Europe were meticulously inspected.

When we had bombed Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya on April 15, 1986, I was assigned to guard military families living in off-post housing. Strange cars would sometimes appear in those neighborhoods. I brought my weapon to port arms and walked straight toward them. Some sped away, some did not. I suspected drivers that slowly drove away were more sinister than mere tourists. In the end, I counted my blessings. I didn’t have to shoot anyone, nor did I get shot or blown up. All the military families in West Germany were fine, and in 1988 I came home in one piece.

The current war on terror involves a much more determined, better-trained and equipped enemy. Not all our military men and women are coming home in one piece. These courageous men and women are carrying a huge emotional and physical burden. Find veterans and thank them, welcome them home, remember them, respect them, and hire them.

Support for the Wounded Warrior Project has been fantastic. My amount raised locally approaches $2,500 with still more support from around the state of Washington and Rockford. I am thrilled at so much help in taking care of wounded soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and their families. THANK YOU ALL!

If you still wish to donate to my Walk for the Wounded, please send your check directly to: The Wounded Warrior Project Headquarters, 324 Washington Ave., Suite 1, Roanoke VA 24016-4312. You can also donate online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org. Donations are tax deductible. The WWP’s federal ID number is: #20-2370934.

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2005, issue

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