By Leilah Grace
On a sunny and warm October Saturday afternoon Rue crossed the Deschutes River into Drake Park in Bend, Oregon, completing the loop and finishing the first scouting hike of the American Perimeter Trail. On the park side of the bridge he found me, APT members, total strangers, and the Wilderness Mindset documentary crew. We clapped, cheered, and cried as he stepped into the park. Rue waved his APT flag, smiled, and embraced each of us one by one. Cupcakes were passed around and together we celebrated his incredible accomplishment.
What’s next? was the constant refrain of the evening and the remainder of the weekend. With proof of concept complete the real work of the conference begins. Rue will spend time mapping the route out and we will make it public and available on apps. He will also have other regions such as the Northern Appalachian, Florida and The South where more scouting must occur. While Rue is mapping, the conference will also be reaching out to other organizations for partnerships to share footbeds and establish footbeds. We will continue to build our membership and are organizing our volunteers regionally. For the APT to be successful we need the support of the local communities, we need your support and assistance!
Over the past 3 years the conference, the builders, and supporters of the APT have followed the journey of the scouting hike. We have watched Rue persevere through droughts, fires, tornadoes, fire ants, falling trees, stolen gear, heat domes, extreme isolation and grief. We saw him hike with an ongoing illness, and then anxiety and mental health concerns. Crossings into new states, new regions were celebrated, as well as a crossing of the Mississippi at the southern end and then again at the northern end. We rejoiced when he found shelter and companionship with trail angels, and now we rejoice with his homecoming. In Omak, Washington Rue connected his footsteps, closing the loop of the first scouting hike, yet the hike would not be complete until Rue returned to where he started, Bend. Hiking into Bend with his pack and flag mounted on his trekking pole Rue completed a dream many considered impossible.
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable
The unreachable star
And I’ll always dream the impossible dream
Yes, and I’ll reach the unreachable star“The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” lyrics by Joe Darion