Three or four weeks ago I saw a mention of “Kennedy Walks” on Facebook or someplace else. I’m not sure where, but it did bring back some very vague recollections of Kennedy administration members doing very long walks along the C & O Canal towpath near Washington, D.C.
In looking into the matter further, I found out that John F. Kennedy had learned of Theodore Roosevelt’s challenge to Marine Corps officers of his era to show their fitness by walking 50 miles. President Kennedy subsequently challenged members of his administration to walk 50 miles in twenty hours as a show of his administration’s vigor.
The President’s brother, Bobby, took the bait and walked 50 miles within twenty hours on February 9, 1963. He wore his regular leather business shoes and followed the C & O Canal towpath from Great Falls of the Potomac to Harpers Ferry for his route.
My memory, which could be wrong, was of twenty-five mile walks being popular at that time. I mentioned seeing something about Kennedy Walks to my friend Phil, and he told me that he did a twenty-five mile Kennedy Walk with some friends when he was in high school.
A couple of days later, Phil called me up to say that we should do a Kennedy Walk. Less than a week later we stepped off from Phil’s house at the base of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque for our own “do it yourself” twenty-five mile Kennedy Walk.
We did not have a pre-determined route with exact measurements. Our destination was my house over eleven miles away by car in the Rio Grande valley. Our intention was to follow existing bike trails and footpaths to get there and to use my Fitbit to track of our mileage.
Our route would be generally downhill or level. And even better we were not going to march. We were going to walk at a pace that would get us to our destination and let us take in what was along the way.
Phil even remembered to bring along a Kennedy half dollar coin to honor our walk.
Within a couple of minutes we were on the Tramway bike path heading north.
After a mile and a half or so, we left the bike path and started heading west towards the Rio Grande.
We were now walking through upland desert shrubbery in Arroyo del Oso. That’s the Rio Grande valley way down below.
The path took us by this dam made famous as the place where Walter White and Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad fame went to disappear.
Across the street from the dam was another bike path following the arroyo towards the river.
The path was more than just pavement and had many interesting things, including this butterfly garden along the way.
And this little ballerina.
There were also several bike paths and pedestrian bridges joining our route to create a network of car free routes.
We even passed a public golf course. That snow capped mountain about 60 miles off in the distance is Mount Taylor
Three hours after our start we reached a busy street (San Mateo) with several luncheon options.
Right after lunch we took this new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Interstate 25. All across the country, communities have installed bridges, footpaths, and bike trails to make it possible for you to take a quiet and car free walk.
During the lunch hour we ran into several people riding bikes or taking walks near their work. (That’s Phil in front of me.)
After twelve miles or so of walking we descended into the Rio Grande valley area of Albuquerque.
And we soon passed our first irrigation ditch called an acequia in New Mexico. The network of acequia ditches in the Rio Grande valley has created ribbon of green through a very dry part of the country.
Right after the first ditch, we passed a NM Rail Runner station. Had we wanted, we could have taken a train to Santa Fe and finished our walk there.
We passed some interesting homes including this one guarded by the Tin Woodsman.
And on the other side of the drive was a machine gun nest to back up the Tin Woodsman.
A few doors down there was this house guarded by an attack Chihuahua.
The same house also had Saint Francis watching over the yard.
The acequias in the valley have made it possible for many small farms to exist.
And provide the water for massive cottonwood trees like this one to thrive.
We soon decided to go south along this acequia ditch.
From the ditch we could look up back towards the mountains where we started.
We also ran into several mallards to keep us company as we walked.
After following several different ditches, we finally reached the bosque (forest) along the Rio Grande.
As we were walking, I heard some rustling in the shrubs by my feet. It was this porcupine. Look at the picture carefully so you can see it.
We finally made it to the Rio Grande. Because of recent rains and water releases, the river was higher than normal.
We continued along the river on a variety of paths through the bosque.
The path led us to this labyrinth made out of fallen tree branches in the middle of the bosque.
After walking the labyrinth, it was time to leave the bosque and walk the final link to my house. Rather than take this road with its Frank Lloyd Wright inspired gate (the post with the three green balls on top), we followed drainage ditch to the next road south.
In addition to this coot, we saw wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese, and a beaver dam in the drainage ditch.
Even as walked the final half mile towards my house, we still finding off road paths to take.
Finally we made it to the gravel drive leading to my house in the back. When we stepped in the front door, I checked my Fitbit and it registered exactly 25.0 miles!!! I wish I had taken a picture of it to prove that I am not making this up.
I hope this blog post illustrates that even a very long walk can be a wandering experience with much to see along the way. It does not have to be a heads down march. If you choose to do your own Kennedy Walk, I am sure your community already has the infrastructure of trails in place for you to take one. Should you do it, the key to reaching your destination is to enjoy every moment along the way. Thank you.