ST. MARYS — Hiking, for Maryland-based investor Ed Talone, is about more than the place he is at or the destination at which he plans to arrive.
It’s about a joy he finds in the act of walking, setting mile goals and finding food and kindness along the 50,000 miles of country he’s seen, and will continue seeing as he hikes the Miami Erie Canal up to Toledo through April 13, at a rate of approximately 17 miles per day.
Tuesday night, Talone spent the night along the canal, between Minster and New Bremen. He said he kept the light off at his camp site because he didn’t want people to think he was homeless, a common problem while on long hikes, especially on canals since often people don’t hike canals.
“People see somebody with a backpack, and they think ‘homeless.’ They ask if you need the Salvation Army or if you’re hungry,” he said.
The truth is, most days Talone is hungry, because hiking burns a lot of calories and he doesn’t carry much food, opting to stop at grocery stores because he tries to travel light.
“You just can’t get enough food,” he said.
He buys Lipton noodle dinners that he pairs with tuna or peanut butter, which he can eat a jar of every other day.
“I could do a national ad for peanut butter,” he says.
In his backpack, only the second hiking backpack he’s owned, he carries a change of clothes, spare socks, a good sleeping bag and his cell phone.
“I was one of the last two people in America to get a cell phone,” he joked.
The bulk of his day is spent putting one foot in front of the other for up to nine months of the year.
“I feel like every day I get to walk, I’ve won the lottery,” Talone, a cancer survivor, said. “I had no idea financially or health-wise I’d get to do this.”
It was luck, actually, that brought him to hiking. He was lucky his father, an engineer, was called out to Washington during the 1930 stock market crash, that his father remembered 36 years later walking to a 500-foot aqueduct, and his father had appreciated the engineering of the aqueduct enough to take his two eight-year old twins to the site to explain it to them.
While his brother, a budding engineer himself, had appreciated the aqueduct, Talone had discovered another passion completely—hiking.
“I couldn’t wait to see what was around the bend,” he said.
Since then, Talone has hiked in 49 states, all but Hawaii, from the Dry Tortugas in Key West, to the border of Canada.
He walked the entire decade of the 1990s with a diabetic and blind friend, a woman who refused to talk about the pain and difficulty of her own hike, he said. Later this year he plans to go from the Canadian border to Labrador.
Something Talone likes to say is “I’ll get there.”
When he talks about plans to hike Hawaii or making it to Labrador, or hiking his way through St. Marys Thursday, he talks as if his arrival is inevitable, he’ll get there putting one foot in front of the other.
The most amazing walk Talone’s ever seen, however, wasn’t his own.
He was on a scenic trail in Florida in 2001, coming around a road section on a panhandle.
He saw an older woman walking with what appeared to be her daughter under her arm.
The woman was walking to her mailbox, and Talone said, “it’s a nice day for a walk.”
She said, “It sure is.”
As it turned out, the woman was in the midst of recovering from a stroke, and that 100 yards was the first trip the woman had been able to make to her mailbox.
“For her that 100 yards was like a through walk,” he said, (a through walk being a long path for hikers.) “That was my most memorable walk.”