Final leg: Hiker completes his dream of walking Texas perimeter
"I've crossed the deserts bare, man. I've breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel, I've had my share, man. I've been everywhere." - Johnny Cash, "I've Been Everywhere"
When we got on Padre Island, my dog Raisin must have smelled the difference in the air. The heat was less intense, but there was something else, something with which she had no familiarity.
Since casting her lot with me, Raisin and I had traveled close to 1,000 miles. We'd passed mountains and deserts and canyons and rivers. Sometimes I carried her, but most of the time, she walked. We'd seen it all, but still, this was something different, this change in the air.
After stocking up on water, we crossed a great sand dune over plants twice Raisin's height. I coaxed her forward, and we made it to the crest of the last dune. Before us, lapping back and forth, lay the ocean as far as we could see.
A few days later, Raisin and I completed the circuit around the outline of Texas on Saturday, Aug. 21, nearly a year after I'd started. In the first week since finishing the trek, I have divided my time between yard work, baking, reading, playing games and sleeping. Mainly sleeping.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the trip has taken on a dreamlike quality. Had I really been in the panhandle? Did my dog and I really walk through the Chihuahuan Desert? Like remembering high school from the vantage point of graduation day, it's hard to believe it even happened, so impossible is it to consider the vastness of the experience in a single moment.
Walking around Texas was a project I'd dreamed about since 2003, though I couldn't tell you exactly why. Given a person's disposition to weather and strangers, one could have argued that the cons outnumbered the pros. Many people in fact did try to dissuade me, but I didn't let it bother me. Crazy ideas rarely have a fan club right from the start.
Oddly enough, I couldn't rightly recommend hiking around the state to another person. The hike was a personal decision, which I conceived of naturally and warmed up to over time. What I do endorse, though, is a sight better.
Dust off your dreams. They may be packed away deep in the closet of your mind, but they're still yours. Speak them, write them down, do a first step. Make them real. I've met people across the state who've inspired me with their dreams, both accomplished and ongoing. From the fellow in Texarkana who planted 20 species of bamboo just because he likes it, to the music professor who had once been a high school band teacher with an itching to get a doctorate. From the small-town newspapers showing an increase in circulation to a man bicycling across the country in search of a new life. Dreams are not only possible; they are happening all around you.
However, dreams rarely turn out how you imagine them. I didn't know I'd rack up over 400 rejections from Texas newspapers before starting my trip. I didn't know I'd fracture my toe or find a little puppy in West Texas. After months in the boiling sun, I didn't know that said puppy would actually run away from the waves for the better part of an hour. I also didn't know that standing at the ocean's edge would bring a smile to my face, nor that this smile would last 'till sunset.
What I did know of my dream was its basic premise: that I would walk every foot around the outline of Texas. The rest I just had to wake up to.
Smatt is the penname of S.Matt Read. A writer, inventor, baker and hiker, he has finally finished hiking the entire outline of the state. Read the chronicles of his adventures at www.texasperimeterhike.blogspot.com and www.twitter.com/perimeterhiker.