TUPELO – If everything goes as planned, John Robb will walk the full length of the Natchez Trace Parkway by the middle of November.
That’s 440 miles from his starting point near Nashville down to Natchez. Those miles will go with the 2,176 he logged in 2008 by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“This August, I drove the Trace twice, ‘reconning,’ you could say,” he said. “About four or five days before I started, I drove it north and south, dropped the food and medicine boxes at various locations and hid my water bottles in the woods.”
With a permit from Natchez Trace officials, a pair of hiking poles and 45 pounds worth of food, clothes and gear on his back, the Richardson, Texas, resident began his walk on Oct. 15.
“The Trace is not set up as a hiking trail,” the 50-year-old said after Friday’s hike in Tupelo. “It’s set up for bikers and RVers and motorcyclists.”
His biggest challenge so far has been caused by walking on the side of the road. There’s usually a slope, so one foot is lower than the other.
On the Appalachian Trail, his first blisters developed at about mile 1,200. On the Natchez Trace, it took 24 miles.
“I’m actually two days behind because I didn’t anticipate foot problems,” Robb said. “It’s a lesson I learned on the Appalachian Trail but forgot: You can plan to the nth degree, you can plan perfectly, but something will send you a curve ball.”
Still, he’s not interested in stopping. He wants to walk all 11 national scenic trails, and when he finishes the Natchez Trace, he’ll have nine more to go.
“I’m hiking for a charity called Be An Angel. That’s an extra push to keep me going,” he said. “They’re based in Houston (Texas), and they help severely handicapped children.”
A link on his website, trekkingforacause.com, will take you to Be An Angel, where you can donate straight to the organization.
As for the hike, Robb is funding it by himself. A few years ago, he left the corporate world of securities trading to walk through the woods.
“Now, I buy things on Craig’s List and sell them on eBay,” said Robb, who’s known as Traderhorn on eBay.
He’s also been supported by the people he’s met along the way. One lady gave him a beer. A cyclist brought him three bottles of water. One man gave him a place to sleep and took him to a Lions Club meeting. A couple cooked him a steak dinner. A family let him use their Internet.
Blisters notwithstanding, Robb’s walk through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi has been restorative.
“In the big city and the cutthroat business world, everything’s about me, me, me,” he said. “The people I’ve met haven’t shown one trace of it, not one iota. It’s a humbling lesson to learn. I’m amazed by the kindness.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal