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Lincoln Trail Hike brings back memories

This past April 29th and 30th was the 72nd annual Lincoln Trail Hike sponsored in part by the Boy Scouts of America, but participated in by others, now including Girl Scouts, as well.

Patches were given to scouts who completed the 20-mile hike from New Salem, Illinois, to Springfield, Illinois. The patches could be sewn on uniforms to commemorate the event.

The historical significance of the New Salem to Springfield route is that Abraham Lincoln was beginning his studies to become a lawyer and the books he needed were not available in New Salem. So he walked to Springfield to borrow the books, supposedly sometimes completing the round trip on the same day.

From recent pictures taken in the last few years, it appears that the hike has come close to being a parade with about 500 hikers. Times have changed from my experiences in hiking in that one of the pictures showed a scout sitting in a car changing to dry socks for the last 5 miles due to the rainy conditions.

No, I did not hike that trail back in 1946, but a few years after that, I did hike what was then the other two Lincoln Trail Hikes. As far as I can determine, the other two trails are no longer publicized for scout hiking even though there are still some road signs marking Lincoln trail roadways in Indiana and Kentucky.

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Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hodgenville, Ky., and in his early years lived by Knob Creek on a 200+ acre farm. His boyhood home (reconstructed) some of you may have had an opportunity to see at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. There is also a memorial in the Lincoln Park by Hodgenville, Ky., just a few miles south of Louisville.

If you are by that way, it may be worth a stop. Not much farther south of Lincoln Park is the Mammoth Cave area — also worth seeing if you are in the area.

My Boy Scout hike in Kentucky was a two-day event (about 30 miles) where we were dropped off with our back packs of food, utensils, clothing, sleeping bags, and ground cloths. We slept under the stars.

At the time, it was very rural with dirt/gravel roads and trails. Several times we needed to avail ourselves of toilet facilities and in this area I recall asking residents (no gas stations nearby and certainly no fast food places) to use their facilities – nothing indoors, you understand, but some one-holers and some two-holers.

Now you may wonder how I had come to dredge up this memory. It was precipatated by Dr. C. Paul Martin’s column on Saturday where he discussed water sources – “Tap or Bottled?” He mentioned some early childhood memories such as drinking water from a hand pump or from a hose – both of which I also remember, even to the point of sometimes having to making sure there was a bucket of water not too far away from the pump that could be used to “prime the pump” the next time and hopefully the water level hadn’t gotten too low in the well or cistern.

On this Kentucky trip, the memory of the taste of water was something else, namely a metal canteen. It was a pleasure to get back to “civilization” to get fresh water in a glass. Our refills of the canteens was invariably from some outdoor pump.

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When Lincoln was 7 years old (1816), the family moved to Spencer County, Indiana, southwest of Indianapolis, not far from Hoosier National Forest. The hike on the Lincoln Trail in Indiana was not as memorable as the Kentucky venture, certainly not as rural and more modern facilities were available. Lincoln’s home here was just a few miles from what some would call a tourist trap. Its name: Santa Claus, Indiana.

The town was established in 1854 and was known as Santa Fe (pronounced “fee.”) But when it came time to establish a post office, the United States Postal Service (then Post Office) would not accept the name on the petition so the residents had a meeting and eventually came up with Santa Claus as of 1856.

Before we had decided on hiking the Lincoln Trail in Indiana, I had known of Santa Claus, Indiana, because in the mid 1940s, my mother had sent all her Christmas cards there to receive a cancellation on the stamp showing Santa Claus.

As most of my readers know, I save lots of stuff and I do still have that stamped envelope. I can’t remember doing it, but I suspect that when we were there to hike the trail, I sent at least a card or two to friends back home with that cancellation.

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Before I leave the water topic, there is another memory of horrible tasting water, besides the garden hose, this one also from a scouting adventure when I joined about 50,000 other scouts at the National Jamboree in Irvine, California.

The large campsite was essentially in a desert area so water was trucked to various locations and large “canvas” bags were filled that hung at each troop campsite.

Sanitation was assured by using enough chlorine that you could taste it even when using it to prepare foods, like hot cereal or powdered milk.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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