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[ft-l] Big O 2002: Cool, Sunny Days



We didn=E2=80=99t expect the cold
We didn=E2=80=99t expect the wind
But we expected it to be Sunny.

Big O 2002 kicked off on Saturday November 23 with a bitter cold wind
whipping across the dike at South Bay, hikers decked out in heavy winter
coats and hats paying their respects to hike leader Sunny Piskura. Opening
the event, Sunny=E2=80=99s daughter Jeri and granddaughters Sarah, Julia, a=
nd Emily
gently sowed handfuls of her ashes across the footpath, into the winds that
riffled the sugar cane fields, bidding a farewell to Grandma and to the
stream of hikers headed down the dike towards Belle Glade. Haunting forests
of melaleuca paralleled our route for the distance of the Wimp Walk, where
most hikers chose to call it a day. For those in for the long haul, a treat=
!
Skydivers rained over Pahokee airport, timing their arrival with ours. As t=
he
broad sweep of the lake came into view, Pahokee greeted us with the Grassy
Waters Festival, an amusing amalgam of carnival rides and games, gospel
singers, tricycle races, and a petting zoo, just the diversion after the te=
n
hard miles of the first day=E2=80=99s hike.

And on it went. It took a few mornings for this newcomer to adapt to the
routine: rise around 4 am, get in the car, drive, set up shuttles, start th=
e
hike at daybreak. As the days slipped by, the rhythm became second nature. =
A
hiker=E2=80=99s Zen: put one foot in front of the other, repeat. Watch midn=
ight skies
torn apart by brilliant magenta and orange streaks at first light, a parade
of cold mornings yielding to clear sunny skies. And Sunny. For as we hiked
around the lake, Paul Guyon continued to scatter Sunny=E2=80=99s ashes in s=
pecial
places, none so solemn as the quiet moments of reflection at the hiker=E2=
=80=99s
graveyard beyond Indian Prairie, the granite slabs glistening in the sun.

Hikers commented about the perfect weather, the exceptional coolness that
kept mosquitoes to a minimum and heat-related problems non-existent, the
brilliant blue skies every day. By the time we passed Uncle Joe=E2=80=99s F=
ish Camp
(where a free apple pie appeared, unbidden, to fulfill hungry hiker
fantasies) I was pretty much convinced that our 2002 thru-hikers had a
guardian angel on the wing. And sure enough, on the final day, a dark wall =
of
clouds gathered behind the string of hikers on the dike, a sweep to usher u=
s
in to the finish line at South Bay. We finished the hike without a single d=
ay
of rain, but by the time all hikers returned to their tents, broke them dow=
n,
and said their goodbyes, the heavens opened. Coincidence?

Nine days of hiking; nine days of reflection: quiet hours spent in solitary
thought, social hours spent making new friends, relaxing at the hot tub,
going to the movies and Wal-mart, getting blisters treated by Lou. The Big =
O
is a different kind of hiking experience, one that attracts a storied alumn=
i
year after year. It=E2=80=99s fun, it=E2=80=99s in the now, and it=E2=80=99=
s =E2=80=9Cnot just about the
hike.=E2=80=9D See you on the dike next year!

Cheers, Sandy
(your Footprint gal, who wrote this for my chapter newsletters but thought
I'd share. Feel free to steal for yours.)

PS. My part in the talent show was to write and read an epic poem about the
hike. Since it's way too long and "insider" for general consumption, let
alone The Footprint, if any Big O alumni didn't get a copy and want one,
email me and I'll send it to you.