Recollections of a Kennedy-50 Walk

Fifty-one years (almost to the day) later, I joined thirty other members of the Free Walkers, a social network for individuals who participate in distance walking events, for the second annual reenacting of Robert Kennedy’s walk. We took the identical path Kennedy hiked, going along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path from Great Falls, Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia….It was a marvelous day. 

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Paul Kiczek
Searching for the Kennedy Spirit

Traveling nearly 4,000 miles for a walk may seem like a long way to go for something that can be done anywhere. But the walks we have been doing as FreeWalkers are more than the walk itself. Mostly, they are about personal challenge and the power of community - things that John F. Kennedy stood for. Far away in Sittard, Netherlands we found a community that continues to honor his lasting legacy each year with a challenging event.

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Paul Kiczek
Walking With Bobby Kennedy

In my five year journey of long walks, there remained an elusive goal - to relive the feeling of the “50-Mile Hike” fad of 1963. At first, I had only a vague memory of “the walk” in the summer of 1963 where a few friends and I had tried to walk 50 miles. We only walked 38 miles. As it turned out, the number of miles did not matter, although the experience did.

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Paul Kiczek
The Long Walk That Saved the Canal

On January 3, 1954, an editorial article appearing in the Washington Post which became a flashpoint for those that opposed the U.S. government’s building a parkway that would pave over the old 185-mile C&O Canal. It was a long hike proposed by Associate Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas that would settle the matter and set a trend toward preserving nature and history.

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Paul Kiczek
The 50-Mile Hike Phenomenon

In 1963, during the end of the Kennedy administration, a strange fad quickly grabbed the nation's attention. Based partly on a genuine concern for the public's fitness and partly on a dare, the nation briefly took to the streets in record numbers. Most walked like they never had before and would never do again.

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Paul Kiczek