September 21, 2019


“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”  - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here I am, in the cradle of the American Revolution.  I’ve been traipsing around New England in the footsteps of revolutionaries, poets, and founding fathers.  Daily I am steeped in words like: freedom, liberty, equality, independence, and patriot. The great American experiment began here.  Men and women rose to challenge the crown and reached far for a dream they were willing to die for. It was an impressive turn of history.  Indeed, those revolutionaries would change the world, though I doubt any of them expected such far reaching effects. Their immediate desires were simpler.  Independence, liberty, and control of their own destiny. These are themes that have echoed throughout American history ever since. Women’s rights. Civil rights.  LGBTQ rights. All are branches from the same tree of American Independence - our original hardwiring that has been passed on through generations, and inherited by those seeking these shores to embrace America’s lofty dream and our never-ending charge to form a more perfect union.  

It was a beautiful day in downtown Boston.  All of the hotels are full, and have been for days.  I was lucky to get a room in the suburbs. The city is congested – choked with vehicles and trucks all trying to navigate a labyrinthine mess of highways, interchanges, bridges, and narrow surface streets.  There is construction going on everywhere. I find a parking spot in a pay lot near the USS Constitution. She is our oldest commissioned warship – still floating, but now only meets the service of tourists.  Here I begin my hike of the Freedom Trail, part of Boston National Historical Park. The trail is marked by a brick line laid in the sidewalk. It weaves through narrow streets and cobblestone past a rich collection of historic locations and monuments.  Bunker Hill, then across the Charles River to Copp’s Burying Ground and Old North Church. One if by land. Two if by sea. Through the plaza to the statue of Paul Revere, mounted on horse and frozen in time. A moment marked and forever revered. Then, the trail passes Paul Revere’s house – the oldest existing structure in downtown Boston.  Farther into the beating heart of downtown to Faneuil Hall, I blend into a sea of humanity – business people, tourists, random folks in period costumes, construction workers, and everyone else you could imagine pumping through the urban canyons. The city is alive. The past and the present side by side. Layer upon layer of American history – never resting, always building.  Around the corner, the Boston Massacre Site and the Old State House gleaming in the sun and framed by towering office buildings. Then the Old South Meeting House and Old Corner Bookstore – now a Chipotle restaurant. Benjamin Franklin monument and King’s Chapel. A little farther down the trail to Boston Common, a welcome greenspace, and the new State House whose gold dome reflects the sun like a beacon of enlightenment to all.   A shining city on a hill. In just two and a half miles, or so, a visual and tactile library of American history is open to all. It is a trail unlike any other I have ever hiked in the National Park System.  

My journey has been a trail of freedom.  Deep inside, that American hardwiring programs the desires of the individual, as well as the collective.  Our personal destinies meld into the greater whole. I’m learning and re-learning the history of my own independence – a personal revolution and reach for that lofty dream.  A dream of self – self-actualized. Not just surviving, but thriving. Captain of my own destiny, unhindered by some metaphorical crown of fear – some tyranny of insecurity. Out here all seems possible, attainable.  Out here, my American heart beats the rhythm of liberty. We can all make our lives sublime. Lives of great men, and women, remind us.  

Parks visited since September 11th:

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Acadia National Park

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

Lowell National Historical Park

Minute Man National Historical Park

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Adams National Historical Park

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

Cape Cod National Seashore

Boston National Historical Park

Boston African American National Historic Site

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park

Roger Williams National Memorial

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Andy Magee