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Week 9: Connie Bison

“A blast from the past!” That’s how I would describe week nine of “A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail.” My hiking buddy for week nine was Connie Bison nee Krebs, my husband’s first cousin, from Baltimore County, Maryland.

For my first year of college, I lived at home and attended a local community college. As one of nine children, my parents weren’t in a position to help cover the cost of my education, so creative problem solving was the order of the day. After receiving a partial scholarship, I decided to transfer to Loyola College in Baltimore but still didn’t have the financial resources to cover room and board. Soooo, I agreed to prepare dinners Monday through Friday for the Krebs Family in exchange for the chance to live in a lovely home with a loving family.

I didn’t know the Krebs’ well when I first moved in but over time, I developed different levels of closeness with all nine of them. It’s fair to say, by the time I married my husband (their nephew/ cousin), I knew them better than my own cousins!

It was amazing and so darn fun to catch up with Connie as we hiked the A.T. from Route 77 north toward Pennsylvania. Connie and I tried to remember the last time we saw each other and guessed it had been at least 25 years. For a while there, when all 24 cousins were getting married, we saw each other at weddings at least once a year. Now that most of us have been married for more than 30 years (41 years in my case), we just don’t get together liked we used to.

We talked a little bit about current events, including the COVID-19 vaccine roll out. Connie already has gotten both of her shots and I’m still patiently waiting. Actually, those of you who know me, are probably saying, “Yeah, she’s waiting but I doubt she’s waiting patiently!” Honestly, I just can’t wait until things get back to normal or closer to normal. This is probably the first time since I was 15 years old and waiting to get my driver’s license on my 16th birthday that I have wished to be older than I am. Oh well, soon there will be vaccines for everyone!

As we hiked, we marveled at the earliest signs of spring and the clear demarcation between where the snow had melted almost completely and where it was several inches deep just a few yards away. (Check out the little video clip!) Compared to last week’s hike, the trail was less snowy, but it was SUPER MUDDY! In fact, in places the trail looked like a stream bed and we could actually see water flowing down it!

As we walked and talked, I got the scoop on all of Connie’s siblings: Marty, David, Jenny, Bert, Gina and Barbi. When we were deep in the woods and chatting about Bert, Connie’s phone, which she says often has poor reception, rang…and it was Bert! What an amazing coincidence! I even got to chat with Bert for a few minutes, such an unexpected pleasure!  It was a reminder to me to be grateful for those who enrich my life simply by agreeing to walk the journey with me.

We also talked a lot about Connie’s business. For long time, Connie has been a riding instructor and horse trainer extraordinaire! She’s not doing as much teaching these days, but she stays extremely busy caring for the eleven horse she boards at her barn. This was of great interest to me since as a young girl I always pictured myself competing in the Olympic Equestrian events. I’m quite sure I suffered from delusions of grandeur as my Shetland pony, as loved as he was, wasn’t quite cut out for show jumping and dressage.

When we stopped talking long enough to listen to the natural world, we were blown away by the wind in the trees and the sound of rushing water. As we approached Warner Hollow, our turn around point, I joked that it sounded like Niagara Falls! The snow melt combined with recent rains swelled the stream to the point that the water was almost touching the bridge…so beautiful!

I didn’t want my hike with Connie to end but needed to get back to watch my grandson, so we turned around and headed home. On the way, we took some lovely photos of an old, stacked stone wall, weird “snake” designs in the ground, new grasses just breaking the surface of the soil and Connie demonstrating her awesome strength by lifting up a falling tree. Of course, I’m joking about the falling tree but not about Connie’s awesome strength. She is a woman who uses her talents and passion to support and uplift others…her family, her community and the world. I’m so fortunate to have spent time on the trail with Connie and so grateful for the big hug she gave me as we parted! As Connie said, “I can give you a hug, I’m vaccinated!”

 

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