THE WANDERERS

As a kid I would traipse through the woods of northern Michigan and wonder if I was the first to walk there or had others passed that way before. As an adult I realize there is very little ground in the United States that hasn’t been trod under the feet of someone at sometime in history.

I grew up in Southeast Michigan enjoying any outdoor adventure I could find. As a boy I was always Curt press photohunting, fishing, canoing, trekking through large corn fields by my home, or anything else that got me outside.

Throughout my marriage I have moved my wife and two kids to Northern Michigan, Virginia, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and finally back home to Southeast Michigan. These moves were a result of my restlessness and search for something new. During these years I found myself working in the archery equipment industry, children’s summer camp, outdoor equipment retail, youth ministry, and factories when necessary. As my kids grew older and I became a grandfather I found it necessary to give my family more stability. The adventures were set aside for a season.

Whether you would call it my current state of restlessness or a mid-life crisis, I now find myself about to embark on new adventures.

Follow me as I get lost in the wander.

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In the first couple months of my planning, I wasn’t aware of the deep connection and desire others would have, or already had, with this route.  I found I wasn’t the only one who had their sights set on conquering this forgotten path. Dr. John Fox (whom you have already met) has a son who had ran these back roads of Kentucky with him and longed to walk it. MacArthur Givan Fox has a resume that includes a degree in psychology and experience as a Black Hawk helicopter medic in Afghanistan.  This is a guy who can take you apart mentally and put you back together physically. A good combination to have on a 200 mile expedition. Givan will be joining me for the Kentucky portion. Here are his thoughts.

Walk on,
Curtis

 

The Trail Is Calling

or How I wound up on the Boone Trace Expedition of 2015

by Givan Foxgivan

I have loved being outdoors since I was a child. I spent almost all my free time playing in the woods of Kentucky. As an adult, the jobs that I have enjoyed the most have taken me outdoors in some fashion or another. From running a camp for At Risk children in the Michigan woods, to working on the side of the mountain for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO, to the many places that the Army National Guard has taken me, I believe even more strongly now than ever before, any day outdoors is a better day than any other.

During college I had the opportunity to hike most of the Virginia sections of the Appalachian Trail, and I grew to more deeply appreciate backpacking. The ability to move far, through remote areas, carrying all that I needed to live, was a challenge that I greatly enjoyed. Through the years, I have backpacked trails not just in Virginia, but also in Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Ireland. Just over a decade ago, I moved to Colorado to be in the mountains that I had read about and seen pictures of for so many years. Since then, my love for the outdoors has only grown. I have found healing from life’s hurts and a better understanding of myself in the middle of nowhere.

Shortly after my first deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, John Fox, my father, shared his growing passion for Boone Trace or “That Little Road”, as he has taken to calling it. As we were traveling along the back roads of Kentucky, I began to think about backpacking the route from Martin Station to Fort Boonesboro. How amazing that would be to walk in the footsteps of Daniel Boone and his men! To understand the challenges and hardships with the terrain, weather, animals and native people, even if in only a small degree, I felt would better enable my father and I to find other sections that might have been blurred by subsequent development.

I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind as a second deployment came into my world. I would get to fulfill one of my Army dreams, that of being a flight medic and do the job for real in Afghanistan. It can be difficult when the reality of our dreams does not match the hopes and expectations that we have. Needless to say, it was one of the most frustrating and challenging years of my life. I love doing the job but I found that I could no longer align myself with the organization that allowed me to do that mission.

Somewhere in the midst of the pain and frustration, my dad said he had talked to a guy named Curtis who had an ancestor who had traveled “That Little Road” and been at Fort Boonesboro and he wanted to hike Boone Trace in its entirety. The desire to be outdoors and on the trail came back in an instant. I began to seriously consider the idea that I would take this walk.

It turned out to not be a difficult decision at all. Having helped my father find what we thought was one small section on my first exposure to the Trace and another section on a later visit just before my second deployment, I couldn’t conceive of not being involved in this expedition. I can truly understand the way this trail gets into your mind; under your skin, and you want to find and see it all. Dad always said there is something almost electric when you are on “That Little Road”. Having experienced it for myself, I want to see it through, from south to north.

On an even more personal level, I want to complete this expedition for my father since he can not do it himself. The minor concerns of health issues and advancing age are the only things standing in his way. I know that he will be with us in spirit with each step and physically supporting us with resupply, guidance and smoothing the way through private properties. His unflinching work to preserve Boone Trace deserves nothing less than my exertion to walk “That Little Road”.

This expedition began as a simple route finding trip. The major challenge, I thought, would be to try to walk as closely as was possible and reasonable to Daniel Boone’s original Trace. While I still believe this will be a major challenge, I see now that this will not be enough. The bigger challenge will be to raise awareness of the need to preserve Boone Trace and share the compelling story of Curtis and his ancestor. I feel deeply moved by the level of interest and excitement that has grown as people have become aware of the Trace and what Curtis and I are attempting. What I thought would be a simple walk in the woods has turned into something far more monumental.

I feel very privileged to be a part of this expedition, to be making history the way we are, and hopefully to help preserve this amazing piece of history, and, I am especially privileged to be Curtis’ hiking partner on the trail. On one hand, I feel almost as if I fell into this whole experience without realizing what it really meant. But when I think about it, I whole-heartedly believe that my military training and experience, my medical background, and my impassioned history with the outdoors have, somehow, all led me to this point. There is no other place I could be than on “That Little Road” next to Curtis.

To paraphrase the words of John Muir, “The trail is calling and I must go!”

6 Replies to “THE WANDERERS”

  1. Maggie

    Your journey sounds so exciting! I will look forward to following your adventure. By family oral history, My 5th great grandfather, Frederick Wetzel was a scout and friend for Daniel Boone. He was from Pennsylvania also, have you ever seen his name anywhere in the records??!!!

    Reply
    1. Curtis Penix

      Maggie, I’ve never seen the name Wetzel on anything I’ve read yet, but I’ve also never read the name Penix. I know he was with Boone because of documents Joshua signed at Boonesborough in 1779. Boone was a bit of a celebrity, even in his own day, and knew many people. Thanks for following along!

      Reply
  2. Rod Smothers

    Maggie: Are you familiar with Lewis Wetzel? He was a notorious Indian fighter. There were many atrocities on both sides but Lewis Wetzel appently committed his share. I’m wondering if Frederick was a relative.

    Reply
  3. Maggie

    Lewis is one Wetzel I am not familiar with!! BUT, we are trying to establish the connections of the Wetzel family. We have an obituary from 1901, of a Frederick Wetzel of Georgetown, DC, which states that “his grandfather attained eminence as a scout and friend of Daniel Boone. We know this Frederick’s father’s name was Lazarus Wetzel. Our Wetzel family was in Georgetown, Washington DC in the early 1800’s, and we know that they came down from Berks Co PA. (The original Wetzel there was a Frederick Wetzel born 1730. His son Frederick Wetzel was born there but came to Georgetown before 1800 and died in 1820 there) and we know that This son Frederick Wetzel and Lazarus Wetzel held property next to each other in Georgetown in 1791) We just haven’t established all the connections yet of the Wetzels found in wills, court records and land records. So! I really appreciate your input about a Lewis Wetzel. I’m really excited to follow the wander journey coming up!!! Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Janet smith

    Maggie, your post/comments about the Wetzel family are of great interest to my sister and I. We are descendants of the Frederick Wetzel of Georgetown that was married to Margaret Yost and who died in 1820 in Georgetown. In particular, we descend from their daughter Susannah ( Susan) who married a Joseph Worsley. We have documented data..his will, abstracts of land deeds, and articles from The National Intelligencer which verify our Wetzel connection to him.
    We compiled a book of our family which took over 5 years. In that time, we could never definitely state our Frederick Wetzel’s ancestry. In your comments, you state that his Father was also named Frederick born in 1730. Can you tell us his mother’s name, siblings, etc. Lazarus is a new name for us. Would that be his brother? We would appreciate any relevant info that you might have of his family before he left Berks Co., PA,
    and after settling in Georgetown. From his will of 1820, the following are listed as his children: two sons, John and William (executors) and daughters, Elizabeth, Catherine, Margaret, Ann(also known as Polly), Susan(Susannah) and Mary. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank You!

    Reply
  5. Maggie

    Janet, I am excited to hear from you! I think I need to reply to you outside the Lost in The Wander Blog page. I hope this is okay to do here, but the only way I know how is to give you my email in this comment. rowe944@gmail.com I do have more information now on the Wetzel family, and what we think is the connection to Lewis Wetzel, the indian fighter. And I will add that I followed the Wander trek with great interest, what an adventure and such a contribution to history. I looked forward everyday to the updates and stories! Maggie

    Reply

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