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O'Hara man completes trek from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Bill Hendricks of O'Hara regularly walks along the salamander trail in Fox Chapel.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Bill Hendricks of O'Hara regularly walks along the salamander trail in Fox Chapel.

Since he was 10 years old, Bill Hendricks has enjoyed walking to learn more about his surroundings.

A lifelong dream of his came true last month, as he completed the longest walk of his life.

Hendricks, 67, of O'Hara completed the 350-mile walk from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., using the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath from May 12 to June 8.

The retired professor has enjoyed taking long walks and long wanted to make the trek to the nation's capitol.

He was inspired to complete the walk after his first wife died in 2011, and he knew retirement was coming soon.

He said taking long walks provides advantages for senior citizens such as him.

“They can give us the sense that our lives are not over. We are still in control of a great deal in this world,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks, however, acknowledged that walks such as the one he completed are not for everyone.

He began preparing for his walk two years before he started.

“I spent two years extending my range, going for longer and longer walks in the city,” Hendricks said.

He figured he would need to walk at least 15 miles per day.

He also mapped out places he could stay along the route. That included making sure he would have enough to eat and clean water along the way.

As he began telling people about his plans, he frequently was asked why he didn't want to make a bicycle trip along the same path.

“The problem is that I don't want my life to go any faster. I want to slow down,” Hendricks said.

Slowing down allowed Hendricks to take in his surroundings.

Along the way, he saw wildlife, including species of snakes, birds and turtles he had never seen in the wild before. He also saw a variety of plants.

“I learned more about the natural world on this walk, and I observed it more closely than I had before.

“That was real kick for me,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks also took the time to talk with people he met on the trail and at the various bed and breakfasts and other places he stayed during his trek.

With the walk completed, Hendricks is thinking about other trips he'd like to take.

A drive from Pittsburgh to Anchorage, Alaska is one.

“That's sort of tentatively on the books for two years from now. Two years after that, I might be ready for another long walk,” Hendricks said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513, or tmcgee@tribweb.com.

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