2006.09.27 Clayton arrives at the bridge

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

After all the running and walking was over Sunday morning at the Neal Singles 5K, a solitary pedestrian headed into town later that afternoon.

Inveterate walker Clayton Klein, 87, wrapped up his 417-mile journey that began in the Upper Peninsula town of Paradise, passed through the Lower Peninsula town of Hell, and finished in Morenci.

When Clayton walked the state a year ago, he traveled down M-52 to the state line. This year, after he sent an e-mail about his upcoming trip to newspapers across the state, I invited him to take a turn and end his journey south of Morenci. A walk across the historic truss bridge would offer a satisfying finish.

He took me up on the offer and Morenci was placed at the bottom of his itinerary. And that was the last I heard from him.

He started his walk Sept. 1, crossed the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day and kept heading south. His schedule stated he would leave the Bob Evans restaurant in Adrian about 8:30 a.m. Sept. 24 and head for Morenci and the state line.

I had no way of contacting him and I couldn’t hang out at the bridge all day waiting. Maybe he was off schedule, I thought, and wouldn’t even appear.

Around 1 p.m., I drove to the bridge with John Robertson, an out-of-town visitor who was here for the 5K run, just to try my luck. No one was in sight.

We had lunch, John left for home, and another set of 5K visitors, Jeff and Grace Johnston, announced they would like to take a walk before they got in their car and headed back home to Flint.

“Do you want to walk to the bridge to see if Clayton is here?” I asked, not too seriously.

That sounded good to them so off we went. Once again, there was no sign of the hiker, but what did we expect?

“Do you think he might carve his initials on the bridge?” Grace asked. “Clayton was here.”

I spotted something odd under the highway bridge so we went down to take a look. It was a toy that must have washed downstream.

We were standing down below when I noticed a man approaching on the sidewalk. I didn’t think it was Clayton. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but he just looked like anybody out for a stroll. All alone, ordinary clothing, no hiking staff.

“He looks like a dapper gentleman,” Grace said. “I think it’s him.”

We went back up on top and met the man about in the middle of the bridge.

“Is your name Clayton?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered, “and are you David Green?”

To think how close this had been to a completely uneventful end to his journey. We just happened to show up at the right time.

We walked with him into Ohio—he thought it was about a mile away instead of 50 yards—and read the old slab of granite that surveyors planted at the state line more than a century ago.

Grace asked the obvious question: Why do you do this?

“A couple reasons,” Clayton answered. “First of all, I really like to walk. Second is the charities.”

He likes to tell people about Hospice and the American Cancer Society. He doesn’t do fund raising and he doesn’t collect money. He just provides people with the proper addresses if they want to donate.

All Clayton had to do now was wait for his ride. His son and daughter were scheduled to pick him up sometime that afternoon. Clayton isn’t the kind of guy to carry a cell phone. He hadn’t spoken with his son since they were in Hell together a few days earlier. He just knew they would show up.

We walked back toward Main Street and he kept an eye open for a Ford mini-van.

We talked about walking in the rain (he doesn’t favor raincoats, they only make him wetter), about dogs (he’s never been bit, he just acts friendly and they accept him), and about his other adventures. He used to do a lot of travel by canoe, and his tale about almost getting gored by a musk ox in  the Northwest Territories is a good one.

Jeff and Grace had to get back home. I had to get some work done. We left Clayton at the corner of East and Main, pleased to make his acquaintance.

I looked over my shoulder once and saw him leaning up against a cable TV box in the yard where we left him.

I looked again later and he was gone.

– Sept. 27, 2006
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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