Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mason Dixon Existential Adventure

The Mason-Dixon Line is a tractor beam for Marylanders. When I went to college in Raleigh, N.C., people called me a yankee when they heard I was from Maryland. When I've gone north, people call me a southerner. No one knows what to make of us. Geocultural shapeshifters defined by our proximity to Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon's line.

We drive over the line on Route 70, crossing into Pennsylvania when we visit my wife's family outside Pittsburgh. I've always been fascinated by the thought of it. I was downright giddy when I found out that there is a 193-mile Mason Dixon Trail, which connects the Appalachian Trail to the Brandywine Trail. We've even tread on some of it at White Clay Creek State Park in Newark, Del. There are different sections mapped out and detailed for hiking trips. It doesn't take much to get me amped for a trail adventure.

Then there is the me who digs being down a literary-historical-philosophical rabbit hole read of an adventure. Imagine how cool it would be to tie together an in-the-world trail adventure with an in-the-mind imagination-bending quest. Enter Thomas Pynchon.

Tom Robbins, a literary hero of mine, called Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" essential reading for the enlightened. Pynchon's novel imagines the lives and work of the surveyors who would divide the north and the south. I've been looking for a reason to dig into Pynchon and "Mason & Dixon" in particular. And I've been searching for some kind of in-the-world adventure to get back on the trails that have fueled and filled my soul. It's time to make a you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter Reese's Peanut Butter Cup hybrid.

We've got a core group of willing existential adventurers who are going to read "Mason & Dixon," and then go experience the trail. Logistics are still being worked out, whether we will cover the whole trail, section by section over the course of a year, marking where we stopped and picking up there later, or just hit some of the most scenic stretches. Our current crew includes birders, teachers, a former rugby player, historians, trail runners, marine biologists, writers, among other semi-arbitrary labels. The roster is expanding.

Mason Dixon immersion. Deep, cool, fun experiences. Thought-provoking stuff to read. Soul-searching adventures to ponder and write about. Meaningful ways to connect with great people and experiential ways to connect with American history and landscape.

Details, progress reports, updates and further Mason Dixon Pynchon trail musings to follow. The adventure is just beginning.

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