Today was my best day of hiking yet, thanks to Mary Taylor and husband Steve. Remember the people from CrossWalk America I bumped into a couple of weeks ago, heading in the opposite direction to me? Well, two of them stayed with Mary and Steve, and when Mary read about me on their website she phoned and asked if I'd like to stay too. That's what kind of person she is.
I arrived in Xenia, the nearest town, and Mary picked me up. She suggested I stay two nights, and they'd collect me from wherever I ended up walking today. That's what kind of person she is too.
Steve, Mary and their two corgis Vinnie and Shy Ann pose outside their delightful Spring Valley home
(C) Hello! magazine 2006
This meant I could walk for an entire day and leave my pack at their house, which was my idea of heaven. By the way, it's called slackpacking - I'm indebted to fellow British cross-country footsloggers Dave and Stu for this nugget of information.
The walking was idyllic - at Steve's suggestion, I left the road and followed the Ohio to Erie trail, a secluded, treelined cycle path. As usual, the sun shone from a near-cloudless sky. I went for another swim, in the Little Miami river. And I celebrated my good fortune by breaking my No Beers With Lunch Because They Dehydrate You rule, giving me the worst headache I've ever had in my life, a real thudder that ruined my afternoon. Trust me to blow it just when things are going so well.
Placenames. I'm sorry to trivialise all these delightful historic towns by being so preocupied with their names, but anyone who knows me will be aware that I have a near-autistic obsession with words, and I'm really pleased that after my visit to Zanesville, in the past two days I've been through Yellow Springs, Xenia and Waynesville. Notice a pattern emerging?
Also, this is definitely the first place in the world I've visited whose name starts with X. I don't want any smartarses telling me I've been to a hamlet in Greece called Xeroftikon, because I haven't.